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John Abercrombie Quartet: Up and Coming (ECM)

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John Abercrombie Quartet: Up and Coming
John Abercrombie Quartet: Up and Coming

A slowly ingratiating album, this set from guitarist John Abercrombie’s quartet wends its way deep into you in the manner of an especially ruminative Bill Evans date. Which is to say, there’s a cerebral quality possessing a delicate swing to animate these deep-textured airs.

A lot of that texture is provided by Marc Copland’s piano, which has a penchant for blending its notes to Abercrombie’s guitar figures, the pair inching forward across a sonic plane tethered by the bass and drum work of Drew Gress and Joey Baron, respectively. On the Abercrombie original “Joy,” the unit sounds a bit like current-day Radiohead, but with an Ahmad Jamal-like sensibility to utilize the pockets of silence between notes as a means to settle in, and let the game come to this particular team.

Abercrombie’s playing is clean and largely free of sustain, his solos chord-based, as if he’s part rhythmic centerpiece, part purveyor of new directions. Copland’s “Silver Circle” starts with a crisscrossing of sotto voce basslines and guitar figures circling around them, threading through the open spaces. It’s a quiet moment, ostensibly a simple one, but that’s a tribute to the playing, which is remarkably deft. Baron’s fills on the same number conclude with cymbal flourishes that break like waves meeting rocky outcrops, their undermiked quality lending further dimensionality to the sound. It’s as if you’re hearing something from the front of the speakers, the far edges and way back in the distant corridors of them, with another world contained therein—a most rewarding way to be enveloped.

Originally Published