Given guitarist John Abercrombie’s recent passing, you may be inclined to view Open Land, a film by directors Arno Oehri and Oliver Primus, as something it was never intended to be: an elegiac postscript. Instead, the film comes across as a lyrical portrait, quiet, spacious, reflective, and funny. From the outset, Oehri and Primus distill the soulfulness that marked the late guitarist’s remarkable recording career over the past half-century. As its title makes clear, their film is an introduction, not a summation, yet multiple perspectives add considerable depth, numerous insights, and some touching grace notes.
Amiable and low-key, Abercrombie himself acts as biographer, travel guide and, when the subject briefly turns to composition, instructor. Not the least of the film’s charms is a striking montage of Manhattan skylines, waterways, and neon nightlife. Interspersed are occasional scenes drawn from wintry jaunts to upstate New York and Connecticut, plus a club gig in Liechtenstein with his closely attuned trio mates, organist Gary Versace and drummer Adam Nussbaum.