Wednesday, August 01, 2012

John Abercrombie Quartet - Within a Song (ECM, 2012)

Guitarist John Abercrombie’s latest album sees him paying homage to fellow guitarist Jim Hall who was a great influence, and some of the great music of the 1950’s and 1960’s that was a revelation to him as a young musician. Abercrombie is joined by Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone, Drew Gress on bass, Joey Baron on drums. “Where are You” has mellow and feathery saxophone and light brushes sounding gentle but not sleepy. A lot of subtle and quiet detail in the texture of texture of Abercrombie’s delicate guitar framed by soft cymbals. Soft guitar and tapped cymbals also set the tone on “Easy Reader” leading into a probing saxophone solo. A soft pillow like guitar sound billows out over discrete bass and drums. “Within a Song/Without a Song” sees the pace of the music pick up to a medium-up swing with nicely intertwined guitar and saxophone. Gress is particularly excellent on this song playing a deep, throbbing bass that really pushes the saxophone forward, and Lovano really responds with a strong yet well controlled solo. Abercrombie’s guitar develops a cascade of music over fast bass and drums, leaving room for a confident bass solo. The cover of Miles Davis and Bill Evans’ classic “Flamenco Sketches” begins with slowly probing guitar and drums adding an element of mystery to the proceedings. Saxophone drifts in, touching the melody briefly before lifting off in a light and dreamy feel. Ornette Coleman’s “Blues Connotation” has a fine uptempo melody and a nicely hewn guitar led trio section. Lovano takes off on a very inventive solo, making use of the open ended structure of the composition, interacting well with some empathetic drumming. John Coltrane’s “Wise One” is led off with Abercrombie stating the haunting melody. Lovano’s saxophone is stoic and elegiac, and the mood seeks the wise mind where logic and emotion balance. “Interplay,” written by Bill Evans, has a medium tempo full band improvisation, with gentle nimble guitar improvising over bass and drums, giving way to a strong cutting saxophone solo. This was a well done a beautifully played album, with the focus being on melody and slower tempos. The musicians are very patient allowing the music to come to them and very respectful of the songs and the textures they develop. Within a Song -

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