John Abercrombie: Class Trip (2004)
Something about having three string players get together (without any horns along for the ride) makes the music that much more open and warm. It also means that resonance is a shared entity, and that matters a lot when all players are equally active in the unit. For his part, Feldman often rides in the lower register of his instrument, placing him firmly in the guitarist's active range. That helps support a more cohesive spirit, and with such open-ended improvisation, cohesion matters.
Nine of eleven compositions are by Abercrombie (the other two are "Soldier's Song," by Bartok; and "Illinoise," credited to the group). Each tune is a separate experience marked by a distinct mood and style, but you can be assured that Abercrombie serves the music with oddly-timed and idiosyncratic gestures that almost always swing to one degree or another. "Dansir" radiates a sense of shared exploration, "Illinoise" paced intensity; "Excuse My Shoes" melancholy loss; "Swirls" tumbling surprise; and "Epilogue" sharp-edged focus.
This is Abercrombie's best work since Gateway, which is a point of nostalgia in any case. He's lean, fluid, and articulate; the band is right there with him all the way.
Track Listing: Dansir; Risky Business; Descending Grace; Illinoise; Cat Walk; Excuse My Shoes; Swirls; Jack and Betty; Class Trip; Soldier's Song; Epilogue. Total time: 72:03. Recorded February 2003.
Personnel: John Abercrombie: guitar; Mark Feldman: violin; Marc Johnson: bass; Joey Baron: drums.
Record Label: ECM Records
Style: Modern Jazz