John Abercrombie: Class Trip (2004)
Abercrombie has never really fit into the mold of his contemporaries, the George Benson School initially, and the Coryell fusion model subsequently. Perhaps it is his airy tone or his compositional style that shies away from strict forms. While he can play fast and even with rock-like abandon, his projects always have an amorphous quality to them that make everything he plays seem like suites rather than tunes. On Class Trip , eleven modest-length compositions make use of wonderful guitar-violin unison lines over expansive foundation of Baron and Johnson. Some may call Abercrombie a fusion guitarist, but this term is inaccurate. The fusion that is commonly derided is composed like a fast run through a series of sharp corners. Abercrombie's compositions are a stroll through a forest, one that can have a thunderstorm or two, but rarely presents the same scene twice.
Some may prefer an edgier Abercrombie; that is what his live performances are for. July's mini-stand at Birdland was an opportunity to play some older compositions and expand upon them mellifluously and with humor. His albums rather are carefully sculpted affairs that present his sparse sketches to the listener, with a sense of just being born and with room to adapt. Some of the pieces on Class Trip the title track, the opening "Dansir" and the album's highlight, "Swirls"will no doubt become much more than originally envisioned. Abercrombie uses the ethereality of the ECM tradition as a path towards more freedom instead of as an inhibitor.
Track Listing: 1 Dansir 9:31 2 Risky Business 7:38 3 Descending Grace 8:56 4 Illinoise 5:35 5 Cat Walk 7:55 6 Excuse My Shoes 8:28 7 Swirls 6:06 8 Jack and Betty 3:39 9 Class Trip 7:29 10 Soldier's Song 3:02 11 Epilogue 3:37
Personnel: John Abercrombie: Guitar; Joey Baron: Drums; Mark Feldman: Violin; Marc Johnson: Double Bass.
Record Label: ECM Records
Style: Modern Jazz