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Artist Profiles

John Abercrombie: Timeless

By Published: July 17, 2004
Underscoring the action throughout is the world class empathetic rhythm section of drummer Joey Baron and bassist Marc Johnson. A member of John Zorn's Masada and Naked City bands as well as a leader of his own Down Home Band and Killer Joey, Baron has recorded and toured with such a wide range of artists as Stan Getz, Carmen McRae, Lee Konitz, Tim Berne, Jim Hall, Pat Martino, John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Laurie Anderson, Dave Douglas, Mark Murphy, Misha Mengelberg, Fred Hersch and David Sanborn. Johnson, a member of Bill Evans' last trio, has appeared on five ECM records by Abercrombie as well as on other recordings by Dino Saluzzi, Charles Lloyd, Eliane Elias, Ralph Towner, John Taylor, John Scofield, Toots Thielemans, Patricia Barber, Peter Erskine, Lee Konitz and Joe Lovano. He also leads the two-guitar band Bass Desires, which has featured Bill Frisell with either John Scofield or Pat Metheny.

"This rhythm section is unbelievable," Abercrombie acknowledges. "Joey is one of those guys who can play anything. He spent all those years on the West Coast playing real traditional jazz with people like Carmen McRae and then he moved to New York and went over into a completely other spectrum with people like John Zorn and Tim Berne. So I think a band like this is one of the bands that affords him an opportunity to do everything he can do because I want to play a lot of things in time but I also want to get very free and abstract. He's the best drummer - I have to say without a doubt - for playing spontaneous, improvised stuff. His concentration never seems to falter and he always seems to be so in the moment and he's able to keep the spontaneous stuff interesting. He's also one of the quickest musicians I've ever encountered. He can stop on a dime and his instincts are always so right, moreso than anyone I've ever played with in that regard."

"And Marc's contribution to the band is, of course, unbelievable. Like any other band, everybody brings all of their experience to the table and so you've got all these different elements going on. And as long as everybody really listens you can create some amazing music. So I'm very happy playing with this band and I think it's got combinations of all the things I like to do. We play on chords, we play freely, we get into some rock 'n' roll grooves that are pretty authentic because when Joey plays rock 'n' roll he sounds like a rock 'n' roll drummer. He doesn't play it like a jazz player, which is a very different thing. I've never played with anyone like that, except maybe DeJohnette."

He adds that while the group comes across on the new record like an abstract strings and percussion enemble, it can take on an entirely different character in concert. "I enjoy freely improvising in this band probably more than any band I've been in. Other bands I've had dabbled in free improv stuff but this band can really do it well. It just feels very spontaneous and I love the way it changes direction so easily. Some of the freer improvs we get into live are almost better than the tunes themselves. The recordings are always a little more controlled because they're done in a studio and you're trying to get a certain thing down. But anything can happen on the gig."

Visit John Abercrombie on the web at

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