John Abercrombie Quartet: The Third Quartet (2007)
Capable of outright expression as of sheer delicacy, Abercrombie's personality splits alternately, always "making musical sense, to quote guitarist Jim Hall. But on The Third Quartet, it is the gentler more intimate side of his music that garners attention.
"Number 9, a floating rubato ballad, is especially captivating. Atop a succession of dreamy chords and washes of cymbals, the sleepy melody slowly awakes then very gently lays. Another gem, "Vingt Six, also exemplifies Abercrombie's knack for supporting simply-constructed yet telling melodies with ear-pricking chord progressions. Starting out with a guitar/violin duo, Baron's sparse ride cymbal work later enters propelling a subtle swing waltz feel behind Abercrombie's inspired lines.
"Tres, a minimally-developed descending melody and bass line named after the small Latin American guitar, offers an opportunity to stretch over its more energetic tempo and faster harmonic rhythm as does Ornette Coleman's bluesy "Round Trip. The other cover, pianist Bill Evans' "Epilogue, adds an oriental touch reminiscent of Japanese miniatureshere, the violin substituting the kokyû or its Chinese equivalent, the erhu.
Maybe it's just the nostalgia of the leader's greatly missed acoustic playing; one cannot help but ponder, after listening to the superb closing track "Fine, how a focus on Abercrombie's compositions in an acoustic duo setting (or even solo with overdubs like this track) might be received. Until then, many spins are to be enjoyed from this disc.
Track Listing: Banshee; Number 9; Vingt Six; Wishing Bell; Bred; Tres; Round Trip; Epilogue; Elvin; Fine.
Personnel: John Abercrombie: guitar; Mark Feldman: violin; Marc Johnson: bass; Joey Baron: drums.
Record Label: ECM Records
Style: Modern Jazz