Joe Beck & John Abercrombie: Coincidence (2007)
This duet album is a guitarist's dream. Both Joe Beck and John Abercrombie have unquestionable individual virtuosity plus experience in this format through previous tandem performances with Larry Coryell, John Scofield, Ralph Towner and similar luminaries. Together, they explore pillars from the traditional and more exploratory jazz canons including Mercer Ellington's "Things Ain't What They Used to Be," Miles Davis' "All Blues" and Ornette Coleman's "The Turnaround," plus new originals for the occasion, in witty and bright conversation
The interwoven riffs and rhythms of the opening "Beautiful Love" serve as both description and introduction. Its sharp yet soft accompaniment shimmers and pulses beneath the fluid and elegantly melodic leads, and it quickly proves impossible to distinguish which guitarist is playing what. Taken at a comfortable pace, "I Should Care" sounds more than familiar to these two mastersit sounds like a recorded master class. The meditative "How Deep is the Ocean" rushes past a little more quickly, and bounces colorfully upon its rhythmic waves.
On Beck's "Mikey Likes It," background guitar hammers down a muted electric blues riff think of ZZ Top's rump-thumping classic "Tush" in the gentler hands of Pat Methenywhile lead guitar briskly inspects every corner of the tune. "All Blues" becomes its companion piece, with an opening that sings the melody in a genuine trumpet voice, before electric barbed hooks and ejaculations nimbly rumble through the accompaniment.
Coincidence is also the sound of Beck and Abercrombie enjoying the freedom that comes from playing with no rhythm section. "The Turnaround" is more or less arranged as a straight lead/rhythm blues guitar duet, but allows the duo to spacewalk further out. Almost in an instance, their lovely melodic dance through "My Romance" turns into a spacey abstraction that nestles back into the melody to close.
More than any other tune, "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" sounds like two extremely talented friends just letting it hang out; several almost psychedelic blues passagessome shaded in raw fuzz-tonesrock pretty hard considering there's no rhythm section. Which is the one thing about Coincidence: It will immediately and devastatingly knock out guitar players and other musicians but, with no bassist or drummer, non-musicians might find it hard to lock down into the groove, and thus find more challenges in pursuit of its rewards.
Sadly, Coincidence proved to be Joe Beck's last release, as he succumbed to lung cancer on July 22, 2008.
Track Listing: Beautiful Love; Vingt-six; I Should Care; Israel; How Deep is the Ocean; Mikey Likes It; My Funny Valentine; All Blues; My Romance; The Turnaround; Just a Waltz; Things Ain't What They Used to Be.
Personnel: Joe Beck: guitar; John Abercrombe: guitar.