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ECM Guitar: Prezens; The Third Quartet

David Torn

John Abercrombie Quartet
The Third Quartet

Guitarist David Torn is no stranger to anonymity. He has written the scores for a number of films, many commercial successes, but has received little credit for them. Though his work merits accolades of earnest public adulation, his is the story of a gifted man revered as such only in the most attentive of circles. Prezens is a true manifestation of the balance of whim and order that characterizes his work. It is an artful conglomerate of various seemingly paradoxical elements. Tim Berne (alto sax), Craig Taborn (Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond B3, Mellotron, electronics) and Tom Rainey (drums) are musicians that serve not only as complements to Torn's brilliance, but standouts in their own right. Each track may seem like a carefree splatter of melodic noise set in a harmonious milieu, but the carefree is not necessarily the careless. Though the beeps, clanks and tinks brush past each other in inconspicuous patterns of energy, there is an obvious thread that holds all 11 tracks together in an impressive attempt at cohesiveness. The album, however, is nonetheless presented in a fairly straightforward way. No track is extraneous and each contributes to the rich ambient landscape. "Structural Functions Of Prezens and "Ever More Other are highlights and on both, Torn has outdone himself, creating something out of nothing, bestowing upon listeners an epic example of musical cinematography.

Theatricality is entirely absent in the John Abercrombie Quartet's The Third Quartet, but he manages to pull heartstrings without any unnecessary quixotic detours. Sharp, thunderous excursions may be one way to present poignant layers of rhythm but that doesn't mean it's the only way. The album is not moody or volatile, in the way Torn's album is. Instead, it creates an altogether different universe, one where the dexterous musicians - Mark Feldman (violin), Marc Johnson (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) - are carriers of good news. Tracks like "Banshee and "Elvin are standouts showcasing Abercrombie in the role he assumes most skillfully - that of a great guitarist. Both tracks have the potential to leave the musical literati silent in somber praise and those who know little about the technical aspects of music listen in absolute awe, indifferent to the hows or whys of his licks, but contemplating their perfection.

Tracks and Personnel


Ak; Rest& Unrest; Structural Functions of Prezens; Bulbs; Them Buried Standing; Sink; Neck-Deep In The Harrow...; Ever More Other; Ring for Endless Travel; Miss Place; The Mist; Transmit Regardless.

David Torn: guitar, sampler; Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Craig Taborn: Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond b-3 organ, Mellotron, electronics; Tom Rainey: drums.

The Third Quartet

Banshee; Number 9; Vingt Six; Wishing Well; Bred; Tres, Round Trip; Epilogue; Elvin; Fine.

John Abercrombie: guitar; Mark Feldman: violin; Marc Johnson: double bass; Joey Baron: drums.



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