All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

403

John Abercrombie Quartet at the Hilton Ballroom

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
John Abercrombie Quartet
Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz event
Hilton Ballroom
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Sunday, April 15, 2007



The dedicated touring ensemble is a rarity in today's jazz scene—a thing of rare beauty to cherish in these times of collective projects, pick-up bands and ad hoc all-star ensembles. Guitarist John Abercrombie brought his long-running quartet to the expansive Hilton Ballroom to promote their third album together, the aptly titled The Third Quartet (ECM, 2007). Slowly unveiling a diverse array of techniques and stylistic inclinations, the four members of the group demonstrated the intuitive camaraderie only a veteran ensemble can deliver.




Abercrombie's group consists of a stable of renowned band leaders. Bassist Marc Johnson, violinist Mark Feldman and drummer Joey Baron all lead their own ensembles in addition to being in-demand side-men. An artist hardly in need of introduction, Abercrombie was one of the first guitarists to help solidify the so-called ECM sound. His varied approach stretches well beyond the label's trademark chamber-esque aesthetic, however. While his studio albums present remarkable range and creativity, a live performance reveals much more about the nature and intensity of his wide-ranging interests.

Broken in two long sets, the difference between the impressionistic first half and the raucous second couldn't have been greater. Gradually ebbing from atmospheric opening flourishes into the head of the tune, the quartet embarked on a lengthy version of the melodious "Dansir," from Class Trip (ECM, 2004). Following a fairly traditional solo order, the tune served as an excellent introduction to each player's personality.

Introducing the next tune, the self-titled track from Class Trip, Abercrombie winked devilishly and muttered to Feldman and company to "go out." Scrabbling guitar, scrawling violin, buzzing bass and tinkling percussion slowly transformed from a textural mosaic into a swinging mid-tempo ballad that alternated lyrical romanticism with dark tension. Demonstrating a humorous sensibility, Abercrombie even dropped a quote from "Frere Jacques" into his solo, much to the amusement of his band mates and the audience—a trait all the band members shared throughout the evening.

Drawing material from their new record, "Vignt Six" continued the romantic thread until the closing tune of the first set—a deconstructed cover of Ornette Coleman's "Round Trip." Intriguingly arranged, the tune began with a harmonically inventive drum solo from Baron, who alternated his statements with Johnson before Abercrombie and Feldman entered.




After a brief break, the quartet returned for the most adventurous music of the evening. Opening with "Banshee," from their new record, they offered up a lively reading of the restrained studio version. Accelerating from a rubato pulse to a brisk free-bop sprint, Feldman and Abercrombie took off on spirited, exploratory tangents before the quartet reconvened to deconstruct the tune. At a hushed volume, bowed bass and violin droned in unison over skittering percussion while Abercrombie built feedback loops from delicate picking and EFX pedals. Fading out on the electronic loops and subtle tribal hand drumming of Baron, the tune dissipated with a mysterious fade.

"Wishing Bell" and a serene cover of Bill Evans' "Epilogue" followed, providing momentary respite. Johnson took a gorgeous arco solo on "Epilogue" that was heartrendingly tender. But solace was short lived, as the quartet suddenly embarked on their final tune of the night with no warning or introduction.

They closed the evening with an epic variation of "On The Loose," taken from their first record, Cat 'N' Mouse (ECM, 2002). Baron introduced the piece with one of two vastly different drum solos, each offering knowing send-ups of rock and funk clichés that were both humorous and virtuosic. Baron's amusing asides and witty interjections never overshadowed the music at hand, though. Flailing with boundless enthusiasm and puckish glee, whether pounding out snappy funk accents, grinding into a stirring blues shuffle or rattling off machine-gun-inspired speed-metal fills, he elevated the bandstand.

Aroused by Baron's enthusiasm, Abercrombie joined the fray, stomping on a few EFX pedals and cranking up the volume. Churning out smoldering blues riffs while launching jagged linear jumps up and down the fretboard, he even indulged in some of Baron's frenetic free play with his own chaotic skronk guitar. Similarly invigorated, Feldman took an unaccompanied violin cadenza of such passionately unbridled energy that even his band mates looked stunned. After numerous sidelong excursions, the quartet suddenly snapped back into unison, ending the tune with a tight recapitulation of the angular post-modern head, demonstrating an almost telepathic level of interplay.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Detroit Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Detroit Jazz Festival 2018
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews
Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia 2018 Live Reviews
Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2018
Read Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood Vampires, Black Asteroids & Paul Lamb Live Reviews
Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood...
by Martin Longley
Published: September 16, 2018
Read Binker & Moses At London's Jazz Cafe Live Reviews
Binker & Moses At London's Jazz Cafe
by Chris May
Published: September 15, 2018
Read 12 Points 2018 Live Reviews
12 Points 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 14, 2018
Read "Pat Metheny at Cologne Philharmonic" Live Reviews Pat Metheny at Cologne Philharmonic
by Phillip Woolever
Published: November 8, 2017
Read "Vijay Iyer at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Vijay Iyer at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: February 4, 2018
Read "Willie Nelson's Outlaw Festival" Live Reviews Willie Nelson's Outlaw Festival
by Christine Connallon
Published: September 30, 2017
Read "Summer Jazz and Fringe Jazz Fest in Copenhagen" Live Reviews Summer Jazz and Fringe Jazz Fest in Copenhagen
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: July 12, 2018
Read "Sligo Jazz Project 2018: Days 3-4" Live Reviews Sligo Jazz Project 2018: Days 3-4
by James Fleming
Published: September 5, 2018