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John Abercrombie: Open Land

Glenn Astarita By

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One of the true treasures of Modern Jazz, guitarist John Abercrombie’s impressive and somewhat legendary recorded legacy continues with Open Land. Here, Abercrombie expands his longtime “organ trio” group consisting of organist Dan Wall and drummer Adam Nussbaum while garnering the rather estimable support of special guests, saxophonist Joe Lovano, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and violinist Mark Feldman.

On Open Land the great guitarist offers the listener a panoramic view via wide-open and expansive compositions that leave plenty of room for poignant soloing while a strong sense of depth prevails throughout the entire affair! Abercrombie shines as a serious composer on pieces such as “Just in Tune” where he skillfully comps and performs rich unison lines in conjunction with Kenny Wheeler’s sweet-toned lyricism as master drummer Adam Nussbaum who along with B-3 specialist, Dan Wall expertly handle the rhythms. The title track, “Open Land” commences with gorgeous phrasing of a folksy or organic nature by violinist Mark Feldman, who seems to be turning up everywhere these days, and rightfully so. Feldman is one of the great violinists of our time! On this piece, the musicians turn up the heat a few degrees while launching into a burning swing, as tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano joins in amid shifting undercurrents and blistering solos by Abercrombie and Feldman. “Gimme Five” gradually builds up steam as Dan Wall mans the bass duties via his B-3 organ pedals. Here, the musicians pursue harmonious and melodic choruses which continue on “Little Booker” as Wheeler states the sumptuous melody in near perfect contrast to Abercrombie’s searching, probing single note lines. A glistening and quite memorable composition as richly melodic themes and spacious arrangements continue to unfold. Here, Nussbaum puts on a clinic as he expertly works behind the pulse while providing momentum with rapidly executed fills. “Remembering When” features lush solos from Lovano and Wheeler atop a congenially mid-tempo pulse, as the airiness and ethereal attributes of this piece elicit thoughts of a cool ocean breeze! The final track, “That’s For Sure” is an affable country blues motif boasting a pleasant melody yet perhaps the least interesting composition on this recording.

Open Land is a refreshing edition to Abercrombie’s lengthy discography. If some of you are expecting “Gateway” or the pure firepower of his organ trio, - - forget it! On this release, the guitarist showcases his compositional prowess and goes through somewhat of a makeover, as every piece stands on its own in glowing fashion....The chemistry is there, as we welcome Open Land with open arms! Highly recommended...!!! * * * * ½


Track Listing: Just in Tune; Open Land; Spring Song; Gimme Five; Speak Easy; Little Booker; Free Piece Suit(e); Remember When; That's For Sure.

Personnel: John Abercrombie: guitar; Mark Feldman: violin; Kenny Wheeler: trumpet, flugelhorn; Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone; Dan Wall: organ; Adam Nussbaum: drums.

Title: Open Land | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: ECM Records


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