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Abercrombie/Erskine/Mintzer/Patitucci: The Hudson Project

Ed Kopp By

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In 1998, the D’Addario Company hired four respected jazz veterans — Bob Mintzer (tenor sax), John Abercrombie (electric guitar), John Patitucci (acoustic and electric basses) and Peter Erskine (drums) — to conduct a series of concerts/clinics together. The four adopted the group name the Hudson Project, and their final engagement was recorded and is now available on video and CD.

The sound is impeccable on this 48-track digital recording, and the music weaves many textures, reflecting the talent and experience of four exemplary jazzers. The music is loose but sophisticated, falling somewhere between free fusion and modern mainstream jazz. While the solos are sometimes longer than you’d hear at a typical club performance, the playing is highly accomplished. Each musician contributes a pair of tunes, with Abercrombie’s offerings the only pieces never recorded elsewhere.

Mintzer’s two songs are the CD’s high points. The opener, "Runferyerlife," is a furious bop excursion that has Abercrombie’s slinky guitar ricocheting off Mintzer’s racing sax. The CD closes with Mintzer’s "Modern Day Tuba," a lively modern jazz workout with intense playing by all four players. Prominent here is the polyrhythmic performance by Erskine and the wildly intricate guitar solo by Abercrombie.

Abercrombie’s composition "Little Swing" tends toward the thoughtful, while his tune "That’s for Sure" is influenced by country music. The catchy track "Cats + Kittens" is fueled by Erskine’s funky second-line drumming, while Patittuci’s "The Well" is a lyrical, almost spiritual piece.

Despite the impromptu feel of the proceedings, all four musicians coordinate well together. Abercrombie’s free guitar work is a nice complement to Minter’s straight-ahead blowing, and Patittuci and Erskine show why they're regarded as two of the most accomplished players on their respective instruments.

Here’s hoping this ad hoc supergroup decides to reunite in the not-too-distant future.


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