With this quartet's third album, John Abercrombie interprets a program of eight original compositions plus "Round Trip by Ornette Coleman and "Epilogue by pianist Bill Evans. The choices show where this modern mainstream guitarist comes from, as the quartet's session pulls from jazz's creative tradition: rich in harmonic surprises and yet free and unique.
Violinist Mark Feldman, double bassist Marc Johnson, drummer Joey Baron and guitarist Abercrombie are a serious bunch. Their cohesive interplay allows them to move slowly through changing moods, crawling like an agile reptile over lush harmonic episodes that turn rainstorms into rainbows. Nothing is taken for granted. The guitarist and his veteran partners step into each other's shadows with seamless motion and the passion of noble kings. The majesty of Abercrombie's compositions simmers gently with very little force and a lot of animation. Each note takes on a surprisingly large amount of personal meaning, as the four artists stoke their fires in brief segments.
As the San Francisco Longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) put it so eloquently, "The creative know how to make a crumb of experience go a long way.
Abercrombie's program moves delicately over spans that leave lasting footprints in their wake. Guitar and violin work closely together, creating a somber persuasion that demands rapt attention. Much of the program remains slow and purposeful.
The leader's "Elvin introduces a slow swinging motion that relies on its rhythm and swing, giving off a highly positive glow. With this tribute number, you can feel the smiles all around the room.
Coleman's "Round Trip rips up-tempo with a walking bass foundation and a hailstorm of drumstick accolades. The quartet rides this one in opposition to the rest of the program, as pixie-dance movements lead to powerful swirls.
Evans' "Epilogue follows from most of Abercrombie's program, allowing each nuance to sink in gradually and with no reason for hurrying. The guitarist's dreamy affair proves creative, quite personal, and musically superb. As the title of his closing number indicates, the end result is "Fine.