John Abercrombie: guitar; Marc Copland: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Joey Baron: drums.
It's always pleasurable listening to John Abercrombie for the simple fact that he has this strange approach to songs, which he delivers with an appealing sound while avoiding standardized lines.
Abercrombie was responsible for unforgettable albums, true masterpieces that should be mandatory for any jazz lover. As a leader, I can point the progressive Timeless and Gateway as quintessence choices, but also Open Land, Class Trip, and Abercrombie/Johnson/Erskine as wonderful listenings. As a sideman, he was highly in demand for almost half-century, endorsing his unique musical impressions to musicians like Charles Lloyd, Enrico Rava, Kenny Wheeler, and John Surman.
Lately, he has been joined by a categorical quartet that comprises the pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Joey Baron, and three years ago, they recorded 39 Steps on ECM. Besides originals (also with Copland's contribution), the guitarist picked “My Melancholy Baby”, a jazz standard to give it a bit more color.
Now, on the new Up and Coming, released on the same label, the story repeats itself. This time it was Miles Davis’ “Nardis”, the outside song, which shines as one of the recording’s highlights. Its mood is perfect for the style of the guitarist who allows Baron to untie himself and embark on a temperate dialogue with Gress.
The opening tune may be called “Joy”, but it rather sticks to a wintry melancholy. This introspective mood appears again in Copland’s “Tears”, a more fitting title for Abercrombie's intimate confessions, here well sustained by the pianist’s achingly emotional chords. This tune is arranged with exactly the same structure of “Sunday School”, which despite brought by Copland’s ad-lib intro, obeys to the sequence theme-solos(guitar/bass/piano)-theme.
“Flipside” feels quite familiar, affiliating Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” and Shorter’s “Yes or No” in its melody.
A tune we don’t easily forget is “Silver Circle”. Composed by Copland, this polished modal exercise, earnestly marked by Baron’s hi-hat, is prone to wider exploration and is where Abercrombie cooks his best solo.
Built in a smooth crescendo, Up and Coming exceeded my expectations, surpassing 39 Steps. I’m glad to realize that one of my favorite post-bop guitarists is still around, in good shape, and promises to come back soon with more.
02 – Flipside ► 06 – Silver Circle ► 07 – Nardis