John Abercrombie

The First Quartet
John Abercrombie

John Abercrombie

John Abercrombie is one of our unsung heroes of jazz-rock, and this gorgeous three-CD reissue amply proves it. His Quartet recorded three albums from 1978 to ’80, all included here: Arcade, Abercrombie Quartet, and M.

The foursome plays the kind of graceful fusion the ECM label is renowned for, with an accent on tasteful interplay, high audio fidelity, and explorative, impressionistic textures. Cue up “Arcade” and you’ll get a sense of the ensemble right away – acoustic piano, drums, and bass topped with Abercrombie’s processed tone slicing through with complex melodies and improvisations.

For guitar tone, he deployed a wet reverb/echo wash on his electric, as heard in “Blue Wolf,” somewhere between a violin and electric mandolin. The track is a scintillating composition rooted with intense, dramatic chord passages revealing the chops of piano wizard Richie Beirach and bassist George Mraz.

The third album finds the band veering slightly more toward straight-ahead jazz, but it’s still full of Abercrombie’s masterful improvs and chordal work. Check out “Boat Song,” an evocative piece that blends electric with overdubbed steel-string acoustic to brilliant effect.

As with any classic ECM release, you only expect the most tasteful, skilled musicianship and this box-set delivers in abundance. Recorded over 35 years ago, this is virtuoso playing of the highest order and a reminder why Mr. Abercrombie is one of our most-respected jazz players.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’16 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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