...A group quietly forging new ground...not by smashing away at the limits of modern...
Matt Trustram 2007-04-17
There’s something very special about this latest disc from John Abercrombie’s quartet, but the whole thing’s so understated that it’s hard to put your finger on quite what it is. Certainly when listening through the album, with all its delicacy and fragility, it’s hard to believe – and a testament to Abercrombie’s driven band-leadership – that half of the group have had regular gigs with that convener of musical chaos, John Zorn.
It’s the third album from the group Abercombie has been leading since 2000, and seems to mark a retreat from earlier excursions into freer territory; many tracks open with atmospheric introductions that seem unscripted, but which soon settle into more traditional jazz cycles. Of highlights there are many: the modal extemporizations of the opening ‘'Banshee'’ which skid over bassist Marc Johnson’s pedal note, setting the scene for the kind of quiet intensity that characterises the album, or the exquisite interplay between Abercrombie and violist Feldman on their stand-out arrangement of Bill Evans’ little-known ‘'Epilogue'’. Joey Baron rises to the formidable challenge of paying tribute to Elvin Jones, with echoes of the great drummer’s stream-of-consciousness style and acute sensitivity on ‘'Elvin'’, like all the originals on the disc, an Abercombie original.
It’s nice to hear a group quietly forging new ground like this – that is to say, not by smashing away at the limits of modern jazz, but rather by gently coaxing them slowly outwards. More to the point, it’s nice to hear such subtle and intimate music-making as on this record.