The Upshot: Joyful, soulful, inventive—should we go on?
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Guitarist John Abercrombie has long been one of the States’ most prolific jazz musicians – including leader dates, bands and sideperson gigs, he’s probably notched over 100 albums on his musical bedpost. Up and Coming is the second LP with his latest quartet, which includes drummer Joey Baron (no stranger to prolifigacy himself), bassist Drew Gress and pianist Marc Copland.
Though he first made his name as a fusion guitarist (cf. his debut album Timeless and his work with Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham’s solo band), Abercrombie is a far more imaginative and diverse musician than that. Though he long ago dropped the effects pedals, his playing traverses eras – you can find elements of bebop, swing, free jazz, Third Stream and cool jazz in his work, all of it filtered through his own expertly melodic and restlessly inventive imagination. Up and Coming is a fine example of his aesthetic: the soulful sonority of “Tears,” the playful whimsy of “Flipside,” the glistening serenity of “Joy,” the swinging action of “Silver Circle.” Abercrombie – always a very pianistic guitarist – and Copland practically leak melodies from their fingertips, while Baron and Gress make the rhythms move in order to keep the pair constantly on their toes.
The way the group interweaves its strengths on its take on Miles Davis’ “Nardis” shows the pure pleasure that comes from listening to experts who love their jobs doing them well. (Ed. note: Speaking of listening to experts, check out Prof. Toland’s Abercrombie interview, “Painting Outside the Lines,” from a couple of months ago.)
DOWNLOAD: “Nardis,” “Silver Circle,” “Tears”