John Abercrombie Quartet – 39 Steps (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88,2 kHz | Time – 0:59:44 minutes | 1,12 GB | Genre: Jazz
Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks.com | Digital Booklet | @ ECM
Nine original improvised works as well as a reworking of Ernie Burnett and George Norton’s Melancholy Baby, 39 Steps features guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Joey Baron. This is Abercrombie’s first recording since the 80’s to feature a pianist, though Copland and Abercrombie have been playing together for nearly 40 years.
There is an easy familiarity among the participants on the John Abercrombie Quartet’s 39 Steps. Each of its members — guitarist, pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Joey Baron — have played together in various situations for decades. In the case of Abercrombie and Copland, their association goes back some 40 years to Chico Hamilton’s touring group and the fusion band Dreams. Both Baron and Gress have played with the guitarist and pianist on and off since the ’90s. The predominate mood here is linear post-bop and lyric balladry, though there is an overarching group meditation on at least the titles of Alfred Hitchock’s films: Abercrombie composed six pieces here (including “Vertigo” and the title track); Copland two (including “Spellbound”), and there’s a group improvisation called “Shadow of a Doubt.” It is interesting to note the inclusion of Copland — Abercrombie hasn’t featured a pianist on his recordings since the early ’80s — who creates a wider tonal palette. The pianist’s “LST” is a midtempo number with an elaborate melody and a gorgeous solo by Copland showcasing motivic invention in the upper register accompanied by gorgeous chord voicings from Abercrombie. The lush, melodic invention in the guitarist’s “Bacharach” offers the pianist a platform to build a multi-hued timbral spectrum, while Abercrombie slips along its underside in an understated yet intricate solo; Gress punctuates his lines with rich wooden tones and Baron whispers along on snare and cymbals. Copland’s “Spellbound” is as mysterious as its title implies. Abercrombie’s dual string intro is followed by Gress’ solo, which is darkly illumined by the pianist’s middle-register chordal inventions and Baron’s slippery shuffle. The guitarist’s solo follows a scalar line, purposely syncopating his movements and creating a gentle swing. The title track is one of the loveliest ballads Abercrombie has ever composed. It makes full use of both the piano’s and guitar’s possibilities as chord instruments, but its solos all move fluidly along subtle yet intensely lyrical lines. The set closes on the most unusual version of “Melancholy Baby” ever committed to tape, though even in its angular rhythmic thrust and contrapuntal individual statements, exhibits a keen sense of listening and melodic counterpoint. Abercrombie’s 39 Steps offers the sound of a veteran quartet playing at the height of its individual members’ intuitive and collective abilities.
01 – Vertigo
02 – LST
03 – Bacharach
04 – Greenstreet
05 – As It Stands
06 – Spellbound
07 – Another Ralph’s
08 – Shadow Of A Doubt
09 – 39 Steps
10 – Melancholy Baby
Produced by Manfred Eicher. Engineered by James A. Farber.
Recorded at Avatar Studios, New York (April 2013).
John Abercrombie: guitar
Drew Gress: double bass
Marc Copland: piano
Joey Baron: drums