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Published: 2012/11/15
by Ron Hart

John Abercrombie
Within A Song

ECM

John Abercrombie has always been the kind of jazz guitarist who serves as the perfect foil for his buddies on brass, because of the delicacy by which he hits his notes on the strings is highly reminiscent of the great horn players he admires.

Having been bitten by the post be-bop bug in his formative years, the 60s indeed played a key role in Abercrombie’s music education with the tempest of classic recordings emerging from such renowned labels as Verve, Blue Note, Impulse! and Columbia informing his creative aptitudes as one of the art form’s most gifted talents on the six-string. And it is this most fertile period in jazz history that serves as the focus of Abercrombie’s latest work as a leader for his longtime imprint ECM Records and its chief Manfred Eicher.

“A celebration of an era when musicians were stretching the forms” is how the guitar great explains Within A Song, an eloquent homage to the men who shaped his distinct style. With the airy rhythm section of Drew Gress on double-bass and drummer Joey Baron behind him and Blue Note great Joe Lovano by his side on tenor sax, Abercrombie breathes new life into some seriously deep classics, including Sonny Rollins’s poignant version of the Adamson/McHugh composition “Where Are You” from the reedist’s early 60s masterpiece The Bridge, where he tips his hat to guitar hero Jim Hall, who is further acknowledged with a gorgeous rendition of the title track to Bill Evans’ 1962 LP Interplay and then again with a spin on Sergio Mihanovich’s “Sometime Ago” made famous by Hall’s famed quartet with trumpet great Art Farmer.

Abercrombie’s cool jazz forefather Miles Davis gets his props with a wonderfully loose take on the Kind of Blue highlight “Flamenco Sketches”`, while John Coltrane’s quintessence at balladry is spotlighted with an illuminating translation of “Wise One”. Meanwhile, the guitarist pushes his chops as a freeform improvisation with a wide open spin on Ornette Coleman’s “Blues Connotation” from his 1961 album This Is Our Music.

Within A Song is a breathtaking tribute to the horns that honed John Abercrombie’s exquisite aptitudes on his instrument of choice, and deserves placement amongst the finest work in his already rich catalog of great recordings.

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