This 3-CD set with recordings from 1978 to 1980, issued in ECM s acclaimed Old & New Masters series, returns some historically-important material to the catalog, namely the albums Arcade, Abercrombie Quartet and M. The quartet with Richie Beirach, George Mraz and Peter Donald John Abercrombie s first touring band as a leader was the group in which the guitarist defined some priorities, moving away from a jazz-rock period into a more spacious, impressionistic and original music. Abercrombie and pianist Beirach had a strong musical rapport as improvisers and wrote almost all of the band s book between them. George Mraz and Peter Donald provided imaginative support. For this edition the recordings - made in Oslo and Ludwigsburg and produced by Manfred Eicher were remastered from original analog sources.
John Abercrombie's group recordings on ECM have often come in threes. The Third Quartet, his latest featuring violinist Mark Feldman, bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron, is an apt (and obvious) title, but hopefully not a sign that this is the end of this group's winning streak. Since forming in 2000 it's evolved into one of the best—if not the best—groups of the guitarist's long career.
As part of ECM'0bs Old & New Masters series of box sets, John Abercrombie's The First Quartet collects three albums recorded for the label between 1978 and 1980. Two titles, 1979's Abercrombie Quartet and 1981's M, have been unavailable for decades. By the guitarist's own admission, this band represents the guitarist's first time as a "proper" bandleader. His earlier dates on ECM had been co-led sessions (Timeless, Gateway, Sargasso Sea), a solo album (Characters), and sideman gigs (Jack DeJohnette's New Directions, David Liebman's Lookout Farm, etc.). These three dates also represent an important foundation for Abercrombie as a composer.
When one considers the instrumentation (alto, piano and guitar) and the personnel (Bob Mover, Paul Bley and John Abercrombie), it is not surprising that this date is full of thoughtful, chance-taking and often lyrical improvisations. Most of the selections are either duets or unaccompanied solos, and although there are some melodies, the music was pretty much all improvised on the spot. An intriguing set.
Peter Brendler and guitarist John Abercrombie have developed their playing partnership over a number of years, but The Angle Below is their first duo recording. Brendler—"the guy on the bass" as he's described in Neil Tesser's sleeve notes—is the nominal leader but he refers to the album as a collaboration. He's not wrong. He may be the driving force behind the project, the man who sorted out the studio, booked the dates, contacted the press and made the coffees, but as soon as the bass and guitar open "Downhill Runner" it's clear that this is a joint venture—a very successful joint…
Here it is: eight CDs worth of John Coltrane's classic quartet, comprised of bassist Jimmy Garrison, pianist McCoy Tyner, and drummer Elvin Jones, recorded between December of 1961 and September of 1965 when the artist followed his restless vision and expanded the band before assembling an entirely new one before his death. What transpired over the course of the eight albums and supplementary material used elsewhere is nothing short of a complete transfiguration of one band into another one, from a band that followed the leader into places unknown to one that inspired him and pushed him further. All of this transpired in the span of only three years.
Guitarist John Abercrombie's first in a long line of recordings for ECM was also his debut as a leader. Teamed up with Jan Hammer (who here plays organ, synthesizer, and piano) and drummer Jack DeJohnette, Abercrombie plays four of his originals, plus two by Hammer. These performances differ from many of the guitarist's later ECM dates in that Hammer injects a strong dose of fusion into the music, and there is plenty of spirited interplay between those two with fine support by DeJohnette. Thought-provoking and occasionally exciting music that generally defies categorization.Scott Yanow, All Music Guide