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.
Abercrombie’s pinpoint precision abounds, his mid-heavy picking amplified to buttery sweetness, and shares notable interplay with Beirach. Over a yielding backing, these sustained reverberations occasionally coalesce in bright tutti passages. The resulting sound is nothing short of enchanting. A neglected classic to be sure, Arcade is available on CD only in Japan, and is one of three fine John Abercrombie Quartet sessions that one can only hope are next in line for an Old & New Masters treatment.
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.
ECM release, Within A Song is the musical celebration of jazz’s greatest players. The extraordinary John Abercrombie Quartet pays homage to early influences including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Ornette Coleman, Jim Hall and Sonny Rollins. The album exuberates with the ensemble’s contemporary strengths and infectious guitar playing. John Abercrombie adds his own waltz-inspired composition, “Easy Reader” to this exquisite program.