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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

Jul 31, 2012

From fusion to dreamy modern sounds to straight ahead jazz, John Abercrombie has led the way as one of the finest guitarists in the business. Since 1974 he has recorded almost exclusively for Manfred Eicher’s ECM label, and has made memorable duo, trio (particularly with the band Gateway) and quartet albums with varying instrumental composition.

For his jazziest record in years, Abercrombie has assembled some of his favorite collaborators – drummer Joey Baron, saxophonist Joe Lovano, and bassist Drew Gress to record his tribute to his first jazz heroes and their recordings. Within a Song features covers of tunes from Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Bill Evans, along with originals intended to pay tribute the early 1960’s legends from which Abercrombie first received inspiration.

This version of the Quartet (with Adam Nussbaum replacing Joey Baron) will play a run of shows at Birdland in New York from August 14-18, playing much of this fine new CD, making those performances “must see” from the Manhattan jazz cognoscenti.

I spoke with John from his home in New York State, where he was relaxing after a short tour. We talked about why he is so pleased with the new CD, his beginning as a jazz student in Boston, and his plans for a possible Gateway reunion in the near future. Click here to listen to the conversation, along with musical selections that include:

John Abercrombie Quartet – “Wise One” from Within A Song. Abercrombie said he liked the accessible melody and Latin-tinged rhythms on the track from John Coltrane’s seminal Crescent album.

John Abercrombie Quartet – Title Track from Within A Song. To pay tribute to Sonny Rollins’ album The Bridge, Abercrombie wrote this song, and merged into it elements of the classic “Without a Song”. Abercrombie calls this album, which featured mentor Jim Hall on guitar, perhaps his favorite jazz album.

Billy Cobham – “Moon Germs” from Total Eclipse. Abercrombie was at the epicenter of the musical earthquake that was fusion in the late 1960’s.  With the Brecker Brothers and Billy Cobham he formed the band Dreams, and he guest starred on this Cobham solo album from 1974, supplying a screaming guitar solo to close the track.

John Abercrombie Quartet – “Out of Towner” from Wait Till You See Her. Abercrombie has a long standing musical relationship with violinist Mark Feldman, with whom this quartet is based. Joey Baron is on drums and Thomas Morgan plays bass. Abercrombie considers this version of the Quartet to be one of his ready working bands.

Gateway – “Unshielded Desire” from Gateway. As a member of this supergroup, Abercrombie has worked with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette off and on for 35 years. He will pay tribute to DeJohnette at concerts honoring the legendary drummer on his 70th birthday this fall. This track comes from their debut album on ECM, and was co-written by Abercrombie and DeJohnette.