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Within a Song

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Audio CD, July 31, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

On Within A Song , John Abercrombie pays tribute to formative influences, to the recordings and the musicians that shaped his early listening and his future directions. The period addressed is the 1960s, with specific reference to key recordings by Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Bill Evans. This new album, revisiting some classics of the era, is effectively a modern jazz primer, but it s also much more.

Manfred Eicher and I had been talking for a while about doing an album that might pay homage to a particular jazz artist or composer. But in the end I preferred to look at the era when my own musical tastes were shaped. The recordings that I was listening to back then were mostly post-bebop jazz albums, usually by artists who were stretching the forms, in their various ways.

Guitarist Abercrombie and tenorist Joe Lovano convey their empathy with the original protagonists, while also bringing much of their own creativity into service. There is superlative playing from both of them, with encouragement and alert support from Joey Baron and Drew Gress, also vital contributors to the project.

The album opens with Where are You , from Rollins The Bridge , and from the same source comes Without A Song , the latter now enveloped in John s title track. Hearing Sonny Rollins and Jim Hall on The Bridge was an epiphany for me, Abercrombie says. They just turned my head around. When I heard them playing Without a Song ", I thought that s the best thing I ve ever heard! So for this new album I wrote songs based upon it.

Jim Hall has long been one of John s primary influences, admired for musicality and harmonic sophistication beyond the creation of great solos, and there are several Hall references on the disc, in connections to Rollins, Bill Evans and also Art Farmer. I had the opportunity to see Art Farmer s band with Jim Hall, Steve Swallow on acoustic bass and Pete La Roca on drums quite often, and every time I saw them they played Sergio Mahanovich s tune Sometime Ago in such a poignant way. It was so moving. In my mind, at least, it was the theme song of the Art Farmer-Jim Hall Quartet. Hall was also on board for Bill Evans s Interplay album whose title tune is reinterpreted here. I always liked this tune of Bill s. It s a very well-written theme on a minor blues. The construction of the melody, and Bill s use of intervals, is quite unique. Plus, I welcomed the chance to play a blues on an ECM album.

Ornette Coleman s Blues Connotation , originally recorded on This Is Our Music , plays more loosely with the language of the blues. I liked the total sound of Ornette s bands with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and either Ed Blackwell or Billy Higgins. It was clear to me that Ornette had a concept and knew what he was doing. I heard his alto playing really as an extension of Charlie Parker. Having recorded Round Trip already in the quartet with Mark Feldman [on The Third Quartet in 2006], I was looking for another piece with that feeling of openness. Blues Connotation has that quality. It s a piece that gives you the option of playing in a blues style or freely, and this time we took a freer path.

Abercrombie describes himself as a late bloomer vis-à-vis Kind of Blue : It was released in 59 but I didn t hear it until 1962, when I was a student in Boston. I was completely captured by Miles s playing on that album, the simplicity and beauty of it. Of course, the album is meanwhile so well-known that certain tunes have been practically worn out with repetition. But I thought it was still possible to play something fresh on the chord progressions of Flamenco Sketches and create our own melodies.

Coltrane s Crescent , was also

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
listen  1. Where Are You 5:49$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Easy Reader 6:34$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Within A Song - Without A Song 7:55$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  4. Flamenco Sketches 6:33$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  5. Nick Of Time 5:55$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  6. Blues Connotation 6:10$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  7. Wise One 9:10$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  8. Interplay 6:24$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  9. Sometime Ago 6:25$1.29  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 31, 2012)
  • Original Release Date: 2012
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM Records
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,611 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Over a career spanning more than 40 years and nearly 50 albums, John Abercrombie has established himself as one the masters of jazz guitar. Favoring unusual sounds (he played electronic mandolin on McCoy Tyner's 1993 album 4x4) and nontraditional ensembles (recent quartet recordings have included violinist Mark Feldman), Abercrombie is a restless experimenter, working firmly in the jazz ... Read more in Amazon's John Abercrombie Store

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Silberman on August 4, 2012
Format: Audio CD
Exquisitely sensitive and empathic performances of tunes by Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman -- along with standards made famous by Jim Hall and others -- make this Abercrombie's best album in years. Gone is the overly tart tone that plagued some of the guitarist's '90s releases; his sound here is closer to his classic work in the '70s with Ralph Towner and the Abercrombie Quartet. You couldn't ask for more copacetic, A-list sidemen than Drew Gress, Joey Baron, and Joe Lovano. Between them, they have so much talent and imagination that these mellow, moody, probing performances are a marvel of contained power. It's also frankly nice to see an ECM release based on standards. That may seem like a "duh!" -- a jazz release based on standards, what a concept! -- but ECM genius Manfred Eicher has clearly pushed his stable of brilliant musicians to favor original compositions over the decades, so to hear this ensemble find its own completely fresh way through a tune like "Flamenco Sketches" (which is virtually uncoverable, because the original on Kind of Blue is so iconic) is breathtaking. Music simply doesn't get better than this.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By THX1138b on October 15, 2012
Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
If you've been listening to John Abercrombie for a while or have even a smattering of his considerable output over the past many years, especially as a leader, this one may strike you as something different.

I heard an anecdote of the brilliant young turk who played for the master and played the score note for note flawlessly. When the master played the same notes the music came to life in a way the young man could not duplicate. When asked the difference the master replied: You don't love every note. On this release John Abercrombie and Joe Lovano do love every note. Nothing is wasted, nothing is forced. It is contemplative. The tempos are all slow to moderate, though never ponderous.

The last collaboration of these two that I'm aware of was on JA's 1999 "Open Land" where Lovano put in an appearance with John's working quartet of the time. This outing gives the two a chance to interact directly and share their love and respect for the music.

John is still playing guitar with his thumb, a technique he adopted in the mid-90s and has not abandoned since. (And he has never come off sounding like Wes.) That soft attack has possibly never been better balanced than in this interplay with Lovano's rich, lingering sax. But JA's guitar is so soft in the mix, if you didn't know better, at first hearing you might take this for a Joe Lovano release with JA sitting in. It almost sounds like John, so often the leader, wants to take a back seat, let the guitar come to the music from below and let the sax sail over top. Too often in this recording I find myself wondering "Where's John?" He's so low in some parts of the mix Joey Barron's light cymbal taps almost drown him out. That may be the "something different" in this release and I find myself wishing for just a hint of the dynamic of the earlier collaboration.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Henderson on October 28, 2012
Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
I've been listening to John Abercrombie since TIMELESS and can enthusiastically recommend this beautiful release as one of his very best. Groundbreaking? No, but this tribute to his musical heroes is a subtle return to his roots and he has able support from Lovano, Gress & Baron. Mostly covers but ever so tastefully done. I'm very glad John and Manfred Eicher have teamed up once again with a solid outing; easily one of his top 5 quartet releases for ECM.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jorge on March 19, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Of course I recommend this super CD of John Abercrombie, it's quiet, peaceful and good to rest with the correct music.
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