5. As It Stands
7. Another Ralph's
8. Shadow of a Doubt
9. 39 Steps
10. Melancholy Baby
John Abercrombie - Guitar
Marc Copland - Piano
Drew Gress - Bass
Joey Baron - Drums
This is the quartet that Abercrombie led on a recent
European tour. Disappointingly there were no UK dates, as I am sure
that home audiences would have appreciated the empathy between four
very fine musicians. The New York-born guitarist is now something
of a veteran and has recorded many times with ECM, but this is the
first recording on Manfred Eicher's label for pianist Marc Copland.
Abercrombie and Copland are no strangers to one another as they both
played with Chico Hamilton's group in the 1970s and have since played
together in various line-ups including with Kenny Wheeler.
The CD comprises six originals by Abercrombie, two by Copland, one brief collective improvisation (Shadow of a Doubt) and a very loose version of
the old standard, Melancholy Baby. The guitarist is a gifted composer of instantly appealing tunes, mainly in medium tempo, which provide
excellent frameworks for his and Copland's solo contributions and, occasionally for their first-rate bass-player, Drew Gress, too. Baron, one of the few
musicians ever to have been caught smiling in an ECM sleeve photograph, provides spirited support throughout.
Interestingly, four tune titles are also titles of Hitchcock films, presumably a particular interest of Abercrombie. Indeed, 39 Steps and Vertigo are two of the standout tracks, attractive and lyrical, and containing beautifully-constructed solos for Abercrombie's warm-toned guitar
and Copland's fluid keyboard voicings. Spellbound, a Copland tune, has a bluesier feel with Abercrombie providing reminders of the great Wes
Montgomery. Bacharach is a gentle waltz tune and Another Ralph's (presumably Towner) is built around a repeated four-note phrase that,
again, provides a perfect base for inventive solos by the two lead musicians.
This CD is one of the most accessible and engaging ECM releases of recent times.