Expanding Musical Boundaries with John Abercrombie

John Abercrombie is an acknowledged master of the electric guitar. As you might expect for someone who launched his musical career in the 1960’s, John has always been known as an experimenter. He was a key part of early fusion jazz bands with Billy Cobham, and the Brecker Brothers, but eventually followed his own muse in a different direction. His recordings for the ECM record label in the 1970’s and 1980’s were hugely influential, and helped define that label’s progressive chamber jazz reputation. In 2011, he’s still going strong: in their 59th Annual Critics Poll, Downbeat magazine named John as one of the top 15 guitarists working in jazz today. As he told one interviewer, “I’d like people to perceive me as having a direct connection to the history of jazz guitar, while expanding some musical boundaries.”

I first heard John Abercrombie’s music in 1979. As a freshman at Rice University in Houston, Texas, I managed to get involved with KTRU, the university’s student radio station. Though the station was certainly more famous at the time for playing new music by groups like U2, the B-52’s and the Dead Kennedys, they did have a jazz show on the weekends, and I was tasked with reviewing some of the incoming LPs so the DJs would have some idea of what to present on the air.

ECM Sampler 3. That was the one. It was my first introduction to ECM, which immediately became a favorite. Looking back at the artist listings now I’m still stunned by the collection of talent on this one record: Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Pat Metheny, Ralph Towner, Gary Burton, Jack DeJohnette, Terje Rypdal… I devoured it, and then started chasing down every recording I could find from the other players on those tracks as well.

His 1975 recording Timeless, featuring Jan Hammer on keyboards and Jack DeJohnette on drums, was his first for ECM, and in fact was also his debut as a bandleader. You can find the origins of his “Organ Trio” here, though Jan Hammer did introduce an interesting mix of synthesizer sounds into the recordings as well. It was thought-provoking music which you would find hard to place in any particular category.

John has always professed a love for the sound of the organ and the guitar together. Over the years he’s released a number of recordings in this format, including While We’re Young (1993), Speak Of The Devil (1994), and Tactics (1997).

Adam Nussbaum has been one of John’s regular musical partners since 1992, and has always been a key member of the Organ Trio. He’s also played with Dave Liebman, John Scofield, Steve Swallow, Carla Bley, Michael Brecker, and many others.

Gary Versace was voted a Rising Star on the Organ in the 2011 Downbeat Critics poll, and is the relative newcomer to the Organ Trio. He’s released several CDs as a leader on the Criss Cross label, and appeared as a sideman in over 50 recordings.

On this particular tour Enlightened Planet is proud to work with Southbridge to present the John Abercrombie Organ Trio in concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall in Singapore on June 4, 2012. The Organ Trio is also playing regionally in Hong Kong at the Summer Jazz Festival on May 30, in Manila at the 1st Philippine Jazz & Blues Guitar Festival on June 1 and 2. Further afield there are scheduled dates in Japan and in India as well! Support great live music wherever you are.

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