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John Abercrombie - Timeless CD (album) cover


John Abercrombie

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Dick Heath
Jazz-Rock Specialist
4 stars While John Abercrombie had been a professional musician, working and recording both in the main stream jazz and jazz rock fields for over 6 years, this was the first album under his own name. And the title 'Timeless' is most valid in telling the potential listener that the music has not aged. The album is seminal and one that stands out as original a record made during the heydays of jazz rock.

Abercrombie's jazz record sessions up to the 1974 recording date of this album, may have suggested an able guitarist, but one who lacked a voice, which otherwise marked out the likes of Mclaughlin or Connors, (who was then attracting attention in RTF). 'Timeless' was to change things inEurope, even if it took a little while to register in Abercrombie's home country. His live work at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Billy Cobham's Band had attracted the attention of the boss Manfred Eicher of the fledging german jazz record company ECM. Eicher signed him and ever since Abercrombie has rarely been found on any other label with his numerous album release. With Timeless Abercrombie is accompanied for the first of many times by both Jan Hammer (hot from the collapsed Mahavishnu, on keys and in particular the Hammond organ) and Jack DeJohnette (drum, who's jazz rock/fusion creditials were already long, e.g. played the jazz cross over of the Charles Lloyd Quintet mid 60's and with Miles Davis on the Bitches Brew sessions). Tune wise, here is mix of Abercrombie and Hammer compositions, along with a Ralph Towner piece. The style is very much of their own: high speed (as was the vogue at the time) but already showing the purity of sound that was to be the mark of later ECM 'European Chambers Jazz' albums. The interplay of Mahavishnu is carried over here with DeJohnette having an equal part in the trio; while the guitar leads, Hammer's organ (for the most part) fills in behind eloquently, and then vice versa. Jan Hammer's Hammond work attracted much attention - partly because this was an instrument most of his recent fans would have been unfamiliar for Hammer - but he has own way of attacking the keyboards, percussive and melodic at the same time. Compare the version of 'Red & Orange' here with Hammond the rawer version synth version heard on the Jan Hammer Group's 'Oh Yeah!'. And Abercrombie's guitar playing here less about effects and more a jazz guitarist in a sophisticated jazz rock company.

Overall an album which provides quite a different approach to jazz rock from those by RTF or MO at the time, although the attack and interplay will be recognised in all three groups.

A timeless album for any jazz rock collection, an album for any music lover who likes superb musicianship. 4.5 stars at least.

Report this review (#74233)
Posted Thursday, April 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's never a good thing for a reviewer to parade his ignorance, but I honestly can't tell you anything about the life or career of guitarist John Abercrombie. Fortunately, other fans have stepped in to fill that gap: check out the excellent, comprehensive biography on his page here at Prog Archives.

But I will say that the title track of his 1974 debut solo album is, without exaggeration, one of the cornerstones of my entire music collection. By itself this one cut is so compelling that for more than two decades it all but obliterated any interest I might have shown in the rest of the album. More fool me, because the entire package is an unassuming slice of pioneering Fusion, arranged by a guitar player who in a perfect world would be far better known outside the limited circle of Jazz Rock devotees.

The simple, no-frills production (not much more than a judicious application of reverb) leads me to suspect the bulk of the album was recorded live in the studio. Clearly the final mix benefits from the spontaneity of the performances, played by a gifted power trio able to employ as much nuance as muscle. Keyboardist Jan Hammer was of course an alumnus of the first and best MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA; drummer Jack DeJohnette attended the legendary Isle of Wight concert alongside a newly electrified MILES DAVIS; and Abercrombie himself was already a session veteran with a lengthy, impressive résumé.

The track list is perfectly balanced between two longer (but very different) pieces bracketing a quartet of shorter instrumentals. Among them are a pair of gentle piano / acoustic guitar duets, plus the intergalactic cocktail-lounge jazz of "Ralph's Piano Waltz" (with not a piano within earshot), and the harder-edged, hypertense fusion of Jan Hammer's "Red and Orange", built around a theme purloined from the classics. Another Hammer composition, the 12+ minute "Lungs", opens the album in a quiet frenzy of virtuosity, alternating with a more subdued, dreamlike interlude and an open-ended jazz-funk conclusion.

This leaves only the astonishing title track, a 12-minute masterpiece of otherworldly mood and invention, ending the album on maybe the warmest chillout in recorded history. Listen to that long opening drone, setting up a simple, haunting 12-note melody (actually only three notes, repeated in descending scales), with every carefully located sound bathed in blissful amniotic contentment. Is it Jazz? Space Rock? Ambient Electronica? A little bit of each and none of the above would be my closest guess.

Especially striking is the protracted entry of Hammer's mini-moog, fading in over the course of what sounds like several minutes (only a slight exaggeration), slowly embellishing Abercrombie's delicate picking and the typically fluid brushstrokes of DeJohnette's drumming. In short: here's a track that ably lives up to its title, having hardly aged a minute after more than 30 years.

Because this was an album that put a higher value on quality and competence over flashy pyrotechnics, it might have escaped the attention of discriminating listeners with an ear for Jazz Rock Fusion finesse (the cover art itself is likewise a model of taste of modesty, and surprisingly reminiscent of FRIPP and ENO's "Evening Star", released the same year). Trust me, you don't want to allow half your life to slip away before treating yourself to this one.

Report this review (#89138)
Posted Wednesday, September 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A smoker from start to finish, this is almost as good as "Gateway". Get it for "Lungs"...which I would rate in the Top 5 of "All Time Best Fusion Tracks". Jan Hammer, John Abercrombie and Jack DeJohnette are "in the pocket", but in a cerebral way. Can't quite put my finger on it...but think Terje Rypdal when he's really 'on'...and notch it up a bit while adding some "funk". Jan Hammer plays predomnantly the Hammond Organ on this(a good thing), so don't expect the jamz synthesizer he used on Jeff Beck records. 4.5 stars, really.
Report this review (#155158)
Posted Tuesday, December 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Having been part of the scene for some years, playing in various groups, but mostly for the Brecker Bros' first band Dreams, Abercrombie finally attacked his fist studio album after getting a recording contract from ECM, with whom he would remain mostly fidel throughout his career. This debut album, like most of his first few albums are citing his

Abercrombie's choice in DeJohnette (an ex-Bitches Brew drummer, but also very frequent Keith Jarrett sideman) will remain fairly constant in his early career, but it's surprising not seeing Dave Holland (also ex BB and frequent Jarrett sideman) on bass here, but there is no bass at all (whatever might sound is most likely organ-pedalled by Hammer. The opening Hammer-penned Lungs is one of those scary 700 MPH, where ultra-sonic virtuosity is everything. Love Song is one of those boring slow track that are supposed to be the antidote to the demented tracks, but to me these sleeping pills are best skipped. Ralph's Waltz (Towner of Oregon I guess) is at times enthralling, against which Hammer Red & Orange sounds captivating, but let's be careful of Einstein's Relativity theory here. R&O has some delightful moments, but I am saying moments, not minutes or songs. In some ways, this sounds like a Birds Of Fire track (which in itself is quite a feat), but to me it's a little too close for comfort to appreciate this truly. After the relatively new-agey Remembering, the album closes on the 12-mins title track. Starting on a slow drone, the track remain gentle

I've never been really sure why Abercrombie was included in PA, because he seems a bit far from the focus, but his early albums certainly smoked, rivalling in density (the unit is notes/second) with Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever; but unlike these two groups, Abercrombie's formation lacks the warmth of those cited just before.

Report this review (#180901)
Posted Wednesday, August 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Part of orthodox and acoustic part. And, it is methodological of the performance that has already been established. This John Abercrombie is always paid to attention as one of the guitar players who keep reforming always in Jazz/Fusion continuing the original performance.

The work that informed the world of his name was to have appointed to the recording of "Total Eclipse" that Billy Cobham had announced in 1974 though he had competing with various musicians before this album of the debut. Eminence might have gone up enough for the performance of him with whom an original interpretation and the intellect for music overflowed. And, it competes with Johnny"Hammond" Smith. Performance from Dreams of Rock group with Chico Hamilton. Because Abercrombie formed the base of music, these situations will have been elements enough. And, his involved young power his greeting and at that time is reflected enough in the album in this debut album. And, I will be able to ask the performance by Trio of this irregular organ enough for the zeal of Abercrombie.

"Lungs" is composed of some parts as the entire composition. An overwhelming opening speed and power show a complete technology. Ensemble of Trio is overwhelming. And, the performance of John Abercrombie might construct the music character with the angle besides the performance of the guitar players such as John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell. The tune advances with the development of Improvisation gradually. A good tension for the composition of the tune is given by as many as two people (Jan Hammer and Jack De Johnette) and it is continued. And, the flow that the synthesizer twines round the part of Bass by Jan Hammer might be indeed unique. A heavy part in close relation to a constant rhythm feels the area of the width of this Trio. It is a tune of which the element as Jazz Rock went out strongly very much. Because Jan Hammer composed, this tune might have the element of Mahavishnu Orchestra a little.

As for "Love Song", the melody of the piano and the guitar with the anacatesthesia is impressive. The progress of beautiful Chord might remarkably reflect the title of the tune in the tune. It talks about the piano and the guitar by music.

Playing the guitar with originality in the flow of Waltz exactly twines round "Ralph's Piano Waltz" well. The performance of Abercrombie will have an element original as for the method of settlement of the sound in which it lands when also thinking about progress and Ad-Rib of the tune because originality has gone out strongly. The tune gradually receives the top while making the theme cross each other to Ad-Rib by the organ. The sound of the guitar that uses the method of the volume is also impressive.

As for "Red And Orange", a complex, intermittent melody twines round the line of Bass by Jan Hammer. Because Jan Hammer composed as well as "Lungs" this tune, it is ..very high-quality Jazz Rock.. finished. And, the guitar and the drum answer the idea of Jan Hammer enough. The dash feeling of this tune might be also overwhelming. The tension is always continued.

"Remembering" shifts from the start of the guitar that gives the impression of uneasiness and the piano to a beautiful flow. The technology that Abercrombie cultivated listens to the impression not staying in simple Jazz/Fusion in this tune. Manfred Eicher that collects the tune in such a part, the feature as ECM might be added enough. It listens to the parts of a few avant-gardes.

"Timeless" starts from the flow of the float in the space. The melody of the guitar with the flow and the anacatesthesia of the synthesizer creates one space. A few, ambient flows progress quietly attended with the rhythm. Enough power might be exactly involved to the creation of Abercrombie with the performance.

This debut album might exist as overwhelming Jazz Rock in the work of John Abercrombie.

Report this review (#251701)
Posted Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I've been enjoying guitarist extraordinaire John Abercrombie's "Gateway" album for years now, so to finally get my hands on his debut has been nothing short of outstanding. "Gateway" was John's second album and featured Jack DeJohnette (drums) and Dave Holland (bass) while "Timeless" also featured a trio with DeJohnette, but instead of Holland we get Jan Hammer on a variety of keyboards. So yes there's a different feel to this one when compared to "Gateway" but both are incredible.

Up first is the over 12 minute "Lungs" which is a real trip. At first everything is very uptempo with Hammer and DeJohnette leading the way then Abercrombie comes in with some fast paced soloing. This continues for almost 3 1/2 minutes then it calms right down to a whisper. Things stay laid back as different sounds come and go right to the end. Such a cool track. "Love Song" as you might imagine is a mellow track with the tasteful guitar and piano standing out. "Ralph's Piano Waltz" opens with jazzy drumming from DeJohnette as guitar and keyboards help out in this tasteful composition. Hammer comes in around 2 1/2 minutes on his Hammond to spice things up the rest of the way.

"Red And Orange" sounds great early on with the guitar, organ and drums setting a brisk pace. Hammer is so impressive here, but then they all are. Abercrombie comes and goes ripping it up. "Remembering" is a ballad-like instrumental. "Timeless" ends things on a high. At almost 12 minutes this beast starts off in an atmospheric manner, almost spacey really. Guitar sounds rise out of the mist. This is really good. The atmosphere fades out after 4 minutes as gentle guitar notes continue soon to be joined by intricate drumming and keyboards. This is all so laid back and beautiful. My favourite track on the album right here.

A very solid 4 stars and a must have along with "Gateway" for all you Jazz / Fusion fans out there.

Report this review (#1020419)
Posted Sunday, August 18, 2013 | Review Permalink

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