Saturday, August 26, 2017

Telling Timeless

video
Welcome to the weekend and two heavyweight posts: one concerning a milestone birthday and this one, about the passing away of an unsung but extremely potent, prolific and beloved musician of our time on Earth.
That's what this is, this page... isn't it though? We are telling time here, trying to catalog and commemorate the births, the deaths and the anniversaries that orbit around the continuum of recorded music during the span of years we spend alive... itself the most voluminous period of such output in human history. Today's screed concerns someone who made a lot of people's time seem and sound a little more timeless in his time.
He was born (and died this week of a heart attack) in upstate NY and had 72 years of time between. After a visit to the Internet I can tell you he played on or led upwards of 125 record dates in a period of about 50 years. The number may in fact be much higher; I stopped counting after a few hours of research.
It's so appropriate that his signature tune (atop this page) has the title it does; the word "timeless" definitely applies to the lyrical guitar style and subdued, monumentally tasteful melodic and harmonic approach he featured.
Last night as I was thinking about this post, I started to cry when I realized how much his music means to me, and how sad it is he will never pick up his instrument again. Now someone is chopping onions in here yet again.
His LPs with his Gateway trio and with (also blogworthy) guitarissimo Ralph Towner are almost the apotheosis of the vibe shared by all the great ECM label records, and are a testimony to the lasting and lofty creative standard that company founder Manfred Eicher's vision brought into our world.
Those albums touch the soul in the rare ways they do and never fail to give the listener the sense of the core concept of timelessness; of music that never sounds shackled to the time period or epoch in which it was constructed. There will never be another record label like ECM.
And there will never be another person who'll manipulate six strings the way John Abercrombie did. To say that I am gonna miss him or that I will, until the day I die, always have a special place in me for what he produced is as egregious an understatement as I've ever typed on this page.
As Laurie Anderson (tributed here a while back) once intoned, "This is the time, and this is the record of the time." There are rare musicians and artists that don't just leave a resonance, but whom through the sheer elegant force of their talents take us out of the confinements of linear time and into a place where it all happens at once. Mr. A here was emphatically in that latter group, and the vast and diverse mindscape of music he leaves us will always be happening, somewhere in time.
To adequately tribute such a monster player with such a track record of prolific output wasn't easy, but I think I did all right, assembling three very different unissued performances dating from the mid-1980s that showcase three of John's divergent contexts.
The first features his aforementioned Gateway group with fellow deities Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland (they are the rhythm section on the lion's share of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, as you may know), the second a shimmering duo concert with Ralph Towner, and the third a wild Village Vanguard set with reedmelter Michael Brecker, where we find John getting into his infatuation with the guitar synthesizer he would go on to occasionally utilize for the rest of the 1980s.
John Abercrombie
1983-84-85

I.
Gateway
WDR Schauburg
Radio Bremen
Bremen, Germany
6.21.1983

CD1
01 'M'
02 May Dance
03 Back-Woods Song
04 Silver Hollow

CD2
01 Blues In A Flat
02 Four Winds
03 Jumpin' In
04 Ralph's Piano Waltz

Total time: 2:24:34

John Abercrombie - guitar
Dave Holland - bass
Jack DeJohnette - drums, piano

sounds like a master cassette capture of a WDR broadcast
840 MB FLAC here

II.
John Abercrombie/Ralph Towner
Audi Max TU
Vienna, Austria
5.11.1984

CD1
01 Improvisation/The Juggler's Etude
02 Beneath an Evening Sky
03 Improvisations

CD2
01 Untitled/Beautiful Love
02 Timeless
03 Nardis

Total Time: 1:23:15

John Abercrombie - electric guitars
Ralph Towner - acoustic guitars

2nd gen cassette of a 1984 European FM broadcast
462 MB FLAC here

III.
John Abercrombie Quartet
Village Vanguard
New York, NY
2.18.1985

01 Hippetyville
02 Samurai Hee Haw
03 Even Steven
04 Look Around
05 Night
06 Four On One

Total time: 52:27

John Abercrombie - guitar, guitar synthesizer
Michael Brecker - tenor saxophone
Marc Johnson - bass
Peter Erskine- drums

master soundboard capture, sourced from bootleg CD "Synapse" on the Like a Cat label
319 MB FLAC here
I zipped all three shows separately this time, so you are free to get all, several or none of them. I'd advise making the most of your time and engaging with the timeless qualities of this most amazing artist, who left us this week but whose life's work will burn brightly for a long while and continue to warm our ears in the process. If he were sitting here, I'd say Thank You John Abercrombie.... and that's what time it is.--J.
12.16.1944 - 8.22.2017