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JAZZ REVIEWS : JOHN ABERCROMBIE

Although technology has played a considerable role in reshaping jazz during the past decade or so, no number of synthesizers and gadgets can be blamed for what many find to be a general decline in musical quality.

A case in point is John Abercrombie, the New York-based guitarist who worked the weekend at the Palace Court with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Peter Erskine. Though Abercrombie is advertised as a “fusion” guitarist, his profluent style and extraordinary musicality were not diminished by the battery of electronic gadgetry.

Armed now with a guitar synthesizer, Abercrombie, during his opening set Friday night, triumphed over technology with technique, over banality with high-intentioned art.

While the ponderous opening number, “Killing Time,” was too appropriately titled, Abercrombie and company found an easy groove on “Hippityville,” a tune based in a “loop” of melody to which the trio provided a lilting counterpoint and over which it improvised effectively.

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“Samurai Heehaw,” a piece by bassist Johnson, was grounded in a rock-funk mode, while “Four On One,” composed by Abercrombie, was an extended improvisatory piece that recalled the free jazz of an earlier time.

While each of these tunes worked beautifully, the set’s best offerings were standards. Sammy Fain and Bob Hillard’s “Alice In Wonderland” was a melodic delight, as was a swinging rendition of “Come Rain Or Come Shine.”

In every outing--new or old--the trio performed as if proving the adage that it is a poor workman who blames (or credits) his tools.


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