John Abercrombie: Timeless (ECM 1047)


John Abercrombie

John Abercrombie guitar
Jan Hammer organ, synthesizer, piano
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded June 11 & 12, 1974, Generation Sound Studios, New York
Engineers: Tony May and Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

On Timeless, guitarist John Abercrombie spearheads a session with keyboardist Jan Hammer and drummer Jack DeJohnette for a melding of minds in the first degree.

The trio kicks things off in high gear with “Lungs,” a heaping pile of kindling set ablaze by Hammer’s high-octane staccato, DeJohnette’s explosive hi-hat, and Abercrombie’s unusually frenetic fretwork. A sublime energy is maintained throughout and the payoff is supremely satisfying—all the more so for its brevity, as the music suddenly changes avenues just a few minutes in. Hammer relays between organ and synth, keeping the pace (and the funk) through trailing guitar solos that send notes like cosmic fingers flicking galaxies into outer space. The organ smolders quietly in the background before clinching a new groove, which Abercrombie laces with lines flanged just right for the mix. It all ends in a game of musical jump rope, with Abercrombie skipping over the alternation of drums and organ. “Love Song” is true to its name and is the first of two exquisite conversations between piano and acoustic guitar. Just as the organ trailed long rows in the soil of our attention, the piano comes as a welcome rain for our crop and the guitar like the sun that infuses it. This brings us to “Ralph’s Piano Waltz,” a highlight of these six fine offerings. Like the album as a whole, this track is a superlative balancing act. It’s a construct so seamless that if you don’t find your foot tapping during this one, you might want to make sure it’s still attached. The electric leads speak in their respective languages, but also mimic each other along the way. “Red And Orange” is what might result if Bach had survived into the 1970s as a closeted jazz musician, and is another standout in a set of many. “Remembering” is an alluring chain of tableux and the second of the two duets. Abercrombie sustains details the piano seems content to ignore, loosening those threads from their weave. We end with the title track, which builds slowly from a synth drone peppered with guitar musings to a full-on embrace of space.

This evergreen stands tall in the ECM forest. There is no sense of competition, only mutual reveling in a distinctly nuclear sound. One could easily call it fusion, but if anything it is fused with itself, for it has created every element it seeks to combine. Timeless indeed.

<< Dave Liebman: Drum Ode (ECM 1046)
>> Paul Motian: Tribute (ECM 1048)

3 thoughts on “John Abercrombie: Timeless (ECM 1047)

  1. I sat down tonight and abitrarily grabbed this. I found a ridiculously mint German pressing somewhere, no peel on the cover, no marks, no dust, in fact it really looks like I just removed the shrink wrap. Nary a crackly or pop.

    Speaking of, I’m slowly accumulating the first 200 ECM recordings in German pressings. The range from this era is so special and I think there is very little production vinyl that gets much better. While the very early ECM is an entirely different sound you can feel the focus Manfred was bringing to this era.

    This is a wonderful record; I found myself starting right over at the beginning after my full listening. Not a lot of fireworks but very listenable and accessible while the diversity engages you all the way through. The diversity of the music is appealing. I appreciate the balance between the players At times Jan Hammer’s organ reminds me a bit of Keith Emerson’s – this is interesting crossover music that would appeal to many. Listening to this lovely album saddens me a bit because I wish it had had much greater exposure – I think it is very appealing.

    1. Appealing, yes. As I always like to say, music tends to come into our lives when it is meant to, and my encounter with this album was fortuitous to the last. I’ve been gathering a small vinyl collection myself as I go through ECM’s history. I grew up at the tail end of the vinyl age (though, thankfully, some would say it never died), and miss the look and feel of the medium. I have to use the listening room at my university library to hear any vinyl these days, and the 20-minute walk always feels like a pilgrimage. That’s a great find you’ve got there in the German pressing.

  2. One of the first ECM recordings I was introduced to back in 1974 and as a drummer and Jack DeJohnette fan as well as being enamored by Jan Hammer’s sound from Mahavishnu, I immediately fell in love with it. One thing I want to mention is how clean ECM recordings are. There is a lot of ambiance in ECM recordings allowing each musician to be heard clearly instead of a being swallowed up in a cacaphonic mess. Many times when I buy records I buy them based not only on the music and the musicians, but on the “sound” of the recording and ECM has been a standout in this regard.

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