John Abercrombie Quartet: M (ECM 1191)


John Abercrombie Quartet

John Abercrombie electric and acoustic guitars
Richard Beirach piano
George Mraz bass
Peter Donald drums
Recorded November 1980 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

For its third ECM outing, the John Abercrombie Quartet produced this viscous and mysterious entity known simply as M. Strangely out of print, this seven-part exercise in burnished reflection plows its foggiest waters in “Boat Song.” Abercrombie’s guitar weeps like bells over a harbor, skimmed for flotsam by Richie Beirach’s somber piano. At nearly ten minutes, this is the longest track of the album, and its darkness haunts all that proceeds from it. We encounter this also in “To Be” (a rubato wave notable for George Mraz’s effortless bass work), and the harmonic inversions of “Veils.” Here, Abercrombie’s sinewy melodic lines stretch farthest, slowly immersing its hands into the “Pebbles” in which we find closure. Peter Donald’s drumming is particularly fine here and shines like sunrays from cloud-break.

Despite Abercrombie’s often piercing swan dives and a pirouetting rhythm section, even the liveliest moments in “What Are The Rules” (a rhetorical move proving there need be none) or “Flashback” never lift their feet too high off the ground. The latter’s circular conversations draw around us a perimeter that we are free to overstep. Yet after being bathed in such sonic finery, we feel reluctant to do so. The result is one of Abercormbie’s lushest albums, with a shadowy and tinny production style that writes a different story every time.

3 thoughts on “John Abercrombie Quartet: M (ECM 1191)

  1. Just a brief note here – I have the LP, listened to it a few times on tape….my main impression is that Abercrombie was being influenced by Pat Metheny’s particular guitar sound and approach (and perhaps record sales, likely far in excess of Abercrombie’s, unfair as it may be). Could Pat be the “M” of the title? Interesting to ponder….a tribute? or a competition!

  2. Just came across this tidbit in ECM’s background info for Tactics:

    As Abercrombie pointed out to journalist Frank-John Handley, there are many listeners unaware that he “grew up playing ‘Green Dolphin Street’ with an organ trio. That’s one of the main reasons why I keep coming back to the traditional format.” Convinced that “whoever invented the electric guitar was a Hammond player or vice versa, the instruments just sound so good together,” Abercrombie first tested the sonic blend in the mid-60s. While still a student at the Berklee School, he began playing standards, seven nights a week, with the Johnny ‘Hammond’ Smith organ trio at Boston’s Big M club.

    Could this explain the title of M?

    1. Yes! Yes!
      Une réédition de M et Quartet, en coffret, en CD ou en téléchargement flac HD 24bit 192khz serait une réussite absolu.
      Arcade existe déjà en CD (japan).
      Thanks in advance.

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