John Abercrombie: Getting There (ECM 1321)

 

John Abercrombie
Getting There

John Abercrombie electric and acoustic guitars, guitar synthesizer
Marc Johnson bass
Peter Erskine drums
Michael Brecker tenor saxophone
Recorded April 1987 at Power Station, New York
Engineer: James Farber
Produced by Lee Townsend

This trio—consisting of John Abercrombie on guitars (still favoring synth treatments at this point), Marc Johnson on bass, and Peter Erskine on drums—was one to be reckoned with in the 80s. Getting There seems, like many of ECM’s dates from the decade, to have been overlooked by many, but its rewards are plentiful. All the more so for the presence of saxophonist Mike Brecker, whose buttery tenor graces a smattering of its tracks. First and foremost among these is “Sidekicks.” This fishhook of a tune reels us into the album’s sweep, sped along by Erskine’s anthemic drumming and Johnson’s springy lines before ending on a classic fadeout as Brecker careens into outer space. “Remember Hymn” is another Brecker-heavy capsule of nocturnal medicine. With wondrous lyricism, the group constantly reforms itself here in one of the frontman’s finest. Marc Johnson spikes the compositional punch with “Furs On Ice”—one of only two non-Abercrombie tunes on this set (the other being Vince Mendoza’s “Thalia,” which finds Abercrombie in a Metheny mode)—lays down a smooth groove for Hammond organ-like chording and Brecker’s smooth emotive pinwheels. Abercrombie glows in his solo, drawing his electric sound like a dull razor across the stubble of time. Speaking of which, “Upon A Time” gives us plenty, taking the trio form down memory lane as Abercrombie’s fingers squeak along the fret board like birds.

This album is also marked by thoughtful choices in distortion and amplification, as exemplified in the title track, in which Abercrombie lets fly his laser-honed melodies, burning like a welding torch in a silent film. Erskine is epic on this cut. “Chance” brings a more delicate body language to that same immortal circle, while “Labour Day” gives Johnson a turn at the helm over Erskine’s precise brushes before Abercrombie returns for his most spirited solo yet.

Abercrombie has a tendency to catapult his notes, sending listeners on clean, high lobs. These are some of his brightest, not least because of Lee Townsend’s sparkling production. And in the company of such comparably strong wings, this flock can do no wrong. This is captivating music-making that welcomes us into the joy of musicians at the peak of their expressive powers.

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