John Abercrombie Trio: Speak Of The Devil (ECM 1511)

John Abercrombie Trio
Speak Of The Devil

John Abercrombie guitars
Dan Wall hammond B3 organ
Adam Nussbaum drums
Recorded July 1993 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Following up on 1992’s While We’re Young, guitarist John Abercrombie and his trio with Hammondist Dan Wall and drummer Adam Nussbaum returned one year later with Speak Of The Devil. A much looser date than its predecessor, it showcases three talents shunning restriction for want of a freer flow. As before, Wall defines the soundscape, drawing a sturdy mesh with the charcoal of his still-glowing coals. Sounding for all like some long lost voice given life in the creature comforts of the studio, his solos arc like rainbows into improvisatory gold. The heat distortion of that organ in the two opening tracks sets the mood against distant considerations found in strings and skins. Abercrombie’s smooth tractions grow magical, reaching high licks in “Mahat” against soft yet propulsive drumming, and later in “BT-U,” for which his octane triples in grade as Wall hands the reigns to Nussbaum, who gets his moment to dance on the pyre. Despite these virtuosic flourishes, it’s the group’s tender side that reveals most face. Between the rugged jewel that is  “Chorale” and the glittering susurrations from Nussbaum in “Farewell,” we can almost feel the sunlight through the trees, carving shadows at our feet before Abercrombie waxes nostalgic in “Early To Bed” and lures us into the monochrome fantasy of “Dreamland.” Ironically, “Hell’s Gate” is the coolest track on the album, with a smoothness of execution that makes the journey more than worthwhile, capping off a dynamic sophomore effort.

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