John Abercrombie Quartet: Wait Till You See Her (ECM 2102)

Wait Till You See Her

John Abercrombie Quartet
Wait Till You See Her

John Abercrombie guitar
Mark Feldman violin
Thomas Morgan double-bass
Joey Baron drums
Recorded December 2008 at Avatar Studios, New York
Engineer: James A. Farber
Produced by Manfred Eicher

John Abercrombie’s moody quartet gets a reboot on Wait Till You See Her, swapping out bassist Marc Johnson with a young Thomas Morgan (in his ECM debut) while retaining violinist Mark Feldman and drummer Joey Baron. Just as the previous outings were exercises in atmosphere, so this 2008 session is a paragon of subduedness, for even at its most swinging (checkpoint: “Anniversary Waltz”), Wait maintains a cautious fusion of reflection and fire. The results are in no way pedantic, but instead shine with robust physicality.

To offset the buff, “Sad Song” opens the album’s mostly Abercrombie-penned journey on a slow note. Whereas in the past, Abercrombie and Feldman took turns at the melodic helm, this time around the guitarist breathes more independently, freeing Feldman to converse with the band’s newest addition. Indeed, violin and bass diagram their conversations softly and with tact, skating across a surface burnished to ebony sheen by Baron’s brushing. Abercrombie proceeds non-invasively, a firefly writing its somber blues through an open shutter. Couched in the chamber aesthetics of “Line-Up,” for another, the Feldman-Morgan circuit fizzles with pizzicato sparks, but returns to a feeling of quietude like a baby to mother’s embrace.

Despite the looseness of the music, its focus finds epitome in Morgan’s bassing. Be it the laser precision of “Trio” (a tent on the album’s camping grounds that leaves no room for violin) or the dreamy tension of the Rodgers & Hart show tune from the album gets its title, Morgan keeps the spine activated while the rest of the body drifts in and out of consciousness. A notable drifting out takes place in “I’ve Overlooked Before,” which from coolly ambient beginnings draws mysteries in charcoal. Through these reefs Abercrombie moves aquatically, his strings the tendrils of a jellyfish, stretching and compressing to the pulse of the tides. Feldman, ever the dolphin, darts through the currents and lures some of Abercrombie’s most mellifluous playing from the coral. In both “Out Of Towner” and “Chic Of Araby,” the second of which closes shop, the feeling of connection among the quartet is especially intense. To a camel’s gait, Abercrombie snakes through Feldman’s direct hits like a sidewinder, leaving a trail of esses to show for his carriage. For our part, all we can do is follow, tracing our listening along that perfect path in admiration.

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