John Abercrombie – Gateway (1975)

FrontCover1John Abercrombie, renowned jazz guitar player, bandleader, and teacher, has died at the age of 72. He passed away yesterday evening at his home in Cortland, New York, according to an announcement on his Facebook page. The Ottawa Citizen and The Wire report the cause of death as heart failure, related to a stroke Abercrombie experienced earlier this year.

Abercrombie was an influential guitar stylist who, after getting his start as a session musician and sideman with artists like Gato Barbieri, Billy Cobham, and Gil Evans, came into prominence as a bandleader in the 1970s through his recordings on the ECM label. His debut album, Timeless, is particularly renowned, featuring synth/organist Jan Hammer (of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miami Vice soundtrack fame) and Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett collaborator Jack DeJohnette on drums. Abercrombie helped to define the trademark, ethereal, and genre-defying sound of the ECM label along with artists like Jarrett, Gary Burton, and Pat Metheny. He also played and recorded on-and-off for decades in the trio Gateway, with Jarrett, DeJohnette, and legendary bassist Dave Holland.

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In the ’80s, Abercrombie began playing on a guitar synthesizer and experiments with outlandish effects to expand the sound palette of his instrument, working in fusion and free-jazz idioms. He was also gifted as a performer of traditional jazz standards, and known for his muted, technically adept style and complex and imaginative harmonic sensibility. He released an album in January, Up and Coming, on ECM in January of this year, billed to The John Abercrombie Quartet. (www.spin.com)

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And here´s his debut album from 1975 …

Gateway is the debut album by Gateway, a trio composed of John Abercrombie, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. It was recorded in 1975 and released on the ECM label in 1976.

The Penguin Guide to Jazz called it a “reflective album, but it is by no means sombre” stating “Abercrombie seems to like the open rhythmic weave and plays acoustically with great confidence and finely controlled timbre and dynamics. Holland is by no means playing at his best but he is incapable of mere journeywork and asserts his presence in the harmonic transitions i a way that more than makes up for the absence of keyboards”[3] The Allmusic review by Scott Yanow states “The interplay between the three musicians is quite impressive although listeners might find some of the music to be quite unsettling. It takes several listens for one to digest all that is going on, but it is worth the struggle”.[(by wikipedia)

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Guitarist John Abercrombie was one of the stars of ECM in its early days. His playing on this trio set with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette is really beyond any simple categorization. Abercrombie’s improvisations are sophisticated yet, because his sound is rockish and sometimes quite intense (particularly on the nearly 11-minute “Sorcery 1”), there is really no stylistic name for the music. Holland contributed four of the six originals while DeJohnette brought in the other two (one of which was co-written with Abercrombie). The interplay between the three musicians is quite impressive although listeners might find some of the music to be quite unsettling. It takes several listens for one to digest all that is going on, but it is worth the struggle. (by Scott Yanow)

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Personnel:
John Abercrombie (guitar)
Dave Holland (bass)
Jack DeJohnette (drums)

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Tracklist:
01. Back-Woods Song (Holland) – 7:51
02. Waiting (Holland) – 2:10
03. May Dance (Holland) – 11:01
04. Unshielded Desire (DeJohnette/Abercrombie) – 4:49
05. Jamala (Holland) – 4:47
06. Sorcery I (DeJohnette) – 10:56

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