In the June ’89 edition of France’s Jazz Hot, Abercrombie spoke of his desire to achieve here a democratic balance comparable to that achieved within the famous Poll Winners trio of Barney Kessel, Ray Brown and Shelly Manne.
This hardly means that this rock-inflected, harmonically sophisticated dreamer has ‘gone bebop’, so to speak. The fast, three way clip of Stella or the walking swing of Beautiful Heart pale somewhat in comparison with the sophisticated groove of Four On One‘s play with melodic freedom or the atmospheric combination of melodic buoyancy and rhythmic anchorage in the rock-steady Furs On Ice and Samurai Hee-Haw. But while the late 1970s Rypdal-like washes of synthesised mood in Light Beam further emphasise Abercrombie’s distance from any purist notion of linear, bebop revivalism, the overall point of his comparative ambition is well taken.
This is a superb trio recording, with Johnson and Erskine supplying an inspiring range of colour, kick and mood, and should satisfy all but the most fanatical of either purist boppers or free-formers.
Furs On Ice; Stella By Starlight; Alice In Wonderland; Beautiful Love (30.12) – Innerplay; Light Beam; Drum Solo; Four On One; Samurai Hee-Haw; Haunted Heart (31.23)
John Abercrombie (elg/g syn); Marc Johnson (b); Peter Erskine (d). The Nightstage, Boston April 21, 1988