John Abercrombie Trio | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

John Abercrombie Trio 

John Abercrombie Trio

When guitarist John Abercrombie inaugurated this trio in 1992--comprising light-fingered drummer Adam Nussbaum and Dan Wall, one of the handful of organists defining a new approach to the Hammond B-3--you could have blown most people over with a Leslie speaker. (That's the spinning loudspeaker that gives the organ its three-dimensional vibrato.) The jazz organ trio has embraced a number of different stylistic approaches in its 40-odd-year history; still, hardly anyone expected Abercrombie's rock-ribbed romanticism to encroach on territory trod by Jimmy Smith and Charles Earland. But the guitarist had worked in an organ trio while in college; he then got his head torn off by the interplay of John McLaughlin and innovative organist Larry Young in Lifetime, the trio led by the late Tony Williams. Abercrombie mimicked the format on the first of his dozen-plus albums for ECM, and by the 90s had decided he needed such a trio of his own. The very idea of the jazz organ trio--tough, bluesy, busy--stands poles apart from ECM's "new cool" school, which is characterized by introspection, an avoidance of traditional jazz idioms, and the use of open space as a vital structural element. But on the new, live Tactics--this group's third and best album--Abercrombie plays homage to the organ trio format while casually subverting it. "Sweet Sixteen" applies the funky weave of organ and guitar to a melody that could have been written by Bill Evans. The quietly monumental "Last Waltz" finds Abercrombie on acoustic guitar, which utterly transfigures the trio's trademark sonorities. Wall's swirling chords and unorthodox phrasing turn even a standard like "You and the Night and the Music" into a surprise; meanwhile, Abercrombie plays with a slippery lyricism and a slashing focus not always evident in his other settings. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, April 4 and 5, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, April 6, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): John Abercrombie photo by Richard Laird.

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