John Abercrombie (musician)

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John Abercrombie (2008)

John Abercrombie (born December 16, 1944 in Port Chester , New York - † August 22, 2017 in Cortland , New York) was an American guitarist . His play between modern jazz and fusion , on electric and acoustic guitar, in small and large ensembles, was considered to be very versatile. According to Wolfgang Sandner , he was one of the most influential jazz guitarists since the 1970s. The music journalist Joachim-Ernst Behrendt described Abercrombie as the great poet and sensitizer of the contemporary jazz guitar, who, like Ralph Towner and Bill Frisell, defies any categorization.

Live and act

John Abercrombie grew up in Greenwich , Connecticut and started playing guitar when he was 14 . Initially fascinated by Chuck Berry , he found his way into jazz through Barney Kessel's blues-based game. From 1962 to 1966 he studied guitar at Berklee College of Music ( Boston ) with Jack Peterson , the founder of the chair for guitar, as well as harmony and jazz theory with Herb Pomeroy and John LaPorta . His early role models included Jim Hall , Barney Kessel, and Tal Farlow ; In 1968 Jimi Hendrix was added.

He began his career in 1967 as a guitarist in Johnny "Hammond" Smith's band . In 1969 he played in the group Dreams with Michael and Randy Brecker . In the 1970s he went on tour with Chico Hamilton , Billy Cobham and Jeremy Steig, among others . In Billy Cobham's band Spectrum he developed an “expressive electric guitar style” which he understood to “integrate into a subtle polyphonic combo jazz with phase shifter and other disruptions ”. He also appeared on several albums by the saxophonist Gato Barbieri and the trumpeter Enrico Rava and played a key role on Gil Evans ' album The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix (1974).

In 1974 he released his first own album Timeless on the ECM label with Jan Hammer on keyboards and Jack DeJohnette on drums . In 1975 he formed a trio with DeJohnette and Dave Holland , which presented a total of three albums, initially Gateway . He also went on tour with Ralph Towner in 1976 and in the 1980s . He also experimented with guitar synthesizers and electric mandolin and worked in a free jazz band around the pianist Paul Bley . In the late 1970s he was a member of DeJohnette's band New Directions .

Around 1980 Abercrombie worked with a quartet formation with Richie Beirach , George Mraz and Peter Donald , also in a trio with David Earle Johnson and Dan Wall or Jan Hammer and in a trio with Jan Garbarek and Naná Vasconcelos . In the duo with Mraz he also interpreted jazz standards . In the late 1980s and early 1990s, in addition to his own projects, he occasionally played in the quintet of trumpeter Kenny Wheeler , in the groups of Uli Beckerhoff and Rudy Linka , and later with Charles Lloyd . He was also involved in the recording of the large orchestral suite Epitaph by Charles Mingus under Gunther Schuller .

His own trio with Marc Johnson and Peter Erskine is considered legendary (just like the collaborative trio Gateway with Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette) ; The trio with organist Dan Wall and Adam Nussbaum on drums also received a lot of attention. In the band Baseline he played with Hein van de Geyn and Joe LaBarbera . His quartet in 2007 included Mark Feldman , Marc Johnson and Joey Baron , in 2010 Jerry Bergonzi , Gary Versace and Adam Nussbaum, most recently (on the albums 39 Steps and Up and Coming ) the pianist Marc Copland , the bassist Drew Gress and the drummer Joey Baron . Since 2010 he has also played in the collaborative quintet Contact with saxophonist Dave Liebman , Marc Copland, Drew Gress and drummer Billy Hart .

In the opinion of Marc Copland, who had performed with Abercrombie in a wide variety of formations for more than 40 years, Abercrombie was always about a harmonious and flexible game with other musicians. On the guitar he shaped his "own, elegant-flowing style".

Abercrombie died on August 22, 2017 after a long illness.

Discography (selection)


  • 2018: Open Land - Meeting John Abercrombie , a film by Arno Oehri and Oliver Primus, DVD by ECM Records


  • Behrendt: The great jazz book. s. Edition, Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 1989, ISBN 3-596-22980-4 .
  • Behrendt / Huesmann: The Jazz Book. From New Orleans to the 21st century. 4th edition, Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 2014, ISBN 978-3-596-15964-2 .
  • Carr / Fairweather / Priestley: Jazz Rough Guide. J. B. Metzler Verlag, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-476-01892-X .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b c Dan Ouellette: Remembering John Abercrombie. In: Down Beat . 23rd August 2017.
  2. a b c d Wolfgang Sandner: Jazz guitarist Abercrombie dead. He played with gentle force. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . 23rd August 2017.
  3. Joachim-Ernst Behrendt, Günther Huesmann, Das Jazzbuch. From New Orleans to the 21st century. 4th edition, Frankfurt a. M .: Fischer 2014, p. 559.
  4. John Abercrombie on
  5. a b Jazz guitarist John Abercrombie is dead. In: RP Online . 23rd August 2017