John Abercrombie - guitar
Mark Feldman - violin
Joey Baron - drums
Marc Johnson - bass
One of the things that always bugged me in most jazz music, particularly bebop, is how compositions tend to stick to a theme/solo/solo/solo/theme structure. While improvisation is imbedded in jazz, solos often wonder so far astray from the main theme it can sometimes be hard to recognize it as a song
. Thankfully a lot of modern jazz has evolved into music that is more focused between the interplay of the entire band rather than the individual prowess of the musicians, and The Third Quartet
is an excellent example of this.
Perhaps somewhat unusually, bandleader John Abercrombie chose to create a quartet that includes a violinist rather than a horn or woodwind player. While the inclusion of violin can be dated back all the way to Django Reinhardt, it’s hard to compare it with the music found on this disc. The album has an incredibly lush and atmospheric mood, often blending in classical music elements with contemporary jazz. Songs like “Tres” and “Vingt Six” have more strict structures with the guitar accompanying the violin melody with textural chords and sparse single note playing. Abercrombie’s playing moves more in unison with the violin, rather than the more standard comping of providing countermelodies and chords.
“Banshee” is a really cool tune with a droney effect based in G minor that shifts to C minor. Because of the shifting Feldman and Abercrombie do here it creates a sort of repeating dissonance before allowing Abercrombie to move into a solo with Feldman giving accompaniment rather than the other way around. His soloing on this record overal is truly superb, leaving a lot of room for the violin to interact rather than showcasing extremely busy playing. As is more usual for modern jazz guitarists, his guitar tone is slightly overdriven, which makes the actual sound often seem to blend in with the violin. Very cool.
While I’ve focused solely on the guitar violin work up until this point, the bass and drum playing on this record is great too. Joey Baron’s playing is extremely soft except on the track “Elvin” a tribute to Elvin Jones, an influential drummer who played on classics like A Love Supreme
. The song has this repeating blues melody that starts out in a free tempo but after the about a minute in the tempo speeds up slightly, with a more solid rhythm coming in with slight rubato. This song has some very free improvising from Feldman over Abercrombie’s melody, offering a nice variation to some of the more strict tunes on the album. The basswork on this album is pretty cool, rather than constantly providing a walking bassline to offer a rhythmic pulse, there are a lot of little fills that add texture to the overall sound. My only gripe is that the actual sound of the bass is pretty boomy and bass heavy, but lacks thump. “Round Trip” is an Ornette Coleman tune that bears his trademark open swing, which offers some nice variation in context with the rest of the album. Abercrombie’s playing on this song is really cool. Often quoting the main theme in his solo, he uses a lot of “rolling” lines so to speak that incorporate a lot of legato rather than picked lines.
If anything, The Third Quartet
makes me want to dig out the previous albums of this quartet. Highly recommended and one of the better jazz albums of 2007.