John Abercrombie

Speak of the Devil

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The follow-up to While We're Young has a less melodic, more loosely structured feel, as if it were all kinetically inspired and freely improvised within various structures. The intuition or trust level of electric guitarist John Abercrombie, organist Dan Wall, and drummer Adam Nussbaum is clearly evident: They are listening, reacting, and responding to each other from measure to measure, and that is the basis for their music making. It's a fusion of feelings, and those moods -- many times dark -- lie beneath the surface only to rise at their behest. The snarly, stealth, and swirling sound is evident on the introductory cut "Angel Food," courtesy of Abercrombie, Wall, and Nussbaum, respectively, going to a tick-tock beat that is positively blackened on the closer "Hell's Gate." In between you get two free, seemingly unstructured pieces: the unhurried "Now & Again" and the more reverent but interactive "Farewell." "Dreamland" is like "Angel Food" in attitude, while the collective improvisation "Mahat" has hopping 2/4 tom tom beats from Nussbaum moving into full drum kit swing. The melodies are either nonexistent or harder to grasp; Abercrombie's searing or lilting guitar sound requires close attention. Skating around a melody for "Chorale," you actually get the impression the leader is building disparate, multiple, chameleonic changes within a more definite swing. A true melodic motif, albeit slight, informs "BT-U" in a more rock/R&B beat, while the waltz "Early to Bed" suggests a lovely, extrapolated Bill Evans line, perhaps from "Very Early." Though "While We're Young" was a definitive recording for Abercrombie's vaunted trio, this CD simply offers a different slant. It's the sign of a group either in transition of evolution, and whatever the case, it's an intriguing step for these three uncanny sonic explorers.

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