By Paul de Barros | Published May 2017
A solid follow-up to 2013’s 39 Steps, the new album by the John Abercrombie Quartet— Marc Copland (piano), Drew Gress (bass) and Joey Baron (drums)—is another quiet, delicately balanced outing with an ebbing and flowing undercurrent that recalls the understated loveliness of Bill Evans and Jim Hall. As Abercrombie fans know, the guitarist has dialed back his trademark reverb in favor of a classic, single-note glow. However, listening to his quartet still feels pleasantly like taking a warm sonic bath.
The 72-year-old guitarist opens Up And Coming with a beautiful ballad, “Joy.” Against upbeat expectations, the tune radiates autumnal reverence with its swelling phrases and ringing open fourths. The quartet addresses the spiritual mood more directly on the tender, hymn-like waltz “Sunday School.” Listeners may have to gear down to let the intricacies of such deliberately paced tracks seep in. They don’t all lift off— Copland’s “Tears” being a case in point—but when the band picks up the pace, there’s no resisting their warmly blended rhythmic and harmonic poise.
Given the twists and turns Abercrombie relishes in his tunes, it’s no surprise to have Miles Davis’ “Nardis” in the mix—and it’s a highlight, with Abercrombie in a flowing, introspective mood. The album closes with Abercrombie’s dream-like “Jumbles,” which features some sweet piano-guitar blends.
The album is short at just over 45 minutes. But when you play with such refined, immaculate clarity, short works.
Up And Coming: Joy; Flipside; Sunday School; Up And Coming; Tears; Silver Circle; Nardis; Jumbles. (46:53)
Personnel: John Abercrombie, guitar; Marc Copland, piano; Drew Gress; bass; Joey Baron, drums.