Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk
Peter Bacon reports:
The American jazz guitarist John Abercrombie died yesterday of heart failure. He was 72.
Abercrombie, who has born in Westchester County, New York, will be remembered for his distinctive guitar style, full of melodic and harmonic richness, spontaneity and remarkably wide emotional range given its thoughtful, often understated character.
Early news of his death appeared in a piece by Peter Hum for the Ottowa Citizen. Hum writes: “Abercrombie had had health problems in recent years, including a stroke earlier this year. John died peacefully after a long illness at Hudson Valley Hospital outside of Peekskill, N.Y., in the presence of his family.”
Hum quotes Abercrombie’s close musical partner of recent years, the pianist Marc Copeland, who said: “To my mind John was his generation’s Jim Hall.” In the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, Richard Cook and Brian Morton appear to share that view, observing of Abercrombie: “It’s hard to pin down obvious influences. Abercrombie is very much his own man.”
His live performances will be sorely missed but he leaves behind many high points over the course of his long recording career.
His studio output is well represented on the ECM label, with which he had a long association, and includes such albums as Timeless (1975) with Jack DeJohnette and Jan Hammer; Open Land (1999) with Mark Feldman (the violinist was a key member of his quartet albums of the early 2000s), Kenny Wheeler, Joe Lovano, Dan Wall and Adam Nussbaum; and Up And Coming (2017) with Marc Copland, Drew Gress and Joey Baron.
He will also be remembered for the Gateway albums with Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette, as well as recordings with John Surman among others, and the first disc of guitar duets with Ralph Towner, Sargasso Sea (1976).
In 2015, as a judge at the International Jarek Śmietana Jazz Guitar Competition in Kraków, John Abercrombie shared his advice to young guitarists with LondonJazz News correspondent Mary James: “Stop once in a while, stop playing, listen…”
It seems like the appropriate thing to do today: stop… and listen to John Abercrombie.
LINKS: Mary James’ 2015 interview with John Abercrombie for LondonJazz News
Jon Turney writing about the the CDs in which Abercrombie “found his voice”
His most recent album reviewed on LondonJazz News
Peter Hum’s Ottawa Citizen story in full