On March 26, Brooklyn venue Roulette hosted 'John Abercrombie: Timeless - A Tribute to His Life and Music,' a benefit concert in honor of the late jazz musician who passed on in August of 2017 at 72 years old. Abercrombie was an innovative and prominent guitarist who started out in the world of jazz fusion with his first album, Timeless in 1975, but eventually drifted away from the genre and explored free jazz, avant-garde and electronics before settling into a more classic jazz guitar style and chamber jazz. He recorded over 40 albums as a leader or co-leader and the majority were released by the revered label ECM where he remained a flagship artist for his entire career.

Monday’s sold out show brought out 17 stellar musicians who had worked with Abercrombie over the course of his career. Appearing in several different configurations the performers included Joey Baron – Drums, Randy Brecker – Trumpet, Nels Cline – Guitar, Marc Copland – Piano, Jack DeJohnette – Drums, Eliane Elias – Piano, Peter Erskine – Drums, Mark Feldman – Violin, Bill Frisell – Guitar, Drew Gress – Double-bass, Billy Hart – Drums (a surprise guest who wasn’t on the advertised line up), Marc Johnson – Double-bass, David Liebman – Soprano Saxophone, Joe Lovano – Saxophones, Thomas Morgan – Double-bass, Adam Nussbaum – Drums and John Scofield – Guitar. Disappointingly, the brilliant guitarist Ralph Towner was supposed to perform but an acute ear infection forced him to cancel his appearance. Also in attendance was ECM owner Manfred Eicher and Abercrombie’s wife of 31 years, Lisa, as well as many family members and friends to celebrate the musician's life and to bring awareness to the newly formed charity, the John Abercrombie Jazz Scholarship Fund.

With the impressive cast of musicians, the performances were obviously top notch and riveting. Highlights were the groupings of Randy Brecker, David Liebman, Drew Gress, Marc Copland and Billy Hart (one of two groupings to not feature a guitarist, the other being Elias, Johnson and Erskine) and the combo of Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Drew Gress and Adam Nussbaum.  All the groupings had magnificent drummers supporting them and it was a delight to watch Adam Nussbaum and his flamboyant and physical style and Billy Hart’s powerful and smile-filled performance.

The real show stopper, literally, was the last set grouping the incredible drumming of Jack DeJohnette (who appeared on many of Abercrombie’s best releases including Timeless and Gateway) with bassist Drew Gress, pianist Marc Copland and the gorgeous and delicate guitar stylings of the great Bill Frisell. They performed a couple of songs from the classic Timeless that were absolute perfection, which delighted the audience and drew a standing ovation from the over-sold and packed house.

I had the setlist written down but unfortunately I misplaced it, so if anyone reading this happens to know it please put it in the comments section below.


review and photos by Greg Cristman

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