John Abercrombie Biography

16 December 1944, Portchester, New York, USA. After studying at Berklee College Of Music in Boston, Abercrombie spent four years playing guitar in Johnny ‘Hammond’ Smith’s group. Touring with an established band offered him the kind of practical study that was ideal after Berklee’s academic hothouse of the late 60s. Moving back to New York in 1969, his already unusual technical command of the instrument meant he had little difficulty finding opportunities to play with fine musicians. In the ensuing five years he played alongside Randy Brecker and Michael Brecker in the group Dreams, and toured with the Chico Hamilton Band, including an appearance at the Montreux International Jazz Festival. In demand as a sideman from countless band leaders, from Gil Evans to Gato Barbieri, it was in Billy Cobham’s fusion group Spectrum that Abercrombie’s reputation quickly spread. This hard-driving, rock-influenced band was the perfect vehicle for his prodigious technique and imagination.

By the mid-70s, Abercrombie was discovering a new and altogether different voice. Treating fusion in a similar manner to which the Modern Jazz Quartet had treated bop, he formed his highly regarded trio Timeless, playing in a softer, more delicate style. This band was replaced in 1975 by the Gateway trio, featuring Abercrombie alongside Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette, and then by a quartet three years later. Since 1981, Abercrombie has performed and recorded prolifically. As well as continuing to collaborate with DeJohnette, he has produced some highly regarded duet work with Ralph Towner, led a quartet featuring Michael Brecker and was involved in the all-star big band that recorded Charles Mingus’ Epitaph. In 2003 his home was destroyed by fire. In addition to his personal possessions, most of his guitars and amplifiers were lost.

Abercrombie remains one of the most versatile and gifted guitarists of post-war jazz and has enjoyed a creative and prolific period during the 90s and early years of the new millennium.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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