Within a Song

John Abercrombie calls this album “a celebration of an era when the musicians were stretching the forms,” and the musicians he celebrates here surely deserve the celebration he creates for them and of them—from Sonny Rollins to Miles Davis, from Ornette Coleman to John Coltrane. Abercrombie’s guitar playing is an homage all by itself, especially to the liquid-fingered Jim Hall, one of his acknowledged influences. But there are echoes of Lenny Breau in his fingers, too, and every other jazz guitarist who ever lent imagination and chops to the genre. Joe Lovano’s sax—the very first sound the listener hears on “Where Are You?”—is as tasty as brownies warm from the oven. Albums from ECM Records are never predictable, and though this one is more accessible than some of the label’s oeuvre, it shares the rich sense of musical exploration usually found on the German label’s releases. While keeping the listener planted firmly in the present, it also runs those of us who are old enough to remember back to those jazz clubs of yesteryear, where guys in Mohair suits, narrow ties and pointy-toed shoes nodded to (and sometimes nodded out to) the new realms of sound being created by those giants of jazz in the late ’50s and early ’60s. From the first note, this album is a treat.