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JOHN ABERCROMBIE - Timeless cover
3.77 | 18 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1975

Filed under Fusion


A1 Lungs 12:09
A2 Love Song 4:35
A3 Ralph's Piano Waltz 4:56
B1 Red And Orange 5:24
B2 Remembering 4:32
B3 Timeless 12:00

Total Time 43:56


- John Abercrombie / guitar
- Jan Hammer / Hammond organ, synthesizer, piano
- Jack DeJohnette / drums

About this release

ECM Records ‎– ECM 1047 ST (Germany)

Recorded June 21,22 1974 at Generation Sound Studios, New York

Thanks to M.Neumann for the addition and snobb for the updates


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Check the line-up. What did you imagine? Wrong. Jan Hammer is mainly playing the organ throughout, so his Mahavishnu synth lines are almost inexistent. Ironically, John Abercrombie is the one that reminds us of Mahavishnu, with the often fast guitar licks. But mind you, this is not high fuelled jazz rock.

One thing you probably didn't notice was that this album belongs to the ECM label. And yes, this label shows its characteristic mellow, moody and cold sound, already by 1974. Its ECM, I think, that restrains John and the rest from doing anything really rock-ish. And that's a good thing. The remaining member of the trio being the widely known drummer, Jack DeJohnette.

The six compositions share the label's dark and mysterious mood, but some with more powder than others. Both 'Red and Orange' and 'Lungs' will make you doubt if what I'm saying is actually true, since these two are very force-driven with an exhilarating band, but still these have some elements that are not usually heard on say Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return to Forever.

'Love Song' and 'Remembering' however, are acoustic, piano and guitar only. These remind me a bit of Metheny's mellow acoustic affairs, a man well associated with ECM, or also Bill Connors' acoustic albums, also an associate from the label.

The title track couldn't be more ECM-ish. Twelve minutes of slow-moving music that has very subtle elements. Probably Jan Hammer's greatest intervention with the Moog in his entire career, creating channels of mystery and psychedelicness. One will either dismiss this for its lack of memorable melodies, or praise it for its unique atmosphere and progression.

Timeless isn't exactly "timeless", but it's unmistakably a noteworthy album in any wide jazz collection, being an interesting and smart link between post-bop, fusion and ECM jazz. Recommended with the guarantee of discovering something pretty fresh, though not exactly stunning.
It's never a good thing for a critic to parade his ignorance, but in all honesty I can't tell you much about the life or career of guitarist John Abercrombie. All I know is that the title track of his 1974 debut solo album is, without exaggeration, one of the cornerstones of my entire music collection.

By itself this one cut is so compelling that for more than two decades it all but obliterated any interest I might have shown in the rest of the album. More fool me, because the entire package is an unassuming slice of pioneering musical Fusion, arranged by a guitar player who in a perfect world would be far better known outside the limited circle of Jazz Rock devotees.

The simple, no-frills production (not much more than a judicious application of reverb) leads me to suspect the bulk of the album was recorded live in the studio. Clearly the final mix benefits from the spontaneity of the performances, played by a gifted power trio able to employ as much nuance as muscle. Keyboardist Jan Hammer was of course an alumnus of the first and best MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA; drummer Jack DeJohnette attended the legendary Isle of Wight concert alongside a newly electrified MILES DAVIS; and Abercrombie himself was already a session veteran with a lengthy, impressive résumé.

The track list is perfectly balanced between two longer (but very different) pieces bracketing a quartet of shorter instrumentals. Among these are a pair of gentle piano / acoustic guitar duets, plus the intergalactic cocktail-lounge jazz of "Ralph's Piano Waltz" (with not a piano within earshot), and the harder-edged, hypertense fusion of Jan Hammer's "Red and Orange", built around a theme purloined from the classics. Another Hammer composition, the 12+ minute "Lungs", opens the album in a quiet frenzy of virtuosity, alternating with a more subdued, dreamlike interlude leading to an open-ended jazz-funk conclusion.

This leaves only the astonishing title track, a 12-minute masterpiece of otherworldly mood and invention, ending the album on maybe the warmest chillout in recorded history. Listen to that long opening drone, setting up a simple, haunting 12-note melody (actually only three notes, repeated in descending scales), with every carefully located sound bathed in blissful amniotic contentment. Is it Jazz? Space Rock? Ambient Electronica? A little bit of each and none of the above would be my closest guess.

Especially striking is the protracted entry of Hammer's mini-moog, fading in over the course of what sounds like several minutes (only a slight exaggeration), slowly embellishing Abercrombie's delicate picking and the typically fluid brushstrokes of DeJohnette's drumming. In short: here's a track that ably lives up to its title, having hardly aged a minute after more than 35 years.

Because this was an album that put a higher value on quality and competence over flashy pyrotechnics, it might have escaped the attention of discriminating listeners with an ear for Jazz Rock Fusion finesse. Trust me here, because I speak from experience: you don't want to allow half your life to slip away before treating yourself to this one.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
Having been part of the scene for some years, playing in various groups, but mostly for the Brecker Bros’ first band Dreams, Abercrombie finally attacked his fist studio album after getting a recording contract from ECM, with whom he would remain mostly fidel throughout his career. This debut album, like most of his first few albums are citing his

Abercrombie’s choice in DeJohnette (an ex-Bitches Brew drummer, but also very frequent Keith Jarrett sideman) will remain fairly constant in his early career, but it’s surprising not seeing Dave Holland (also ex BB and frequent Jarrett sideman) on bass here, but there is no bass at all (whatever might sound is most likely organ-pedalled by Hammer. The opening Hammer-penned Lungs is one of those scary 700 MPH, where ultra-sonic virtuosity is everything. Love Song is one of those boring slow track that are supposed to be the antidote to the demented tracks, but to me these sleeping pills are best skipped. Ralph’s Waltz (Towner of Oregon I guess) is at times enthralling, against which Hammer Red & Orange sounds captivating, but let’s be careful of Einstein’s Relativity theory here. R&O has some delightful moments, but I am saying moments, not minutes or songs. In some ways, this sounds like a Birds Of Fire track (which in itself is quite a feat), but to me it’s a little too close for comfort to appreciate this truly. After the relatively new-agey Remembering, the album closes on the 12-mins title track. Starting on a slow drone, the track remain gentle

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