JOHN ABERCROMBIE — Current Events (review)

JOHN ABERCROMBIE — Current Events album cover Album · 1986 · Post-Fusion Contemporary Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Steve Wyzard
LATE SUMMER SUNSET

If you've come to this album looking for John Abercrombie's high-intensity fusion playing, you're in for a great disappointment. If, however, you are interested in his gifts as a composer, an interpreter, a technological innovator, and a mood-creator par excellence, this album is a must-have. Released in 1986, Current Events is not only one of Abercrombie's greatest albums/performances EVER, but also one of the very best albums released by ECM Records in the entire decade.

Current Events can be described as AUTUMNAL, but it never descends into overt sentimentality or nostalgia. With the exception of "Killing Time" (an over-the-top improv freak-out), this is a thought-provoking and atmospheric album. Songs like "Clint" and "Hippityville" are constructed with Abercrombie's guitar synth laying down a quirky pattern, adding Peter Erskine's solid drumming/amazing cymbal work and Marc Johnson's rumbling, adventuresome bass-playing, building slowly, and soloing on top. The acoustic guitar is prominently featured on "Lisa" and "Ralph's Piano Waltz" (originally recorded on the 1975 fusion classic Timeless).

The two performances that make this album one of the greats are also the two longest. Sammy Fain and Bob Hilliard's "Alice in Wonderland" (also covered by Bill Evans) opens with 1-1/2 minutes of the most hauntingly beautiful guitar playing you will ever hear. Then Johnson solos over Erskine's brushwork and you have a very unlikely masterpiece. "Still" is built on a mesmerizing, repeating cadence - close your eyes and you're in a vast cathedral listening to solemn chords on the pipe organ. Johnson (bass) and Abercrombie (acoustic guitar) both have their say before it fades into nothingness. The effect is absolutely unforgettable, embedding itself in the memory long after it's over. Still indeed.

Give Abercrombie credit for departing from expectations and giving us something truly different. He would continue with the guitar synth, and with Johnson and Erskine for the rest of the 1980s, but never again recaptured the atmospheres created on Current Events. While some will dismiss this as an experiment gone wrong or "mindless noodling", this late 80s masterwork has truly transcended its time and become one for the ages in spite of the risks taken.
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