John Abercrombie 1944-2017

My guess is that the Philadelphia Spectrum
Has had throughout the years
Many who have asked the simple question:
“What am I doing here?”

Granted most doing the asking
Were lost in drug-dazzled delusion
But at least one was carefully crafting
His part in rock- jazz fusion

Abercrombie was just getting some notice
He rocked riffs jazzy bluesy
But this is not where he wanted to focus:
Sharing a bill with Brothers Doobie

Jesus may be all right
Just not every night

The first time his fingers twitched,
Chuck Berry on the radio
The he switched up his licks
Kessel and Wes and away we go

He knew very early
Straight rock would rust with time
Studied guitar – Boston, Berklee
Classmates? Just nine.

He played in bands of rising musicians
Toured with a host of true believers
Came to understand that it was in him
To make a record where he was the leader

With “Timeless” he totally changed the game
Tempo, tone, texture
It cannot be wholly explained
But at Berklee there’s a lecture

(You’re at a club, you hear it clearly:
The mystery in the sound
Then your friend gets drunk on theory
And misery abounds
Art is everlasting
waves of sound go on and on
But conversations not worth having
Can seem to last as long)

Sharp-edged electric fusion, barreling post-bop
Chamber jazz attunement tinged with raga pop
(I confess to confusion to some of these descriptions
Except “wandering irresolution”, I do that in the kitchen)

A man of many signatures: an unassuming nature,
And every bit the listener as a tunesmith and a player
Every solo taken is in service to the whole
No future in amazing without a semblance of a soul

Some songs he played a thousand times
but what’s a boy to do?
He said with an open mind
The song is always new

On days of gray, such a phrase
I’ll attempt not to forget
It’s another day, take the stage
And play another set


Thanks to Giovanni Russonello, New York Times Obituary 


  • very nice, Dennis. Let us know what’s up with your new situation? Hope yer writing lots of typically lovely songs. I remember John very well from the Soho days…we moved to NYC in 1977, and our friend the late Larry Karush had signed with ECM, was playing with Eddie Gomez, sometimes with Oregon, John was developing his thing fast and furious and melodic like crazy…heard him in lots of downtown venues, thankfully he abandoned his experiment with the electric mandolin (bit of an ice pick to the ear), but he was a Searcher, formidable…Ralph Towner is hanging in there from that crowd, new album out, nice piece on him in current Fretboard Journel bless ya, Jeep

    • Hey Jeep Thanks – So great that you got to know and hear him. I am good. Writing a few new songs – getting ready to move to Oregon in a few months. Be great to get together sometime. Denny

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