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John Abercrombie
CAT íNí MOUSE
(ECM)

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Guitarist Abercrombie has shuffled and reduced the personnel from 1999ís Open Land, but heís maintained the open structures and collectively improvised feel of that album and, most important, has retained violinist Mark Feldman as a complementary lead voice. Although the overall mood is subdued and exploratory, thereís no forgetting that Abercrombie was a fusion electric-guitar forerunner, especially on a rocking, up-tempo Mahavishnu-esque flare-up like "Convolution." And on the angular, boppish "Stop and Go," heís in prime straight-ahead mode, all rippling eighth-note phrases punctuated with a variety of singing bends and tart chords over the roiling groove laid down by bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron.

Other writing is more sectional. On the opening "A Nice Idea," Feldman comes in with the folkish waltz melody after a minute or so of Abercrombie noodling impressionistically behind Baronís shuffling brushes and a bass vamp. On "String Thing," Abercrombie and Feldman accompany each other on a vaguely folkloric Middle Eastern minor-key theme; Feldman becomes more agitated and then settles into a melody of spare, Renaissance-like vibratoless polyphony with the guitar and bass. At times, I wish the album were a less mellow, with a bit more extroverted rhythmic muscle. But Abercrombie, who can draw on the entire history of his instrument in the space of a few bars, has found a perfect partner in Feldman, who can do likewise with his. Cat íní Mouse marks the continuation of a beautiful friendship.

(The John Abercrombie Quartet plays Johnny Dís next Thursday, March 21. Call (6170 776-2004.)

BY JON GARELICK

Issue Date: March 14 - 21, 2002
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