Underhill Jazz, 2003
Listening to Animations, the aptly named guitar duo effort of John Abercrombie and John Basile, I get the sense that I've wandered into a home where a couple of jazz guitar masters are holding some kind of private, impromptu session. While my presence may be acknowledged, and even welcomed, I know that this event is hardly for my benefit. And that's a lucky thing for me, because I've been permitted to listen in on a fascinating and intimate sonic conversation between friends.
Animations begins with the sprightly performed standard, "Sweet and Lovely." This auspicious introduction does not betray the listener later on, but the happy conventions do end with it -- giving way to ever deeper, bluer grooves that surprise and delight as much as they evoke and impress upon.
In "Nobody Else But Me," we first approach Basile's whimsical, fluent soloing, his lines asserting themselves with varying intensity while Abercrombie enters with pointed and more articulated runs. Where Basile tends toward the understated, Abercrombie opts for more salient soundings. These sensibilities meld nicely on the spacey, bittersweet "Angel Falls," a beautiful original ballad that evokes a kind of aural deja vu. Horace Silver's "Peace" follows and I'm treated once again to a tune that is familiar and yet somehow, created anew.
Clearly this is a work of two people with genuine mutual artistic respect and understanding. While such familiarity among collaborating musicians is expected, the degree to which Basile and Abercrombie can interact through improvisation -- and without ever dueling -- is not. We feel the harmonic tension build and wane throughout Animations, yet there is never the slightest hint of any note whose aim is to rebut or confront. Rather, like true artists who also happen to be friends, each provides a lifeline of sorts as the other makes his foray into riskier realms of mood and impression.
- Robert French, 2003
John Basile/John Abercrombie | Underhill Jazz
When done properly, it's astounding how much music a duet can generate. It is always especially notable when that duet consists of artists performing on the same instrument. In such a setting, the challenge of blending voices while simultaneously creating distinct, personal lines becomes that much more challenging. Guitarists John Basile and John Abercrombie recently recorded just such a duet, rising masterfully to the occasion.
Comprised of eleven tracks including both original compositions and covers, Animations will without doubt appeal to jazz guitar fans, but it offers something as well to those looking for a subtle, intelligent, and gracefully balanced musical outing. Both instrumentalists are quite capable as individuals, and here they show not only a common bond, but also an uncommon ability to converse together fluidly.
Well matched, Basile and Abercrombie integrate their ideas masterfully, gently shifting one another into new territory as they explore each tune. Marked by a certain conservatism, neither player plunges too far toward any one stylistic extreme, relying on shading and delicacy to create a steadfastly reserved, mellow tone throughout the album. This approach works particularly well on such pieces as Horace Silver's "Peace" and the melancholic "Desert Storm." This quiet, focused tune stands out as an album highlight, revealing well each musicians capacities.
A very sedate album, Animations covers a subtly executed and decidedly dignified musical terrain.
~ Franz A. Matzner
Didn't think you'd stumble onto jazz names you knew, eh? Heh heh, you
thought wrong! In this stunning guitar duo album, these tracks are
delivered by no less than John Basile and John Abercrombie in light,
wistful and casually swinging numbers. With the carefree feeling of
an impromptu jam session in your own living room and the refinement
of carefully charted pieces with exceptional musical dialogue,
"Animations" settles into the soul as easily as a glass of red.
Definitely a must for the jazz connoisseur.
- CD Baby
Review: Guitarists John Basile and John Abercrombie have so many similarities it's amazing they haven't recorded a duo album before (the work Basile did with Abercrombie on the John Abercrombie Teaches Jazz Guitar Improvisation video doesn't count). While only 10 or so years apart in age, they both attended the Berklee School of Music, have performed extensively both as leaders and side-musicians with an astounding number of other big name jazz artists and bring the same like-minded sensibilities to their playing - sensitivity to honor the music first, the ability to creatively shape lines that fit perfectly within the accompaniment, radar ears to provide the perfect accompaniment for the artist being featured, stylistically subverting the needs of the ego to honor the other artist and the facility and cleverness to play in tandem, both with and against, another guitarist in the most exposed of all ensemble settings - the duo.
This splendidly performed recording should be required listening for all guitarists who think they know what it takes to play jazz. The interplay between these two consummate musicians is astonishing. They seem to sense the direction their compatriot is going to go before they get there and, in sensing this, are able to prepare that direction in advance. For example, Abercrombie's solo on Sweet & Lovely delves, for a short while, into fragmented diminished scales and even before he goes there you can sense Basile's slight shift in the rhythm and voicing of his accompaniment in order to lay a more appropriate foundation for Abercrombie's coming lines. This is but one example of how these two consummate musicians venerate and enliven the talents of the other throughout the entire 50+ minutes of this recording.
Those looking for pyro-techniques should go elsewhere. On this recording it's all about nuance, subtle interplay, shifting time to more fully express musical thoughts, finding the perfect way to voice chords in accompanying lines to further flesh out thoughts by the soloist and some of the most understated, modest and discreet musical wit you'll ever hear. Together they cover standards, such as the afore mentioned Sweet, as well as originals. Styles covered include swing and free, along with many variations of and between the two depending on the juxtapositions of their musical mood at the time. It's a splendid recording that is so perfect you can't believe such musicianship is possible. This CD is a must for any serious jazz lover.