Jazz Guitar Giant John Abercrombie in-Studio

John Abercrombie

John Abercrombie has forged a unique sound over 40 years of playing jazz guitar. hide caption

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John Abercrombie and his Quartet

On his new CD, John Abercrombie (left) continues his partnership with violinist Mark Feldman (from left), drummer Joey Baron and bass player Marc Johnson. hide caption

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Abercrombie New and Old

Hear cuts from the new CD and from Abercrombie's 1974 debut recording.

Over the last 30 years, jazz guitarist John Abercrombie has made nearly 50 recordings for the adventurous ECM label, playing a lead role in many of them. On his new CD, The Third Quartet, Abercrombie continues his partnership with drummer Joey Baron, violinist Mark Feldman and double-bass player Marc Johnson.

Abercrombie pays tribute to Ornette Coleman and Bill Evans on the new disc by playing a piece by each of his two jazz heroes. But the rest of the songs are his, and as usual, Abercrombie makes room for plenty of open-spaced improvisation.

The band doesn't sound like your typical jazz quartet, chiefly because of the instrumentation, Abercrombie says.

"When we improvise freely, that is without a structure, it tends to sound more like 20th century classical music, more like a classical ensemble improvising, as opposed to a free-jazz group, where you're more used to hearing saxophones honking."

Like many American teenage boys in the late 1950s, John Abercrombie bought an electric guitar and tried to imitate rock 'n'roll guitar heroes like Chuck Berry.

But Abercrombie soon found himself drawn to jazz. He studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and over the last four decades forged a unique sound and aesthetic.

He has little interest in cramming in as many notes as possible. Instead his playing breathes, inviting an easy interaction with his fellow musicians. Over decades of playing and recording, Abercrombie has quietly become one of the established masters of jazz guitar.

Abercrombie joins Liane Hansen to talk about his career and to play a tune from the new CD.

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