John Basile and John Abercrombie: “Animations” – Jazz Guitar Life CD Review

The guitar duo is a time-honored tradition that has seen some wonderful partnerships. Duos like Carl Kress-Dick McDonough, Joe Pass-Herb Ellis, Emily Remler-Larry Coryell, Pat Metheny-John Scofield, Eric Elias-Luke Nelson and John Abercrombie-Ralph Towner amongst many others have provided listeners with virtoustic performances and almost psychic interplay thrilling countless players and fans alike.

Well now we can add a new duo to the “family” with the wonderful pairing of guitarists John Basile and John Abercrombie on Basile’s latest Underhill Jazz release Animations.

Animations is an apt title representing a truly wonderful CD that has it all. Rhythmic intricacy, harmonic complexity, flowing improvisation, some killer walking bass lines with sharp chord shots, simultaneous improvisation, modal excursion, free-play exploration, and the aforementioned near psychic interplay culminating in an animated dialogue of musical accord. Not to mention a genuine, or as Basile puts it “organic” playability between both performers that does not call upon ego or flashiness to get the job done.

Whether it is a standard such as “Sweet and Lovely”, the free explorations of “Paws”, the electro-acoustic sounding intro to “Dreamsville”, the octaver laden “The Lilter” or the remaining seven tunes that comprise both standards and originals, it is in fact this lack of ego that winds up being an integral part of this CD as both personalities blend into each other in a union that sometimes transcends each player’s sonic difference. Or to put it simply, there are many moments when I don’t know who the heck is playing what…and ironically it doesn’t matter.

What matters most is the music being developed from the fingers and hearts of each player and how it is passed on to the listener. I don’t know if this was intentional or not but John Basile never included any info, at least none that I could see, on who played what solo first or even who was on the left channel or who was on the right. Now if one is really hip to either player’s sonic signature then there would possibly be an awareness of who is playing what at any given time, but I am not that aware of either player enough to know who is who. And like I mentioned earlier, it matters not, because I am digging the music and playing as a whole and not as a separate vehicle of one’s identity over another.

And speaking of playing, there is a lot of it. Obviously those familiar with John Abercrombie will know what to expect from this giant of improvised music and will not be disappointed. But what about John Basile? Well if this CD is any indication, he’s an extremely talented guitarist in his own right who is just as competent a guitarist as Abercrombie. I mean if I can’t tell who is who at times then it seems to me that it is quite obvious that both have some serious skills going on which is quite apparent from the first cut to the last.

Each tune has its own blend of melodic brilliance and expressive improvisations from both John and John alongside superb rhythmic playing where walking bass lines, syncopated chord shots, odd meter, perceptive support, and sometimes just a simple shuffle are the foundations that each tune is built upon. And the solos that are played over such a musical collaboration contain long flowing lines that make up and add to the language of the modern jazz guitarist today.

Animations is definitely a guitarist’s record and should be heard by as many guitarists and fans of the genre as possible if for nothing more than the pure enjoyment of hearing two people getting down to play what they love to do the most, make music.

2 Comments

  1. 2 outstanding players. Sadly Abercrombie is no longer among us. I had only recently gotten into his playing when he passed…but this is a very nice album that manages to convey the melodies while also featuring good improvisations that reinforce the songs. Abercrombie had some other notable duo recordings with possibly lesser known players like Frank Haunschild, Joe Beck..all good.

    • Hi Wade and thanks for dropping by! 🙂

      I’m in total agreement with all that you wrote. John and John did make a great musical team. They also have a method video out where Abercrombie showcasing his concepts under Basile’ observations and Q&A. I believe it is on YouTube if interested.

      Take care Wade and all the best.

      Lyle – Jazz Guitar Life

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