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John Abercrombie (1944 - 2017)

Getty / Redferns / Photo by David Redfern

John Abercrombie (1944 - 2017)

John Abercrombie, renowned jazz-rock guitarist, has died at the age of 72, according to multiple news sources.

His death was confirmed by ECM Records, stating that Abercrombie died on August 22, 2017, after a long illness. 

Known for his fluid lyrical style, Abercrombie was a highly influential jazz-rock guitarist. He also played in the post-bop and free jazz styles. 

"John could go anywhere – rhythmically, melodically, harmonically – at the drop of a hat," drummer Jack Dejohnette told NPR. "He had a very warm sound, and always played with sensitivity, dynamics. He could create atmosphere with his comping, and through his great use of space." 

Abercrombie talked about developing his jazz-rock style in a 2012 interview for “Jazziz.” "I had to figure things for myself." I grabbed onto every device I had in my arsenal — my knowledge of harmony and the guitar, the few little fuzztones or pieces of gear that I used at the time — and tried to fit in. 


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Abercrombie was born in Port Chester, New York on December 16, 1944. Inspired by early rockers like Chuck Berry and Bill Haley, he took up the guitar in his teens. He studied at the Berklee School of Music, eventually moving to New York City. He became a highly-regarded session player, working with Chico Hamilton, Gil Evans and other musicians. 

He recorded his first solo album “Timeless” in 1974 for ECM Records. Drummer Jack Dejohnette and organist Jan Hammer played on the album, which was critically acclaimed. 

He then formed the jazz-rock group Gateway, who released two albums. 

After Gateway, Abercrombie played in a more traditional bop style and recorded as The Abercrombie Quartet. In the 1980s, he explored electronic instruments and worked in the free jazz genre. 

He continued to tour and record for ECM Records. His last album titled “Up and Coming” by the John Abercrombie Quartet, was released earlier this year. 

 Abercrombie is survived by his wife, Lisa. 

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