Monday, September 7, 2015

Gateway - 1975 Gateway

Gateway is the debut album by Gateway, a trio composed of John Abercrombie, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. It was recorded in 1975 and released on the ECM label in 1976.

Guitarist John Abercrombie was one of the stars of ECM in its early days. His playing on this trio set with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette is really beyond any simple categorization. Abercrombie's improvisations are sophisticated yet, because his sound is rockish and sometimes quite intense (particularly on the nearly 11-minute "Sorcery 1"), there is really no stylistic name for the music. Holland contributed four of the six originals while DeJohnette brought in the other two (one of which was co-written with Abercrombie). The interplay between the three musicians is quite impressive although listeners might find some of the music to be quite unsettling. It takes several listens for one to digest all that is going on, but it is worth the struggle.

The Gateway trio of guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Dave Holland, and drummer Jack DeJohnette made its debut in the midst of the fusion era, recording this album in 1975, but there's a flowing rhythmic ease and complex interplay that immediately distinguish the group's music from the day's electric jazz craze. Abercrombie's electrified lines scurry and wander into strange byways, especially on the extended "May Dance" and "Sorcery 1," but Holland and DeJohnette keep digging in and varying their patterns, knitting together coherent group music. Holland's own solos are models of order and invention, and the CD is also an opportunity for him to demonstrate his skills as a composer. He wrote four of the six pieces here, and the elusive "Jamala" is particularly beautiful.

Gateway really is an ECM touchstone - it comes from a time when the label produced dozens of albums that pushed the jazz envelope. In this case, you get a mix of guitar fusion, post bop, and free jazz.
The most obvious parallel is John Abercrombie's classic album Timeless, recorded the previous year, with Dave Holland replacing Jan Hammer. But Holland was a free jazzer at this time, and his presence pulls the group in different directions. Though the influences of Hendrix and McLaughlin loom large, there's a certain looseness and jazziness that was never present on the Mahavishnu Orchestra albums.
"Backwoods Song" is the obvious highlight here - a great tune and loping groove that seems like it could go on for half an hour at least. "Unshielded Desire" is a scorching duet between Abercrombie and DeJohnette, echoing Elvin and Trane on "Vigil" or "Impressions". And "Sorcery" - I guess you could call this a rock tune, except there is an avant-garde edge here that probably would scare most guitar fusion fans senseless.
The rest of the album has more subtle charms, the kind that I missed when I first picked it up as a McLaughlin/Mahavishnu fan. "May Dance" is a great freebop performance; "Waiting" is a solo feature for Dave Holland, a perfect showcase for his great sound; and "Jamala" is a short but beautiful enigma.

Track listing

    "Back-Woods Song (Dave Holland) - 7:51
    "Waiting" (Holland) - 2:10
    "May Dance" (Holland) - 11:01
    "Unshielded Desire" (Jack DeJohnette, John Abercrombie) - 4:49
    "Jamala" (Holland) - 4:47
    "Sorcery I" (DeJohnette) - 10:56

        Recorded at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg in March, 1975


    John Abercrombie: guitar
    Dave Holland: bass
    Jack DeJohnette: drums



  2. Thanks for this fine recording. One of the best in the Abercrombie catalog.