Avant-Garde Guitar

Many of the best of the later jazz guitarists do their crossing over via fusion and the fruits of evolving guitar technology. John Abercrombie, for one, has shown a concern for enveloping sound washes that was only enhanced when he added the guitar synthesizer. Of late, Abercrombie has been swinging harder in a series of trio albums, of which While We’re Young (ECM), with Dan Wall’s flexible organ and Adam Nussbaum’s limber drums, is one of the most successful. Avoiding the shrill railing that commonly afflicts the instrumentation, Abercrombie’s organ trio glows from within.

John Scofield imposes a blues sensibility on everything he plays, although the range of rock, country/western, Latin, and bebop references that he incorporates into his tart and elliptical compositions reveals a contemporary perspective. The guitarist’s working quartet of recent years has set the standard for telepathicinteraction (especially between the leader and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano) and a repertoire overflowing with both catchy hooks and challenging forms. What We Do (Blue Note), the band’s third album, is another diverse program of infectious adventure.

Lovano and another guitar innovator, Bill Frisell, have worked together for more than a decade in the various groups of drummer Paul Motian. While these bands can take sonic liberties far removed from the introspective creations Motian helped fashion in the legendary Bill Evans trio, they have also displayed an irreverent affinity for jazz classics and show tunes. Paul Motian on Broadway, Vol. Ill (JMT) continues an excellent series of reimagined standards with the usual quartet (Charlie Haden on bass) plus Lee Konitz’s alto and soprano saxes. Konitz’s oblique inventions fold right into Lovano’s grit, Frisell’s levitations, and the low rumble of the rhythm section, making everything from “How Deep Is the Ocean?” to “Tico Tico” sound brand new.