John Abercrombie grew up in Connecticut and began playing the guitar at the age of fourteen. While attending Berklee College, Abercrombie toured with Johnny Hammond and played with the Brecker brothers in their group Dreams. After graduating, he moved to New York City and recorded with a variety of artists and played in groups with Chico Hamilton and Billy Cobham.
His first solo album was recorded in 1974 on ECM. Timeless received virtually unanimous critical acclaim. In 1979, Abercrombie formed his own quartet. Recordings by the group include Arcade, Abercrombie Quartet, and M. Abercrombie has also recorded with many other ECM artists; most significantly with drummer Jack DeJohnette and with fellow guitarist Ralph Towner. Abercrombie's touring trio with Mark Johnson and Peter Erskine can be heard on Current Events, Getting There, and John Abercrombie/Marc Johnson/Peter Erskine.
On Current Events, released in 1988, John used guitar synthesizer for the first time on record. John Abercrombie/Marc Johnson/Peter Erskine, released in 1989, was recorded in Boston on April 21, 1988 and documents this innovative trio, live. Repertoire from their four-year association is presented, and standards often linked with Bill Evans are given resplendent treatment. On the 1990 release Animato, John collaborates with composer/synthesist, Vince Mendoza and drummer John Christenesen, and presents eight original compositions.