Bobo Stenson Trio
Recorded November and December 2011
Auditorio Radiotelevisione svizzera, Lugano
Any listener familiar with Bobo Stenson's work knows that extensive range is a trademark on his records. Indicum is no exception. With longtime bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Jon Fa"lt, he takes on works by Bill Evans, George Russell, contemporary sacred composition, free group improv, traditional hymns, and jazz reads of Carl Nielsen on this 12-track set. Stenson opens with a brief solo reading of Evans' "Your Story," dedicated to the late Paul Motian, who had held the drum chair on the Trio's 2005 album, Goodbye. It's elegant, emotive, and bears the hallmarks of Stenson's sparse yet striking chords. "Indikon," the first of three group improvs, commences with Fa"lt's solo. The pianist enters with an abundant lyricism, weighted by Jormin's slow, studied pulse. As the players engage and trade the foreground, an organic process emerges and begins its evolution. On "Indigo," dark minor keys emerge from the tune's body to create dramatic tension. Jormin's low end adds a force to Stenson's argument, but Fa"lt's shimmering cymbals and flat snare counter it all, creating balance. The set includes version of Wolf Bierman's protest song "Ermutigung," which shimmers even as it swings; its melancholy overtones embraced and articulated fully in Jormin's song-like solo. The inclusion of Argentinian composer Ariel Ramirez's "La Peregrinacion" illustrates how subtle, even hidden aspects of rhythmic interplay are evoked inside this group's lyric improvisation. The other end of the folk spectrum is highlighted in the Norwegian traditional "Ave Maria." The sacred melody is pronounced, then shifted to find the margin. In its place, a haunting improvisation/dialogue illustrates the many harmonic possibilities in its formal architecture. Jormin's "Sol" is a fine vehicle for him and Fa"lt. Stenson doesn't enter until two minutes into the conversation. When he does, it's via a series of carefully spaced triads that frame Jormin's arco. Before the tune gels, it hints at post-bop without indulging it, yet its graceful sense of swing is implicit. Album-closer "Ubi Caritas" is a choral piece by contemporary composer Ola Gjeilo. In intent, it walks a line between modern and medieval music. But Stenson uses its structural evocation of plain chant in his chords and allows Jormin a soprano-like quality with his bow. Fa"lt skeletally and spaciously accents it all, keeping the tune's mysterious quality intact. The Stenson Trio is the rarest of bands, one that approaches its material as a series of queries to be summarily explored, rather than statements to be made. As such, Indicum succeeds in spades.
All Music Guide
Four years after "Cantando", a new album from the Bobo Stenson Trio - recorded in Lugano last December - explores a broad arc of material. Here we find: free playing (the trio has its own, fresh approach to collective improvising), tunes by Bill Evans ("Your Story", offered here as a tribute to Paul Motian, for whom this tune was a favourite) and by George Russell ("Event VI" from "Living Time", another piece associated with Evans), Danish composer Carl Nielsen's "Oft Am I Glad", a Norwegian hymn (in an arrangement by Anders Jormin and folk singer Sinikka Langeland), contemporary composition by Norway's Ola Gjeilo, a Wolf Biermann protest song, Argentine composer Ariel Rami'rez's folkloric "La Peregrinacio'n", and more. Wide-ranging repertoire has become a hallmark of Bobo Stenson recordings. But it's not just the eclecticism that is striking: Bobo Stenson, Anders Jormin and Jon Fa"lt take their far-flung sources and make of them an organic music that sings with its own voice.
As the New York Times has noted "Mr. Stenson makes fairly sublime piano trio records without over-arranging, overplaying or over-bandleading. In his mid-60s now, he's the repository of half a century of the development of free jazz, in particular the European post-1960s kind, with its folk and classical leanings. Yet he wears it all lightly. In his recent records you don't hear strategies or contentions but a natural working flow."
Long one of the most influential of Scandinavian jazz musicians, Bobo Stenson was amongst the first ECM artists. His recordings with Jan Garbarek in the 1970s were recently reissued as the boxed set "Dansere". He has played on important ECM discs with Don Cherry, Charles Lloyd, and Tomasz Stanko and made his first recording as piano trio leader for the label in 1971. The Stenson trio has gone through a number of permutations since then, with former personnel including bassists Arild Andersen and Palle Danielsson and drummers Jon Christensen and Paul Motian, distinguished players all. In the current trio with Jormin and Fa"lt, whose line-up has been consistent since 2004, there is a balance of energies - clear-edged lyrical piano playing, rootedness and keen choice of notes from the bass, and detailed, textural drumming - that is especially satisfying. "Few contemporary jazz groups sustain an atmosphere as evocatively as Swedish pianist Stenson's trio, or conjure so many moods across a variety of material" wrote John Fordham, reviewing "Cantando" in The Guardian. "Nothing, from a steaming postbop line to a stroked cymbal-edge or a sitar-like bass phrase, suggests a hint of an accidental sound - yet somehow the music never dims the glow of spontaneity."
The musicians share an eagerness to play and the dynamics of the free/rhythmic understanding between Anders Jormin and Jon Fa"lt have latterly been explored also in Jormin's own groups, as on the "Ad Lucem" album, released earlier this year.