Bobo Stenson: A Discography
Eisler, who is also represented on Disc 1, has his tune supported by an intense Christensen on snare and cymbals as Stenson and Jormin let it sing out. Ives is hardly the stuff of what is normally considered jazz material, but here is used as grist for the Stenson/Jormin/Christensen mill with each player contributing to an ethereal sound, each taking the lead at different times. Serenity is to be sipped slowly and thoughtfully.
The :rarum series enables an ECM artist himself to choose tracks from his whole career and present them as a sampler. If you have never heard Bobo Stenson on ECM, this is a very good way to hear his work over an almost thirty year period. Selections are from Serenity (3), Dansere (1), Dona Nostra (2), War Orphans (1), The Call [currently unavailable in the U.S.] (1), Leosia (1), Witchi-Tai-To (1), Reflections (1), Underwear [as of now, out of print] (1) and All My Relations (1). See the more detailed descriptions to get an idea of the music created by this remarkable artist.
Beginning with the beautiful Silvio Rodriguez tune "Oleo de mujer con sombrero," Stenson almost immediately hits an exposed altered note that dramatically bends the harmony. His trademark way of emphasizing certain notes by dynamics and by the "ghost" notes is on display for everyone to hear in the unaccompanied introduction.
Jormin's compositions are represented by "Natt," "Eleventh of January" and "Sediment," and his melodic bass playing style, huge sound and use of vamps and ostinati give structure to the slowly unwinding melodies. Stenson's predilection for the tunes of Ornette Coleman shows with "All My Life" and the title tune, which could be seen as a summary of everything Stenson. The quiet intensity, the sense of large space being created by implying rather than stating, Jormin's arco playing that almost voices harmonics around Stenson's line all add up to deep feelings being expressed.
Not a prolific composer, Stenson's "Bengali Blue" seems built out of nothing at first except Jormin's deep bass and Christensen's light yet driven drumming. War Orphans is music that is like pure dark chocolate which melts slowly in your mouth into a rich complexity of flavors.
The first record with the trio that will continue with War Orphans, Serenity and Goodbye, Reflections starts off with "The Enlightener" which sounds almost like a "standard" tune at first, but, with the extremely long section on a pedal point, goes off in an entirely unexpected direction.
George Gershwin's "My Man Is Gone Now" is taken apart and the very essence of the beautiful tune is laid bare, much in the manner of "Send in the Clowns" on Goodbye. There are three other tunes by Stenson including "12 Tones Old," which is either based on a 12-tone row or explicitly visits all twelve keys, while nevertheless feeling tonally centered and is, of course, musical and not an exercise. The core line is explicated more clearly in Plunge.
Jormin contributes the enigmatically entitled "Not" and "Q," where the gift of his huge sound, rhythmic clarity and melodic inventiveness is displayed. Also clearly shown here is the near ESP that is present between Stenson and Jormin. "Mindatyr," the longest track by far, starts with a vaguely South Asian feel as Jormin plays arco for the long introduction, until a bass pattern signals the tune proper as the band gradually heats up around a solid rhythm, only to eventually fall back and fade away.
While Anders Jormin is in this trio as he is in the later work, the music here, at least in the first half, feels entirely different than its closest relative Reflections, recorded seven years later. This is a more standard affair, with straightforward rhythms provided by Carlsson, and many times a walking bass line by Jormin. Even the "arrangements" of the tunes in the first half are standard: piano, bass, piano. The familiar Stenson style of the later years is, however, audible: the individual note dynamics, the spaces between phrases, the building of a solo.
The second half of the disc (especially from "Pavane" onward), however, sounds much more like what is commonplace later, including Stenson's predilection for the tunes of Ornette Coleman ("Ramblin'"). In his later work, the atmosphere becomes more diffuse, but perhaps gains in intensity, with the biggest difference being that between the drumming of Carlsson here and Christensen/Motian later.