Bobo Stenson: A Discography
Stenson's sideman work can easily be grouped by leader: Garbarek (Sart, Dansere, Witchi-Tai-To), Stanko (Leosia, Litania, Matka Johanna), Lloyd (Canto, Notes From Big Sur, Fish Out Of Water, All My Relations), the smaller groups: Jormin (Eight Pieces, Nordic Light), Brostrom (Celestial Nights, Dark Light), Milder (Sister Majs Blouse, Epilogue), Danielsson (Poems, Live At Visiones), Vaering (When I Close My Eyes, In So Many Words) and then the others. As one becomes more familiar with the breadth of his work, Stenson's interlocking musical relationships become more apparent.
The group Plunge has a previous record of the same kind of material recorded without Stenson. In this second recording, it is clear that Stenson is not the leader, but a guest. The collaboration between Plunge and Bobo began in the fall of 2002 when they invited him to join them for a few concerts in Sweden. These were very successful and an ongoing relationship had begun. Stenson is still a guest with the trio, and Plunge is also active on it's own. Since that first tour as a quartet, they have done several tours of Sweden together and one of the concerts was also broadcasted by the Swedish Radio. Plunge and Stenson are planning a few concerts together in March 2006.
However, Stenson meshes so completely with their esthetic that he sounds like he has been playing and thinking with them for a long time. All the tracks except #5 ("12 Tones Old" by Stenson), #6 ("Three Characters" by Andersen/Stenson/Nilsson) #9 ("Castor" by Hjorth) and #14 ("Ethos Gives Posture" by Andersson) are marked as composed by all four players, which means they were improvised. The group can remind one of Lars Danielsson's quartet on Poems, especially when Andersson plays soprano and sounds a bit like Dave Liebman, and anyone familiar with the very fine Vertigo Quartet release this year will hear hints of them in "Lingua Franca".
This piece, which starts the record, has the strongest sense of pulse among the improvised pieces, and finds Stenson in his hot mode. The tracks composed by the band members sound decidedly different than the freer tracks. There is more structure, both melodically and harmonically, and thus they are easier to immediately grasp. The improvised pieces, however, all have a forward drive produced by the whole band that carries the day and entices the listener, creating marvelous music.
As the title states, this disc contains seven compositions by Lennart Aberg, performed by different size groups, ranging from what is essentially a big band ("Spiraltrappan," "4," "Skalovningar" and "Chris-Chros") to a sextet ("The Don" and "Ornette Or Not") to a quartet ("Lena's Tune"). Stenson appears on all tracks, as does Palle Danielsson (see Sister Majs Blouse, Epilogue, Litania Fish Out Of Water, Dansere and Witchi-Tai-To to note the long playing relationship with Stenson).
Aberg has an immediately recognizable style on his reeds, but he generally lays back here and lets his compositions peak. "SpiralTrappan," which starts the disc, features a very angular solo by Stenson, and one would never know there are rapidly changing meters. The fast, catchy opening section leads to a rubato section with just Aberg and Stenson, that sounds free but is not, and which leads back to a kind of a recap.
The stylistic change within a piece is echoed between pieces, and they vary quite a lot. "Lena's Tune," with just the quartet, could not be more different, yet it is also quite composed but sounds quite free. Lennart remarks about the complicated harmonies and unusual form, which everyone learned to navigate with just one rehearsal, and how the energy created by the quartet was as big in its own way as the big band. "Ornette Or Not" is an Ornette-esque romp for the sextet that is much fun to listen to with its controlled anarchy, while "4" for the big band is built on a circle of fifths from F7 to Ab7, and is not a blues, but just oozes that blues feeling.
Vaering is a true poet/singer. Her words speak of her personal experiences, yet touch on universal truths and common feelings. While the poems are beautiful to read, her music truly enhances their effect. Most of the music is written by Vaering, and the tunes have complex structures, needing to follow the words, very much like the earlier When I Close My Eyes.