Bobo Stenson: A Discography
From the opening chords of "Morning Heavy Song" to the closing arpeggios of the title song, Stenson's subtle touch, chordal voicings and emotional intensity combine with Stanko's mournful trumpet to create music of loss and hope. He and Jormin, his long time playing partner seem to share the same mind and their slow burn complements Stanko and urges him on.
This album catches Stanko in between his earlier very free period where phrases seem to go everywhere and nowhere simultaneously and his current work which, while losing none of its intensity, has a much more easily grasped structure.
Stenson's relationship with Charles Lloyd at ECM lasted through five albums, of which Canto is the last. In terms of other musical relationships, Anders Jormin and Palle Danilesson on bass and Jon Christensen on drums are to be found during this period. One might think that someone like Stenson, with his Scandinavian background, might not mesh with Lloyd who has an extremely personal style and a California history. However, Lloyd's mystical side, and its expression through music binds the performers together.
"Tales of Rumi," which is sixteen plus minutes long and starts of the record, is introduced by Stenson plucking and tapping the piano strings, then intimating the melody as the tension and intensity increases over the static harmony until Lloyd enters. Always very inventive, Lloyd speaks with his saxophone, staying away from the pulse for long periods of time, only to drop right on it at a moment's notice. Stenson fits right in, taking a dramatic solo in the second half as the music peaks.
Lloyd also has some trademark things that he repeatedly does, such as playing repeated notes with different fingerings and reaching notes through a sliding cry that vocalizes every line he plays. Lloyd's compositions tend to spin out from a diffuse structure, so the listener must just let it wash over her as his music, which does have time, melody and harmony just refuses to settle down, and which can be quite rewarding and healing for those able to do so.
Ostensibly led by Lars Danielsson, this group feels more like a cooperative, although Liebman, playing soprano saxophone, sounds like the performance leader. With only five tracks taking up an hour, there is much time to stretch out, and the band plays very hot, especially "Little Peanut" where everyone, including Stenson really takes off. This is hot Stenson, and a live version a band represented by the studio recording of Poems.
The music itself is kind of post-Coltrane modal with a strong beat provided by a bass vamp from Danielsson or from Christensen's drumming. Liebman plays quite freely over the bubbling backdrop, and Stenson's comping shows he is always listening, many times echoing Liebman. A fine album that has that "I wish I had been there" feeling in capturing a wonderful set.
Trine-Lise Vaering has one of those effortless voices with little vibrato that just flows from her to the listener. The effect is the direct communication of her lyrics that carry deep emotion with profundity and sincerity. She projects vulnerability both through her voice and her words, and the total effect can be memsmerizing.
Vaering wrote the music to most her lyrics, but even that written by Fredrick Lundin, who plays saxophones and flutes on a number of tracks, ends up being of a piece because the strength of the lyric's structure. The most normally structured lyric is "Portraying a Heart," which only highlights the difference of the other tracks.
Stenson plays on all tracks except "We Shan't Be Told," and always adds to the performance. The music is not complex harmonically, just structurally, with many odd length phrases. "From the Book of Love" is a duet between Vaerig and Stenson that straddles art and jazz song. His poetic style, being exposed, is plain to hear. Instrumentally, the most exciting track is "Angels in the Crowd" which has but one verse sung in rubato rhythm as an introduction, after which the piano quartet eventually takes off.
Rolf Ericson/Lennart Aberg
Ellington and Strayhorn
Stenson plays the blues, and for the most part avoids the more "pastel" kind of harmonies, although the Stensonian touch and line building are still there. As usual, what he does is totally appropriate to the music at hand, and his solos show a deep love of these wonderful composers. Quite different and refreshing, the tunes, both those that are well known and those lesser known, are given a deep swing that starts with Strayhorn's "The Intimacy of the Blues" and does not let up.