How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Bobo Stenson sings! Well, not literally, but the highly communicative and evocative qualities that characterize his music are indeed imbued of such conductive lyricism that it seems rather appropriate pointing out Cantando (Spanish word for singing) is a well-chosen title.
Unpretentiously carving their place amidst the select cast of historically-significant piano trios, Stenson and longtime acolyte Anders Jormin reign supreme in the format's already charged heritage. Acclaimed for their distinctive European affect and approach as well as for the unparalleled sense of drama and adventure their collaboration conjures, the two Swedish bards in many ways recall the esteemed Bill Evans-Scott LaFaro tandem.
Taking shape through a wide-ranging repertoire of compositions originating mostly from their own portfolioswith personal favorites such as free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, dodecaphonist Alban Berg, and nueva trova songsmith Silvio Rodriguez regularly adorning programsthe pair's admirable ability at covering a vast range of sounds and emotions attest to a too-rare, acute sensitivity. From doleful dirges, to florid, virtuosic flights, by way of warmly penetrating ballads and programmatic vignettes, their aptitude at conveying ideas and moods into telling musical stories is simply magnificent.
"Olivia," a melancholic waltz by Silvio Rodriguez, appropriately opens the session with an air of understated grandeur. Arranging the tune's repetitive, appeasing harmonies so as to insufflate Rodriguez's theme of a gently-rubbing, comfortable thrustthanks to Jormin who sounds marvelous even entrenched in more traditionally-defined dutiesthe trio susses out the piece's essence, to the surfeit of Stenson's fancies.
Though examples proving the axiom that all great musicians are first and foremost great listeners abounds in Cantando, "Wooden Church" particularly evidences the players' acute listening skills. As Jormin's flickering bass fills entice Stenson into symbiotic exchanges, drummer Jon Fälttheir usual touring cohortweaves in and out of the wavering yet gelling flow, embroidering cloudbursted, percussive tapestries around his partners' permeable counterpoint. His crisp stick workmore rococo than the coloristic drumming of precedent recording partner Jon Christensen and Paul Motian's deconstructivist, minimalistic maneuversbeguile at every turn. The result is a busy, three-pronged plenum that in itself spells outmore elusively than outrightlythe song's broken-up, not to say Cubist, phrasing.
Collaged from seven improvised impromptus by überproducer Manfred Eicher, the 13-minute, quadripartite piece "Pages" adds contrast to the heavily manipulated version of Astor Piazzolla's "Chiquilin de Bachin," and Don Cherry's mechanical construct entitled "Don's Kora Song." Besides the two takes of Petr Eben's rather uninspiring, pedal-point composition "Song For Ruth," Eicher's intuition for programming deserves yet again much laud.
Thrown into a magic ring only to come out an hour later completely spellbound, Cantando's exhilarating lyricism and mysticism succeeds in prolonging the spell set by its predecessors.
Track Listing: Olivia; Song of Ruth; Wooden Church; M; Chiquilin de Bachin; Pages; Dona's Cora Song; A Fixed Goal; Love I've Found You; Liebesode; Song of Ruth.
Personnel: Bobo Stenson: piano; Anders Jormin: double-bass; Jon Falt: drums.