Jakob Bro: Pearl River (2007)

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Jakob Bro: Pearl River
Sometimes, finding a good jazz record is a bit like fishing: either you catch something or you don't. The search is always on for that particular phrase, beat or tune that will transport the mind to a state of bliss: the state called jazz.

Coming across an album like Pearl River seems like a lucky find. Like finding a pearl in a river. But there's more than plain luck involved in the case of Danish guitarist Jakob Bro. For a long time, Bro has been a leading figure on the blossoming Danish jazz scene. His many credentials include work with the acclaimed group Beautiful Day and trumpeter Jakob Buchanan, but most of all Bro is known internationally as a member of Paul Motian's band.

Pearl River is the third release from Bro as a leader, finding him in excellent company with drummer Motian, bassist Ben Street and saxophonists Mark Turner and Chris Cheek. The four players achieve a high level of interaction and melodic sophistication. It is remarkable to notice how Bro has developed his own lyrical style with slight inspiration from Bill Frisell, John Abercrombie and Jim Hall.

The opener, "Verse,❠finds Motian doing some delicate brushing while Street establishes an open structure around Bro's fluid lines. The title track introduces Turner and Cheek. The mood is still contemplative, with the saxophones intertwining in a slow dance. Picking up on the legacy from Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, it is a joy to hear Turner and Cheek exchange ideas while maintaining the tight structure reminiscent of a fugue by Bach.

Turner's cool sound is perfectly balanced by Cheek's more warm and breathy playing. Bro's tender compositions seem to bring out the best in both of them. The intellectual disinterestedness that sometimes acts as an Achilles heel, especially for Turner, is eschewed for a complex lyricism that is also evident in the ballad "Elephant.â

"Red Hook Railroad" is the epic highlight of the album with Bro's long tones of delay mimicking the style of Bill Frisell while painting the picture of a lonely train passing by. Street plays a loose, abstract groove while the tones of Cheek and Turner are hanging in the air.

Going from the abstract to the melodic, "Welcome" is appealing in its simple beauty. The strength of Cheek and Turner "singing" the beautiful melody shows how much the two saxophonists have developed as ballad players. John Coltrane once said that the hardest thing to do is to play a melody straight and do it well. This is the art the two saxophonists achieve here.

Exquisitely recorded by James Farber, Pearl River is not only an album from a talented jazz guitarist playing with the very best musicians. It is a proof that Jakob Bro is already making definitive musical statements. His compositions and playing are of the highest order, showing a player not satisfied to settle for anything less than the beautiful. This pearl is a musical treasure well worth seeking out.

Track Listing: Verse; Pearl River; Elephant; Black Is All Colors At Once; Red Hook Railway; Welcome; Mosquito Dance; Chinatown; 3X3.

Personnel: Jakob Bro: guitar; Ben Street: double bass; Paul Motian: drums; Mark Turner: saxophone; Chris Cheek: saxophone.

Record Label: Loveland Records

Style: Modern Jazz

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