Bobo Stenson Trio: Cantando (2008)
The ECM label has championed the jazz aesthetic, quite audibly European rather than American, in differing proportions from release to release. Indeed, although ECM's New Series is ostensibly dedicated to new classical music, its edges leak over into jazz. For forty years and over one thousand albums, ECM has led the way towards the creation of a truly modern jazz.
Cantando is a remarkable musical document by pianist Bobo Stenson, bassist Anders Jormin (his long-time partner), and newcomer Jon Fält on the drums. Combining the opposites of delicacy and power, precision and chance-taking, effortless inspiration and deep musical thought, it is a delight for the ears, the mind and the heart.
Pianist Bobo Stenson's relationship with the ECM label goes back almost to its beginnings with Underwear (1971), joined by bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Jon Christensen. Since that time, he has produced an extraordinary body of work on ECM as both a leader and as a sideman for such players as saxophonists Charles Lloyd and Jan Garbarek, and trumpeter Tomasz Stanko (see this discography).
Cantando must be ranked among Stenson's highest achievements since the monumental double CD Serenity (ECM, 2000). The essence of the art of Stenson (and, of course, his trio) is the mixture of a "classical" attitude where every note counts and at least feels as if it is placed with a thoughtful preparation, an intensity that never strains but rather is light and understated, and a joyful exuberance which runs through everything and continually surprises.
This trio is all about precision. Stenson's piano technique is based on the way each note is surrounded by space, yet is connected, while Jormin has one of the tightest sounds in the business, and a command of technique (particularly harmonics, both plucked and bowed) that is astounding. Fält is essentially replacing Christensen, Paul Motian's appearance on Goodbye (ECM, 2006) notwithstanding, and plays with incisiveness, giving every sound a purpose with youthful vigor, supporting the band while continually pushing it.
The program is a continuation of Stensonian themes. Silvio Rodríguez is again represented by "Olivia," as he was on War Orphans (ECM, 1998) and Serenity. Ornette Coleman tunes are a staple and appeared on War Orphans and Goodbye and here with "A Fixed Goal." From the classical side comes Alban Berg's "Liebesode," as did Henry Purcell (Goodbye) and Charles Ives (Serenity). Finally, pure improvisation, which is never far away, is given center stage with the fourteen minute "Pages," artfully created by Manfred Eicher from four of seven separately recorded pieces.
Cantando lives up to its title and does singmagnificently. It is music of import created in the moment, captured for posterity. While the players might just "let it go" and move on, this music will remain, glistening and shimmering for all future listeners.
Track Listing: Olivia; Song of Ruth; Wooden Church; M; Chiquilín de Bachín; Pages; Don's Kora Song; A Fixed Goal; Love I've Found You; Liebesode; Song of Ruth.
Personnel: Bobo Stenson: piano; Anders Jormin: double-bass; Jon Fält: drums.