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Bobo Stenson: A Discography

Budd Kopman By

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Eisler, who is also represented on Disc 1, has his tune supported by an intense Christensen on snare and cymbals as Stenson and Jormin let it sing out. Ives is hardly the stuff of what is normally considered jazz material, but here is used as grist for the Stenson/Jormin/Christensen mill with each player contributing to an ethereal sound, each taking the lead at different times. Serenity is to be sipped slowly and thoughtfully.

Bobo Stenson
:rarum VIII

ECM 8008
2002 (1971-99)
Tracks

The :rarum series enables an ECM artist himself to choose tracks from his whole career and present them as a sampler. If you have never heard Bobo Stenson on ECM, this is a very good way to hear his work over an almost thirty year period. Selections are from Serenity (3), Dansere (1), Dona Nostra (2), War Orphans (1), The Call [currently unavailable in the U.S.] (1), Leosia (1), Witchi-Tai-To (1), Reflections (1), Underwear [as of now, out of print] (1) and All My Relations (1). See the more detailed descriptions to get an idea of the music created by this remarkable artist.

Bobo Stenson Trio
War Orphans

ECM 1604
1998 (1997)
Tracks

Beginning with the beautiful Silvio Rodriguez tune "Oleo de mujer con sombrero," Stenson almost immediately hits an exposed altered note that dramatically bends the harmony. His trademark way of emphasizing certain notes by dynamics and by the "ghost" notes is on display for everyone to hear in the unaccompanied introduction.

Jormin's compositions are represented by "Natt," "Eleventh of January" and "Sediment," and his melodic bass playing style, huge sound and use of vamps and ostinati give structure to the slowly unwinding melodies. Stenson's predilection for the tunes of Ornette Coleman shows with "All My Life" and the title tune, which could be seen as a summary of everything Stenson. The quiet intensity, the sense of large space being created by implying rather than stating, Jormin's arco playing that almost voices harmonics around Stenson's line all add up to deep feelings being expressed.

Not a prolific composer, Stenson's "Bengali Blue" seems built out of nothing at first except Jormin's deep bass and Christensen's light yet driven drumming. War Orphans is music that is like pure dark chocolate which melts slowly in your mouth into a rich complexity of flavors.

Bobo Stenson Trio
Reflections

ECM 1516
1996 (1993)
Tracks

The first record with the trio that will continue with War Orphans, Serenity and Goodbye, Reflections starts off with "The Enlightener" which sounds almost like a "standard" tune at first, but, with the extremely long section on a pedal point, goes off in an entirely unexpected direction.

George Gershwin's "My Man Is Gone Now" is taken apart and the very essence of the beautiful tune is laid bare, much in the manner of "Send in the Clowns" on Goodbye. There are three other tunes by Stenson including "12 Tones Old," which is either based on a 12-tone row or explicitly visits all twelve keys, while nevertheless feeling tonally centered and is, of course, musical and not an exercise. The core line is explicated more clearly in Plunge.

Jormin contributes the enigmatically entitled "Not" and "Q," where the gift of his huge sound, rhythmic clarity and melodic inventiveness is displayed. Also clearly shown here is the near ESP that is present between Stenson and Jormin. "Mindatyr," the longest track by far, starts with a vaguely South Asian feel as Jormin plays arco for the long introduction, until a bass pattern signals the tune proper as the band gradually heats up around a solid rhythm, only to eventually fall back and fade away.

Bobo Stenson Trio
Very Early

Dragon 304
1997 (1986)
Tracks

While Anders Jormin is in this trio as he is in the later work, the music here, at least in the first half, feels entirely different than its closest relative Reflections, recorded seven years later. This is a more standard affair, with straightforward rhythms provided by Carlsson, and many times a walking bass line by Jormin. Even the "arrangements" of the tunes in the first half are standard: piano, bass, piano. The familiar Stenson style of the later years is, however, audible: the individual note dynamics, the spaces between phrases, the building of a solo.

The second half of the disc (especially from "Pavane" onward), however, sounds much more like what is commonplace later, including Stenson's predilection for the tunes of Ornette Coleman ("Ramblin'"). In his later work, the atmosphere becomes more diffuse, but perhaps gains in intensity, with the biggest difference being that between the drumming of Carlsson here and Christensen/Motian later.

As A Sideman

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.

François Carrier
Entrance 3

Ayler 106
2011 (2002)
Tracks

François Carrier, arguably one of the world's premier free improvisers, brought his then working trio, along with Stenson, to the 2002 Vancouver Jazz Festival after having toured as a quartet for his All' Alba (Justin Time) release.

This a very hot set, full of rhythm drive and compelling interplay, with the tunes taken from All' Alba. Stenson fits right in and, as always adds his personal touch (like quoting "Girl From Ipanema"!), in a set that has clear echoes of the great John Coltrane 1960s quartet. Exceptional musicianship and and a high level of excitement marks this outing.

Plunge
Plunge with Bobo Stenson

Kopasetic 007
2005 (2005)
Tracks

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.
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