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Bobo Stenson: A Discography

Budd Kopman By

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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)

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)

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 with Bobo Stenson

Kopasetic 007
2005 (2005)

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.

However, Stenson meshes so completely with their esthetic that he sounds like he has been playing and thinking with them for a long time. All the tracks except #5 ("12 Tones Old" by Stenson), #6 ("Three Characters" by Andersen/Stenson/Nilsson) #9 ("Castor" by Hjorth) and #14 ("Ethos Gives Posture" by Andersson) are marked as composed by all four players, which means they were improvised. The group can remind one of Lars Danielsson's quartet on Poems, especially when Andersson plays soprano and sounds a bit like Dave Liebman, and anyone familiar with the very fine Vertigo Quartet release this year will hear hints of them in "Lingua Franca."


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