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Bobo Stenson: A Discography

Budd Kopman By

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Lloyd also has some trademark things that he repeatedly does, such as playing repeated notes with different fingerings and reaching notes through a sliding cry that vocalizes every line he plays. Lloyd's compositions tend to spin out from a diffuse structure, so the listener must just let it wash over her as his music, which does have time, melody and harmony just refuses to settle down, and which can be quite rewarding and healing for those able to do so.

Lars Danielsson
Live at Visiones

Dragon 309
1997 (1996)
Tracks

Ostensibly led by Lars Danielsson, this group feels more like a cooperative, although Liebman, playing soprano saxophone, sounds like the performance leader. With only five tracks taking up an hour, there is much time to stretch out, and the band plays very hot, especially "Little Peanut" where everyone, including Stenson really takes off. This is hot Stenson, and a live version a band represented by the studio recording of Poems.

The music itself is kind of post-Coltrane modal with a strong beat provided by a bass vamp from Danielsson or from Christensen's drumming. Liebman plays quite freely over the bubbling backdrop, and Stenson's comping shows he is always listening, many times echoing Liebman. A fine album that has that "I wish I had been there" feeling in capturing a wonderful set.

Trine-Lise Vaering
When I Close My Eyes
Stunt 19602
1996 (1995)
Tracks

Trine-Lise Vaering has one of those effortless voices with little vibrato that just flows from her to the listener. The effect is the direct communication of her lyrics that carry deep emotion with profundity and sincerity. She projects vulnerability both through her voice and her words, and the total effect can be memsmerizing.

Vaering wrote the music to most her lyrics, but even that written by Fredrick Lundin, who plays saxophones and flutes on a number of tracks, ends up being of a piece because the strength of the lyric's structure. The most normally structured lyric is "Portraying a Heart," which only highlights the difference of the other tracks.

Stenson plays on all tracks except "We Shan't Be Told," and always adds to the performance. The music is not complex harmonically, just structurally, with many odd length phrases. "From the Book of Love" is a duet between Vaerig and Stenson that straddles art and jazz song. His poetic style, being exposed, is plain to hear. Instrumentally, the most exciting track is "Angels in the Crowd" which has but one verse sung in rubato rhythm as an introduction, after which the piano quartet eventually takes off.

Rolf Ericson/Lennart Aberg
Ellington and Strayhorn

Sittel 9223
1995 (1995)
Tracks

Stenson plays the blues, and for the most part avoids the more "pastel" kind of harmonies, although the Stensonian touch and line building are still there. As usual, what he does is totally appropriate to the music at hand, and his solos show a deep love of these wonderful composers. Quite different and refreshing, the tunes, both those that are well known and those lesser known, are given a deep swing that starts with Strayhorn's "The Intimacy of the Blues" and does not let up.

Tomasz Stanko Quartet
Matka Johanna

ECM 1544
1995 (1994)
Tracks

This is some of the most abstract music to come from Stanko. Each track is a musical "image" created from scenes of the movie Matka Johanna from the Angels by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, to whom the album is dedicated. The music ranges from mostly percussion sounds to reworkings of tunes like "Maldoror's War Song," first heard on Bosonossa, to "Tales for a Girl, 12," which finds Stanko playing a line that makes sense without ever repeating itself. Floating, ethereal and evocative, this music is full of beautiful trumpet lines echoed by the individual band members as well as solo passages by Stenson, Jormin and Oxley.

Many tracks have no beginning or end, no reference or obvious meaning. As such, Matka Johanna can be called music of free association, as well as if not free, then very loose jazz. Without the movie to hold things together, it is easy to get lost in the individual tracks, which is not unpleasant to be sure.

The title track, almost eleven minutes long, and in the center if the disc, starts with dark, brooding bass and piano until Stanko plays one of his lines that entwine and seduce the listener without a discernable structure, yet which, nevertheless, moves forward. Superb, if unsettling music.

Charles Lloyd
All My Relations

ECM 1557
1995 (1994)
Tracks

Dedicated to the memory of Swami Ritajananda, All My Relations includes a very touching and funny mini-biography from Lloyd and he wants to sing to the memory of every musician who passed through his hometown, stayed in his house, taught him something, or just said the right thing at the right time to push him in the right direction. And sing he does, with seeming inexhaustible invention, constantly driven by Billy Hart who is much more forceful than on Canto .

Stenson and Jormin should not be forgotten, however, since as rhythm section they play as one. Stenson's solos on "Piercing the Veil" is full of energy and unpredictable, and one can hear someone vocalizing to the music. An eerie flute in its lowest register against a simple vamp starts "Little Piece," and anyone claiming to not like flute in jazz should listen to this very cool playing.

"Thelonious Theonlyus" is full smiles and Stenson outdoes himself with sly chromaticism and rhythm. The playing of the piano strings themselves is introduced in "Hymne to the Mother," and revisited in "Tales of Rumi" on Canto, and here Lloyd raises a prayer to all Mothers, both of the earth and the body.

Fully half of the album is taken up by "Cape to Cairo Suite," "Evanstide, Where Lotus Bloom" and "All My Relations." Each has much wonderful playing from everyone, including a fine solo by Stenson in "Evanstide," but they feel like they could have been tightened up (perhaps especially in "All My Relations," which has a very long solo introduction by Lloyd) and be just as effective.

Hakan Brostrom
Celestial Nights

Dragon 257
1994 (1994)
Tracks

Celestial Nights feels much more introverted than Dark Light. The mood here is more thoughtful for the most part. Even "Possibilities," the most driving tune has a much lighter feel, although Kjellberg is blistering with his cymbals. "Dance Of The Leaves" evokes images of a happy dance out in the warm sun. "Rememberance," the longest track by far, has a lightly hopping melody on which Stenson plays a wonderful solo, but with many more chordal sections than usual, perhaps to add more drive.

The title tune itself, which Brostrom states is a group improvisation, feels a bit unfocused and rudderless. Nevertheless, between this release and Dark Light one can get a good feel for this very inventive musician who communicates his feelings quite directly through his music.

Don Cherry
Dona Nostra

ECM 1448
1994 (1993)
Tracks

Dona Nostra is Cherry's last recording; he died of liver cancer in 1995. The overall mood is introduced by Stenson in his chordal playing of the beautiful and simple theme of "In Memoriam," written by Lennart Aberg which sounds a bit like "Celina" from Matka Johanna. Stenson expands on Aberg with his flowing, twisting lines and trademark wide dynamic range. In the last third of the track Stenson plays around, over and under Aberg's mournful lines, and Cherry does not appear.

"Fort Cherry," "Arrows," "Vienna" and "Ahayu-Da" are group improvisations that succeed to various degrees, with the first and the last the most engaging. "M'Bizo" has a haunting theme initially played by Cherry and Aberg in unison. Stenson seems to choose the perfect notes throughout and gives the track its shape. The driving rhythm and dancing vamp "Race Face" by Ornette Coleman is picked up again by Stenson on Goodbye. Aberg takes off and is answered in every way by Stenson. Cherry is again mostly absent, but he does play, supported by percussion and bass throughout the mysterious "Prayer." Another tune by Ornette Coleman, "What Reason Could I Give," is the shortest track, played as a duet by Cherry and Stenson and brings tears. Wonderful music, but surprisingly not much Don Cherry.

Joakim Milder/Bobo Stenson/Palle Danielsson/Fredrik Noren
Sister Majs Blouse -The Music of Borje Fredriksson

Mirrors 002
1993 (1993)
Tracks

Sister Majs Blouse is the first of two releases by this quartet of players deeply affected by Frediksson. Go to Epilogue for their intertwined histories. The title tune refers to a nurse who was very important to Frediksson during his last days, and is a mournful blues on which Stenson plays a few choruses after Milder plays some of the saddest jazz blues you ever heard. Together, the tunes span a range of styles that show Freriksson's broad music taste.

From "Mahatma" that evokes "Night in Tunisia" until it veers away to the absolutely gorgeous "Ballad for Laila," and on to the folk music influenced "Brollopsvals," Fredriksson's music is timeless and can easily fit into today's esthetic. One of the most highly regarded young musicians of his time, he has influenced many, including this quartet, down to the present day.

Charles Lloyd
Notes From Big Sur

ECM 1465
1992 (1991)
Tracks

Lloyd has a slightly softer tone than elsewhere on "Requiem" and Stenson answers his opening plaintive solo his own very solidly built solo that takes the middle third of the eight-minute track. Lloyd's usual techniques are on display, and his way of sounding as if he is wandering while negotiating the harmony is immediately noticeable. "Sister" has a similar mood and structure, but the track is lifted by Stenson who is showing how well he adapts himself to the needs of the music at hand.

The two part "Pilgrimage to the Mountain" (part 1 is "Persevere" and part 2 is "Surrender") is split between track three and track eight. Jormin introduces the tune with one of his trademark harmonic solos, and when Lloyd comes in the sky opens up and we see the mountain in the distance. The music has extreme spiritual overtones, linking the earth with the sky, and Stenson immeasurably helps create the mood. "Surrender" starts with the same eerie playing of Jormin who continues under Lloyd's entrance while Stenson helps create the sense of floating in the open air.

In between these two tone poems are the lighter "Sam Song," a haunting "Takur" in which Jormin again does his beautiful harmonics. "Monk in Paris" on which Lloyd again uses a softer, more playful tone even when he is running fast arpeggios, finds Stenson playing another perfect solo andd finally "When Miss Jessye Sings" which has an opening motive that very strongly resembles Coltrane, but which quickly moves beyond it, with more concentrated Stenson.

Notes From Big Sur is a very introspective album, even by Lloyd's standards, but contains some of Stenson's finest playing with Lloyd.

Lars Danielsson
Poems

Dragon 209
1991 (1991)
Tracks

This is the studio version of the band in Live at Visiones and which contains three of the five tracks on that record. The emphasis in the playing is, of course, different between live where total spontaneity and surprise is optimal, and studio, where the same thing is desired, but more controlled with an eye towards the recording.
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