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Bobo Stenson: A Discography

Budd Kopman By

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"Epilogue I" opens with exposed, very open piano against deep bass and soft cymbals until Milder comes in with the haunting theme, and time stops. All is shimmering, diaphonous beauty. "Epilogue II" opens with solo bass using a mixture of regular notes and harmonics. The saxophone enters with the theme, sparsely accompanied by Stenson who gradually increases the density of notes as the lamenting tune unfolds in the horn. Milder and Stenson begin to play against each other with counterpoint from Danielsson as again time stops and deep emotions are exposed. The last version, "Epilogue III," which ends the disc, starts in a way similar to "Epilogue II," but Milder comes in quickly and the theme gets played in unison with the piano, which makes it even eerier. This extraordinary music could have been written at any time, not just in the sixties.

Rune Carlsson
Seven Footprints To Heaven
Arietta 15
1997 (1997)
Tracks

Carlsson sings, and very well at that, with a light voice that is under control. An album of romantic songs, the title comes from mixing Miles Davis' "Seven Steps To Heaven" and Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," both of which are included. Stenson plays on the last three tracks, and his touch and harmonic sense are immediately noticeable. Carlsson notes paradoxically that while he knows Stenson well, he always surprises him with a new touch. As an aside, the lyrics to "Footprints" include a recited well-known story about the narrator and God walking on the beach.

Tomasz Stanko Septet
Litania -Music of Krzysztof Komeda

ECM 1636
1997 (1997)
Tracks

Quoting Stanko from the liner notes: "I play regularly with Bobo Stenson, and he and I both knew he'd play Komeda's tunes even better than he plays mine. I gave Bobo all the archive recordings but what he plays is all his. Often he doesn't even use Komeda's chords." (emphasis mine). The notes also give an idea of the long relationships that exists between the players. Bernt Rosengren was with Komeda before Stanko himself. Christensen goes back with Stenson to the 70s in Garbarek's groups, and Milder and Stenson both count Borje Fredriksson a major influence.

"Svantetic" clearly shows Komeda's compositional method of building from small cells of notes, and "Night-time, Daytime Requiem" (for John Coltrane) shows how Komeda can maintain listener interest within his larger (20 minute) forms. Komeda managed to mix the symphonic with jazz, being free and controlled simultaneously. Since Stanko and Rosengren were with Komeda, and since everyone else has a close relationship, these recordings give a good idea of what the originals sound like.

Tomasz Stanko
Leosia

ECM 1603
1997 (1997)
Tracks

Leosia is one of the most overlty beautiful and haunting records in the ECM catalogue, and to many represent Tomasz Stanko's high point of creation thus far. Stenson is directly involved with the total sound of the album, and has a direct musical connection with the leader.

From the opening chords of "Morning Heavy Song" to the closing arpeggios of the title song, Stenson's subtle touch, chordal voicings and emotional intensity combine with Stanko's mournful trumpet to create music of loss and hope. He and Jormin, his long time playing partner seem to share the same mind and their slow burn complements Stanko and urges him on.

This album catches Stanko in between his earlier very free period where phrases seem to go everywhere and nowhere simultaneously and his current work which, while losing none of its intensity, has a much more easily grasped structure.

Charles Lloyd
Canto

ECM 1635
1997 (1996)
Tracks

Stenson's relationship with Charles Lloyd at ECM lasted through five albums, of which Canto is the last. In terms of other musical relationships, Anders Jormin and Palle Danilesson on bass and Jon Christensen on drums are to be found during this period. One might think that someone like Stenson, with his Scandinavian background, might not mesh with Lloyd who has an extremely personal style and a California history. However, Lloyd's mystical side, and its expression through music binds the performers together.

"Tales of Rumi," which is sixteen plus minutes long and starts of the record, is introduced by Stenson plucking and tapping the piano strings, then intimating the melody as the tension and intensity increases over the static harmony until Lloyd enters. Always very inventive, Lloyd speaks with his saxophone, staying away from the pulse for long periods of time, only to drop right on it at a moment's notice. Stenson fits right in, taking a dramatic solo in the second half as the music peaks.

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