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
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.
Liebman is quite wonderful, displaying a freedom with a structure that is enthralling. He almost splits the composing duties with Danielsson, and the two men create music for the band rather than individual compositions played by the band. The quartet really has four soloists, with Liebman being the only, one, naturally, dropping out when not playing. The remaining trio blends their individuality to become a unit, with each arising to the surface. Stenson is a supremely confident accompanist, either when comping or playing filling phrases. In, "Suite" he gets the most time to solo, and makes the most of it, playing with drive and fire. Hakan Brostrom
Dark Light Dragon
1991 (1990) Tracks
Hakan Brostrom plays soprano and tenor saxophone (alto and tenor on Celestial Nights
) and is quite lithe on them all, but especially the higher two. He writes well-crafted melodies that provide able ground for not only his always inventive solos, but for the imagination of his band. While remaining solidly mainstream, the angular melodies that take surprising turns and which are supported by different and unpredictable harmony provide a deep listening experience.
Stenson again shows his adaptability by playing within the vibe set up by Brostrom and, while adding his own musical thoughts to the mix, does not go farther than asked while pushing the music forward. Kjellberg (who also plays on Dona Nostra
) and Spering provide a supple and bubbling underpinning, seeming to keep the group floating in air. Schultz seems to make his first appearance (on acoustic guitar) in the longest track, "Who's Coming" (written while Brostrom and his wife were expecting their first child), but later adds some burning electric, distorted guitar sounds in "On The Edge." A delightful record all around. Charles Lloyd
Fish Out Of Water ECM
1990 (1989) Tracks Fish Out Of Water
is the first of the Lloyd/Stenson collaborations and the first ECM recording. Lloyd had retired from playing and it was Michel Petrucciani who persuaded him to return to jazz in the early 1980s. The mood is introspective and mysterious and the connection between Lloyd and Coltrane can be very clear at times. Most of the time, however, Lloyd is quite melodic and plaintive with the uncanny ability to spin out a line that seems disconnected from both the harmony and the rhythm, yet which is very logical.
His playing can be entrancing as one follows the line that can stay within a narrow range yet never be boring. Lloyd has quite a few mannerisms that make him recognizable, the primary one being an arpeggio with the middle note fingered two different ways. What has been called the "ECM rhythm section" is quite sympathetic to Lloyd's music and gets very inside his thinking. Stenson's solos invariably maintain the intensity set by Lloyd, yet he remains himself. This record might not be the first one of Lloyd's to listen to, but is a very interesting link when compared to the others. Anders Jormin
Eight Pieces Dragon
1998 (1988) Tracks