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Bobo Stenson: A Discography

Budd Kopman By

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Eight Pieces is a "festival suite" (as described by Jormin) originally written for the Gothenberg Jazz Festival in 1987. This octet produces an amazing sound as it realizes the compositions and arrangements of Jormin. "Em Snabba" ("Five Fast"), the opening tune, simply burns as Kleive (drums), Klinghageb (guitar) and Jormin himself set up an unrelenting rhythmic drive over which Wilczewski wails on soprano saxophone. Stenson answers with a typical tight, pithy, twisting and turning solo backed by softer, but still driving drums and bass.

At the other end of the spectrum, "30," a ballad written for Jormin's wife's birthday, uses Eric Satie for inspiration, and features a floating melody played by guitar surrounded by the filligrees of Stenson. In between we find "Em," which Jormin describes as a mood piece, and which features a saxophone solo with almost no notes but rather sounds and almost speech, backed by arpeggiated piano chords and waves of synthesizer.

"N.S." says Jormin, is "a song to which I also wrote lyrics -which Thomas Gustafson sings through his horn." The suite ranges over many other styles as well and proves Jormin to be an eclectic and omnivorous musician at home anywhere in the wide world of jazz.

Anders Jormin
Nordic Light

Dragon 305
2000 (1984)
Tracks

Nordic Light is an extremely interesting record for anyone with a predilection for Scandinavian jazz. Even if one does not know any of the melodies from the better-known composers (Edvard Grieg, Carl Nielsen) or, for that matter from the unknowns (August Ekstrom, Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, Carl Sjoberg), the arrangements by Jormin and the playing, particular by the passionate Gustafson, make for extremely enjoyable jazz from the north lands.

The melodies, which clearly were not written with jazz improvisation in mind, have a slightly more composed feel about them which can be heard during their declamation. During the improvisatory sections, however, the musicians really let go. Stenson plays an extraordinary solo in "Solverigs vuggesang" (from Peer Gynt), perhaps because this music is in his blood.

Gustafson plays a emotive soprano saxophone on "Tonerna," the one work of Sjoberg that has been immortalized, but which has never been given quite the treatment it is given here. All of the tracks bring out heartfelt playing from the whole group, and, as such, provide a window into the Nordic soul.

Jan Garbarek
Dansere

ECM 1118
1976 (1975)
Tracks

The first differences one might notice between Dansere and Witchi-Tai-To are that the former is altogether softer while Stenson is much more forceful, with Garbarek still employing that very tight, driving sound. The title tune is fifteen minutes long and has more of a haunting quality than anything on the previous album. Stenson plays marvelously, having seemed to have found his feet in this kind of music. The rest of the tunes that make up the forty minute disc share both a sense of grand space and Garbarek's insistent sound, usually much louder than the rest of the instruments. "Lokk" is the only tune not composed by Garbarek, but it sums up the feel of the record. Empty space, dark blue endless sky, loneliness, a call out to the wilderness, at first unaccompanied, then with sparse murmerings from the band. Stenson plays a rubato solo that could tear your heart apart. Either this clicks with you or not, but, of course, that can be said of all jazz.

Jan Garbarek/Bobo Stenson Quartet
Witchi-Tai-Too

ECM 1041
1974 (1973)
Tracks

The stylistic shift from Afric Pepperbird, to Sart, on to Triptykon through Witchi-Tai-To and ending with Dansere (which is Stenson's last album with Garbarek) is from relatively free playing that evokes many visual images and emotions to the sound that is most associated with Garbarek and dubbed the "ECM Sound" which, however has never been really defined. Witchi-Tai-To can be thought of as a hinge album between the two sides of Garbarek. The tunes, except for "Kukka," by Palle Danielsson, are composed by others including Carla Bley, Jim Pepper and Don Cherry. What sets it most apart from its earlier cousins is the appearance of very regular rhythmic patterns and a clear, but many times static, harmony along with tunes of more regular structure. Whatever else can be said about the music, it definitely moves from being on the heady, abstract side over to that which is more overtly and directly emotional.

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