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Bobo Stenson: Faithful Yet Expansive

John Kelman By

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You want to be faithful, but then you try to take the vibe of the context of the piece, go on with it a little more, and take it a little further.
While the European jazz scene has been vibrant and forward-looking for decades, it's only been in recent years that some of its brightest stars have received the kind of exposure in North America that they've both deserved and enjoyed elsewhere. The German ECM label, in particular, has been responsible for generating renewed interest in aging but still active and innovative artists, including Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava and Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, to American audiences—not only through recordings, but concert tours as well. Proof that art isn't static and that, for its best practitioners, it's a lifelong commitment.

Along with Stanko and Rava, Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson is another artist long-associated with ECM whose profile has risen in recent years. Through his work with Stanko, saxophonist Charles Lloyd and his own trio, his delicately-nuanced approach to interpretation is finally getting the attention it deserves. He may not have the cachet of a Keith Jarrett, but on his latest release, Goodbye—featuring long-time musical companion, bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Paul Motian—he demonstrates an equal improvisational élan; the ability to both get to the musical heart of things and take it to new and unexpected places.

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