Jakob Bro: Jakob Bro: Gefion

Henning Bolte By

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Gefion, Danish guitarist Jakob Bro's ECM-debut as leader, is a fascinating reinvention of melodicism. His music leads listeners deep into the rich resonances emerging from brilliantly simple melodic motifs imbued with seductive atmospheres. Like Möbius strips his music's lines wind seemingly endlessly. Its evocative melodic nuclei very often reach the lower limits of dynamics, thereby opening up spaces in which the individual voices selflessly unfold in wave-like movements. It yields sounds of elegant ease, expressive depth, and solid perseverance.

Bro's subtle use of loops and delays—acting as a compositional device—often operates below the threshold for conscious perception, thus subliminally increasing its effects. It is a high-risk approach that leaves the music to its own, and exposes musicians to the music to unfold by itself. This is, of course, based on a high degree of mutual musical trust between the three musicians involved: drum legend Jon Christensen, long time inspirational role model, bass master Thomas Morgan, and Bro himself.

Bro established his name internationally with his remarkable 'Balladeering' trilogy on Loveland Records (Balladeering (2009), Time (2011), December Song (2013)) with Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, Ben Street, Thomas Morgan, Craig Taborn, and veteran alto saxophonist Lee Konitz in an extraordinary enchanting tonality. You can find Bro in the ranks of the late Paul Motian Band (Garden of Eden (ECM, 2005)) or in the European quintet of trumpeter Tomasz Stanko (Dark Eyes (ECM, 2009)). His double album Bro/Knak (Loveland Records, 2012) is a collaboration with musicians as Paul Bley, Kenny Wheeler, Bill Frisell, Jeff Ballard, David Virelles, Oscar Noriega, Pamelia Kurstin, Thomas Morgan and Danish electronics wizard Thomas Knak. Knak aka Opiate co-wrote songs for and participated in the making of Björk's album Vespertine (One Little Indian, 2001). For the album with Bro he produced a series of remixes—aptly named rebuilds here—of the original pieces of Bro and his fellow musicians.

Bro and bassist Thomas Morgan have become musical soul mates through their close collaboration during the last six years. They change effortlessly between leading and following, which results in an extraordinary convergence and complementing of their string instruments. Jon Christensen is a musician who can totally play his own thing and who at the same time knows how to be fully in service of a music piece. He knows lots of ways to relate beats and strikes to space and melody while still being able to execute in an overall surprising way, even with limited means. His ability to 'forehear' what is coming and what is the right thing to go for is still impressive—no cushy routine is at work here. He is well adapted to the 'quieter' sound and seems to like it very much. Especially his cymbal work gives the music of the threesome a magical touch. In the last piece it could evoke the listener's desire to let it last as an ending without ending.

Equally amazing are the contrasts offered by the album. "And Then They Came Marching Out Of The Woods" is carried by a wonderfully grooving bass line, prefigured in the great introductory bass solo. Paul Motian spontaneously coined the title during a studio-session in the past when the gestalt of this piece emerged from a somewhat chaotic performance. By contrast, the pace of the articulation and projection of sounds in "Lyskaster" (Light Launcher) gears down, almost to the level of the slow, full breathings in the late work of Yusef Lateef. The sounds flow as light waves here. "Gefion," the ten and a half minute opening track, manifests Motianesque traits in a wonderfully developed way. These traits and many more precious ingredients make Gefion a truly outstanding, pioneering album. A vinyl version of the album is announced to be released may, 19.


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