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One of the features of the ECM's Rarum series is that the artist chooses the tracks. Jon Christensen has contributed to 51 albums and it is interesting that he has chosen three tracks from Keith Jarrett records and two from Ralph Towner. There is one difference. The Jarrett albums have the same musicians; but of the Towner tracks, one is a duet and the other features a quartet, though both come from the same recording.
Christensen cut his teeth professionally when he was 19 and played with Bud Powell in Oslo. Later there were Ben Webster and Dexter Gordon and Kenny Dorham, a nice dip into the mainstream before he waded into choppy waters with the likes of Jan Garbarek and Enrico Rava, among others on the ECM roster. He was even part of Indian violinist Shankar’s band and it would have been interesting had a track from there had been included, not only for the contrast, but also for a sense of the dynamics that Christensen added. But ours not to reason why—it was for Christensen to choose and in doing so, enthrall the listener.
The music captures the spirit and the imagination. Christensen feeds that artistry, bringing in a spatial palette that shapes and colours the music. It is apparent that he prefers the cymbals; his instinctive crashes, splashes, accents and soft touches are often the catalyst. Take “Piscean Dance,” where he sets up the vantage point for Ralph Towner on the 12-string guitar, pushing and provoking at once the foil and the protagonist. Or “Glacial Reconstruction,” where he extends the vista on the cymbals to contrast time and hue, an adjunct from the hard groove stamped by Terje Rypdal on the guitar. Even when he moves to the trap drums, Christensen adds an appropriately sparse rhythm. And as the last note of the perky “The Windup” dissolves and the glow of the music still casts its warmth, one knows what Christensen means when he says: A beat is not always what you think it is.