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Jakob Bro: Streams

Mark Sullivan By

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Danish guitarist Jakob Bro's second ECM album as leader continues with the trio concept of his debut Gefion (ECM, 2015). That album was a low-key stunner, with drummer Jon Christensen frequently taking a role as much textural as rhythmic. Streams is a somewhat more extroverted affair. It's tempting to attribute the change to new drummer Joey Baron—who has proven himself to be a very adaptable musical partner—but credit must also be given to Bro's evolving interaction with bassist Thomas Morgan, as well as the compositions.

"Opal" begins the program with a sparse, open feel, Bro's reverberant guitar underpinned by light percussion and bass. In contrast, "Heroines" is a gentle waltz. The trio plays it with a light touch, but the waltz rhythm is never abandoned, until the glorious wash of sound that ends the track: proof that they can play in time while still playing freely. The tune also works beautifully in the brief solo guitar version.

"PM Dream" is a collective improvisation dedicated to the late drummer Paul Motian. Bro made his ECM debut on the Paul Motian Band's Garden of Eden (ECM, 2006). The piece begins with a hazy, atmospheric guitar loop, then Baron does Motian's memory proud with an understated, unorthodox yet propulsive drum part— add some conversational bass and a guitar melody, and the result fits right in with Bro's compositions. "Full Moon Europa" employs a similar arrangement, but builds to a climax with the highest energy drumming in the set. "Shell Pink" really demonstrates the remarkable rapport between Bro and Morgan (Bro calls him "my musical soul mate"), with guitar and bass sounding as if they are soloing simultaneously throughout.

This is a very special trio. Bro says "I enjoy setting up moods and textures for us to work on, and to explore together, but I don't insist on any specific directions...For me this is the most exciting aspect of the project...new things are happening in the music all the time." Here's hoping for more surprises in the future.

Track Listing: Opal; Heroines; PM Dream; Full Moon Europa; Shell Pink; Heroines (variation); Sisimiut.

Personnel: Jakob Bro: guitar; Thomas Morgan: double bass; Joey Baron: drums.

Title: Streams | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: ECM Records

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