Best New Music: CONTRA LA INDECISION by Bobo Stenson Trio

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Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson and his trusty and consolidated trio are back with another precious album of spectacular jazz. Contra la Indecisión, the latest record that the trio has recorded for ECM, is the eleventh since the first that they released in 1971.

The music played by Stenson and his companions in this new album is based on slowed rhythms and rarefied atospheres, on top of which we hear sometimes melodic and cantabile musical lines, and in some other cases hints of intermittent, whispered and delicate motifs. The general impression that comes from this album is undoubtedly that of a trio of artists that are confident of their expressive possibilities and free from any pression to demonstrate their skill with special effects. On the contrary, they appear clear from any constraint (or indecision, as the title suggests) and able to enjoy – well before the listener – of the pleasure of traveling through the beautiful music they can create together. In this context, the trio capitanated by Stenson plays in the album some of the most exciting jazz tracks of those we have listened in the recent months and the album is already competing – despite it’s early release – for entering the top positions among the best jazz publications of 2018.

For a group that has been playing together for so many years, we can’t be surprised by the sense of cohesion that permeates this record. What impressesed me positively, in this case, was the inexhaustible vein of inspiration that Bobo Stenson continues to find in the face of such a long career. As a matter of fact his language is absolutely modern, exciting and communicative.

The style of improvisation adopted by the trio is functional to maintain a long expressive balance throughout the songs rather than diverting attention to new directions. The most eclectic of the three, in this case, is undoubtedly the drummer Jon Fäl. Anders Jormin’s bass, on the other hand, seems to be fully dedicated to guarantee an harmonic support for the other two musicians and there are in fact long sections of the songs in which we hear piano and drums chasing each other, with the bass in the background keeping the order between the two companions.

Contra la Indecisión was releases on January 19, 2018.

Release Notes by ECM:

Stenson’s lyrical touch, Jormin’s folk-flavoured arco bass and Jon Fält’s flickering, textural drumming are all well-displayed on Contra la indecision, the trio’s first new recording in six years. Produced by Manfred Eicher, the album was recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI studio in May 2017.

As ever, the group draws upon a wide range of source materials. A yearning title song by Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, Bartók’s adaptation of a Slovak folk song, a piece from Mompou’s Cançons I Danses collection, and Erik Satie’s Elégie all fit into the programme, alongside original compositions and group improvising. So strong is the group’s character and the musical identity of each of its members that the assimilation of this material always seems organic and logical. As the New York Times put it, “In Stenson’s records you don’t hear strategies or contentions, but a natural working flow.

Bobo Stenson and Anders Jormin have been musical partners for more than thirty years now. Early shared projects included work in the co-operative band Rena Rama with saxophonist Lenart Åberg; Stenson also played on Jormin’s 1984 album Nordic Light. Anders subsequently joined Bobo Stenson’s trio, working with its succession of drummers – first Rune Carlsson, then Jon Christensen (see the ECM albums Reflections, War Orphans and Serenity), and Paul Motian (Goodbye).


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