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Reviewers: Glyn Pursglove, Jonathan Woolf

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JAKOB BRO

Returnings

Jakob Bro (guitar); Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet); Thomas Morgan (double bass); Jon Christensen (drums)

ECM 2546 [41:47]

 

 

Oktober

Strands

Song for Nicolai

View

Lyskaster

Hamsun

Returnings

Youth

Recorded July 2016, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Danish guitarist Jakob Bro is an alumnus of one of Paul Motian’s highly regarded bands and has worked widely with players as distinguished as Tomasz Stanko. His latest album, for ECM, with Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet), Thomas Morgan (double bass) and Jon Christensen (drums) proves to be 42 minutes that veer from the intimate and withdrawn to more dark hued work, redolent of terse listening experiences. The eight to-the-point, even terse track titles complete the air of focus and self-discipline.

The hypnotic figures of the withdrawn, ascetic opener, Oktober, with Mikkelborg’s muted, Milesian trumpet to the fore, announce the expressive breadth of the band – reserved, allusive, elusive even. The trumpeter’s richer, open sound in Strands augmented by Bro’s deft, stylish playing suggest a more extrovert mood but the mute announces the resumption of a circumscribed soundworld – aurally atmospheric but not always permeable to those unsympathetic to the aesthetic. There are many moments of attractive lyricism to be encountered, nevertheless, as in Song for Nicolai, a tightly and tautly insular opus avoiding extraneous gestures and exaggeration of timbre or tempo; colour however is never bleached.

The band’s interweaving is at its best, perhaps, in View - bass over percussion, a true consonance of sound, and a sense of greater angularity all round, including the use of electronics: this track lasts nearly nine minutes and stretches out. Lyskaster is one of the most immediately appealing pieces, lingeringly lyrical through hardly a swinger – a stern critic might term this the insipid ECM ethos. Electronics also appear in Returnings, a dark opus, full of terse and tangential lines; there’s nothing vapid here though, with the trumpeter’s abrasive calls and the band’s taut support very much in evidence.

If this disc was weather, I’d term it ‘unsettled’. Its emotive state is frequently fragmentary, fugitive, prone to changes of mood and texture. Bro, Mikkelborg, Morgan and Christensen are outstanding instrumentalists but sometimes they sound like a hermetic quartet and one doesn’t always know whether to wear shorts or pack an umbrella.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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