Bobo Stenson Trio: Cantando (ECM 2023)


Bobo Stenson Trio

Bobo Stenson piano
Anders Jormin double-bass
Jon Fält drums
Recorded December 2007 at Auditorium Radio Svizzera Italiana, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher

After the epic statement that was Serenity, the Bobo Stenson Trio reshuffled not only its personnel (Jon Fält replaces Jon Christensen, by way of Paul Motian, on drums) but also its sources. Cantando takes these changes in stride, as is clear from the swish and sparkle that unwrap “Olivia.” The opener is by Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, whose left-leaning politics find traction in the haunting backpedaling toward the end, gelling in wordless spirit like a lake in winter. Astor Piazzolla’s “Chiquilín de Bachín” dips again into Latin American material. This is Fält’s moment, as he brings a painter’s awareness of color and nuance to bear on a groovy ride. Yet Jormin is the head and tail of this Ouroborous, adding much with his amplified amethyst sound. Overall, he is an even more defining presence than usual, ever evolving his navigation of Stenson’s winding turns of phrase. As composer, the bassist offers two tunes. “M” is the more swinging of the two, while “Wooden Church” spins a matrix of liturgical and secular impulses, especially in his solo, which scuttles through the walls like a mouse who knows his way blind. Jormin shines further in the loosened fray of Stenson’s night throughout “Pages,” which culls four of seven pieces freely improvised in the studio. Curious and enchanting, they give rare insight into the art at hand.

Cantando rounds out with a handful of tributes. “Don’s Kora Song” gives props to the late Don Cherry, whose far-reaching sense of mood and timing translate well into Stenson’s world. His mechanical yet intuitive precision in the left-hand ostinato reminds us that all music has a heartbeat. The obscure Ornette Coleman tune “A Fixed Goal” betrays its tongue-in-cheek title in a series of moving targets, of which Jormin’s are the blurriest. Nestled snug against a forward-thinking take on the standard “Love, I’ve Found You” is Alban Berg’s “Liebesode.” A sarangi-like intro evokes stretches of dunescape before the piece’s thick description balances the raw and the cooked in delicious proportion. Last is “Song Of Ruth.” Written by the late Czech composer Petr Eben and recorded here just two months after his passing, it follows wherever gravity may lead. It pulses on forested borders, cut from the cloth of the earth by rivers and footpaths. So veracious is it that it might as well be called “Song Of Truth.” The album contains two versions, a variation of which closes the set, most forthcoming in its philosophies and clothed in the iridescence of its will. Brilliant.

One can always count on Stenson to outdo himself, and this time is no different. He consistently pulls the listener in fresh improvisatory directions, all of which blossom as supply as ever in the spacious engineering, courtesy of Stefano Amerio in Lugano. This trio, in every incarnation, is a book unto itself: over time the binding relaxes but remains intact. All of which gives metaphorical strength to “Pages,” smelling still of the glue that holds them together.

(To hear samples of Cantando, click here.)

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