Bobo Stenson Trio
Bobo Stenson piano
Anders Jormin double-bass
Paul Motian drums
Recorded April 2004 at Avatar Studios, New York
Engineer: James A. Farber
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Bobo Stenson’s trio projects have brought a host of eclectic programs to fruition in ECM’s choicest studios. Like label mate Tomasz Stanko, the Swedish pianist’s repertoire is a balancing act of adventure and return. As with the follow-up, Cantando, the present session draws from classical sources (Henry Purcell’s flavorsome “Music For A While”), protest songs (Vladimir Vyotsky’s “Song About Earth,” here something of a meta-statement), standards (Stephen Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns” and the title tune by Gordon Jenkins), and Latin American music. All of this and more, including new material by Stenson and bassist Anders Jormin, in addition to some tried and true from drummer Paul Motian. Goodbye is the first recorded meeting of these three greats, who comb the pelt of the cosmos until it glistens.
Whether by stick or by brush, Motian’s touch is meticulously impressionistic, reactive, and aware. His slipperiness is recognizable from the first quiver of the Sondheim classic. He adds so much patina to its well-polished surface, locking rough into smooth like the teeth of a zipper. Those unmistakable brushes continue to beguile in “Alfonsina,” which comes from the pen of Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez. We feel more than hear Motian as he blends into Stenson’s exquisite pianism with all the selflessness of a shadow. Only in the fourth track, “There Comes A Time” (Tony Williams), does he change over to sticks. Hooked on Jormin’s arm, he elicits a certain sweetness, fleeting as mist at sunrise. For his own tunes, “Jack Of Clubs” and “Sudan,” he overturns melodic warmth in spades and dips into resolution as might a painter into crimson. These share in the album’s concluding spate of briefer numbers, along with Stenson’s “Queer Street” and Jormin’s “Triple Play”—both tantalizing.
The bassist enlivens the set with three further tracks, shifting from the stark poetry of “Seli” to the more flexible “Allegretto Rubato” at the flick of a wrist. It is “Rowan,” however, that regards the listener most enigmatically. It lives below the water’s surface, gazing at its own reflection until it can no longer swim. Stenson weeps here with the viscosity of a maple tree. Of that tree, the leaf that is Ornette Coleman’s “Race Face” swings freely, making the jive sound so easy when in truth we can hardly comprehend the paths taken to get here.
Regardless of length, every bit of this moody and often-melancholic set feels complete. This is a jazz of evaporation; not the work of a trio but the feeling of another climate.