Jakob Bro: Returnings (ECM 2546)

2546 X

Jakob Bro
Returnings

Jakob Bro guitar
Palle Mikkelborg trumpet, flugelhorn
Thomas Morgan bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded July 2016 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineers: Peter Espen Ursfjord and Jan Erik Kongshaug (mixing)
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: March 23, 2018

Danish guitarist Jakob Bro was born for ECM. Not only because he shares a certain balance of sound and space, but also because he isn’t afraid to let the music travel wherever it may until a destination becomes clear to everyone involved. In this album, perhaps more than any other he has recorded for the label, he unwraps a gift so cosmic it’s a wonder anything so secular as a CD could contain it.

If the opening bleed of “Oktober” is any indication (and it is), we should prepare ourselves for a practically weightless journey, so that when the tesseract of “Strands” seeks purchase in our floating minds, we are ready to be tethered to something otherworldly. This feeling of spirit over flesh prevails throughout the set, especially in two pieces written for the dead: “Song For Nicolai” (dedicated to late Danish bassist Nicolai Munch-Hansen) and “Lyskaster” (in memory of Bro’s father). In both of these, we feel the redolence of Palle Mikkelborg’s flugelhorn, the chalky substance of Jon Christensen’s drumming, and the close-eyed pointillism of bassist Thomas Morgan. Bro generally keeps himself aligned to the background, content in listening as layer upon layer is applied by his sensitive bandmates, taking gentle initiative only in the transcendent “Hamsun.”

Mikkelborg offers two tunes of his own design. Where “View” finds Morgan and Christensen offering a protracted introduction before the composer and Bro separate each melodic line into its filament components, “Youth” pairs guitar and trumpet in a chemically separating farewell. Mikkelborg also cowrote the nebular title track with Bro, constructing a theme around the letters ECM and Manfred Eicher’s name. A fitting tribute to one who is indeed music itself.

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