Monday, October 20, 2008

Bobo Stenson Sings

It's a shame that Bobo Stenson isn't thought of as one of the great pianists of his generation. Granted, he has been less than prolific throughout a career that began in earnest with 1969's "One Long String," and he is a European in what is an absurdly Amero-centric field. But looking at his credits, which include stints with Charles Lloyd and Stan Getz, not to mention work with every major European jazz musician and co-leading "Witchi-Tai-To," a record I've called the best on ECM, EVER, you get a sense that he belongs to any list that includes Keith and Herbie and Chick. "Cantando," his new record, proves that he hasn't done anything but get better over the years, and as such holds up next to any of the best later work of those three.

Of course it helps that Stenson's trio is as killin' as it's ever been, featuring long-time bassist Anders Jormin and young turk drummer Jon Falt. While Jormin plays in his usual post-LaFaro mode and throws roots and such to the wind for the most part, Falt serves as an anchor for the band even when his work is meant to add colour, as on "Chiquilin de Bachin." Falt plays time on his cymbals, combining an ability to serve as grounding for the band with his own personal flourishes. Jormin's arco work here, especially at the beginning of the album's closer, "Liebesode," is exceptional and melodic.

Stenson, however, is the star here, and the modern sound he manages to showcase on his piano belies the fact that he has been playing on records for forty years. He is easily recognizable as the pianist on both "Witchi-Tai-To" and on classic Lloyd records like "Notes From Big Sur." The opening track, Silvio Rodriguez' "Olivia," is a tour de force for Stenson, and his work here showcases the same jagged, economical, and still modern-sounding lyricism that has been his style ever since he came out of nowhere to be Sweden's premier pianist.

Next time I'll have a review of Dave Holland's new Sextet record, "Pass it On."

1 comment:

Fred said...

Bobo didn't sing at the Berlin Jazz Festival this November, but he sure played up a storm with old hand Anders Jormin on bass and youngblood Jon Falt all over the drums. A showstealer! Fred Bouchard, Berklee and Downbeat.