Bobo Stenson - Indicum
(ECM 279 4575. CD Review by Chris Parker)
‘[T]he repository of half a century of the development of free jazz, in particular the European post-1960s kind, with its folk and classical leanings’ is New York Times writer Ben Ratliff’s take on Bobo Stenson, and this album, on which the Swedish pianist is joined by bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Jon Fält, might have been specially made to conform to this description.
In addition to three tasteful collective improvisations (wittily titled ‘Indikon’, ‘Indicum’ and ‘Indigo’), the trio also address a couple of tunes associated with Bill Evans (the US pianist’s own ‘Your Story’ – a tribute to the late drummer Paul Motian – and George Russell’s ‘Event VI’). a song by Danish composer Carl Nielsen (‘Oft Am I Glad’), a Norwegian hymn, a contemporary composition from Norwegian Ola Gjeilo (‘Ubi Caritas’), and material by the Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez, singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann (a protest song by the former East German dissident, ‘Ermutigung’ -– ‘The Encouragement’) and bassist Jormin.
If this makes the album sound diffuse and off-puttingly heterogeneous, though, it’s misleading: Stenson’s trio is one of the most focused and subtly interactive units in contemporary jazz, able to imbue a limpid folk tune with deep emotion one minute and freely improvise the next, as well as negotiating the tricksiest of time signatures with complete assurance.
Stenson himself has always had the most delicate touch, since coming to the wider jazz world’s attention with Jan Garbarek in the 1970s, and later with the likes of Charles Lloyd and Tomasz Stanko – not to mention his many fine albums as leader – and Indicum, while not necessarily the most immediately accessible of his recordings, is, like all his work, absorbing, serious-minded, but imaginative and vibrant.