Bruno Råberg

Lifelines

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For his sixth recording as a leader, Swedish-born (now Bostonian) bassist/composer Bruno Råberg takes a deep breath and expands his canvas to double-album size, more than two hours in length. Thankfully, he comes up with enough worthwhile material to justify such an outpouring. Armed with only a quartet -- Ben Monder on guitar and Chris Cheek on soprano and tenor saxes, while Ted Poor is the drummer for 14 of the tracks and Matt Wilson drives the other nine -- Råberg manages to squeeze a wide-ranging variety of colors and styles out of his players within the boundaries of a spare, refined European jazz base. One of Råberg's 15 compositions, "Agog," catches your attention with a catchy bass ostinato vamp in 9/4 time before it veers into some free-form soloing (it's fun to follow the score on this one, available for download at brunoraberg.com). Another revolving bass ostinato pattern launches "Gymnastics/Skyscapes," where Monder takes a molten-liquid solo on fuzz-sustain guitar and later knocks out a tattoo of percussive sounds underneath Cheek's soprano. The sole non-original is Miles Davis' "Nardis," treated to an easygoing sauntering tempo with a slightly funky drum backing. Toward the end of each disc, Råberg inserts a collection of four consecutive, diverse, concise group improvisations. They are a fascinating lot -- perhaps the highlights of the album. "Intersection" gets a tasty complex groove going; the deceptively naïve title "An Afternoon by the Meadow" belies the downright avant-garde nature of the jam with its busy, noisy guitar and imitation electronic effects on the soprano sax. "Distant Roads" harks back to an early Weather Report experiment in overtones, "Milky Way," drifting along in a stream of sustained sounds of mixed acoustic and electronic timbres. Each disc concludes with a definite punctuation mark: "Ballad for Summer's End" is a pretty tune that makes a fine ending to disc one, and the quiet dignity of "New Land" comes as a welcome resting stop for disc two after the improvisations. Unlike so many jazz albums in the CD era that seem patched together almost at random, this one has a sense of framing that suggests some thought went into the sequencing.

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