Danish guitarist Jakob Bro plays jazz as if in a dream; a harmonic sparkle of ocean spray, dispersing on a rocky shore. It's a sound he displays to potent, soothing effect on his third album for ECM, 2018's Returnings. Joining him are longtime bandmates drummer Jon Christensen, bassist Thomas Morgan, and legendary Scandinavian jazz trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg. While this is Bro's third outing for the storied European label, he has been recording since the early 2000s, and got early experience with luminaries such as Paul Motian and Tomasz Stańko. He brings all of that experience to bear here, collaborating with his bandmates on a set of deeply evocative, soulful, yet always restrained performances. Mikkelborg, who began his career in the '60s, is the perfect addition to Bro's ensemble, offering his lyrical lines and warm, somewhat mournful, Miles Davis-esque tone. Tracks like the opening "Oktober," with its far-eyed, Spanish-tinged melody, and the supple "Song for Nicolai" bring to mind a minimalist take on Davis' work with Gil Evans. Similarly, the eerie title track is a dissonant fever dream, with Mikkelborg and Bro filtered through a refraction of delay effects, like jazz played on the surface of the moon. Bro also clearly loves space and openness in his improvisations, and offers his bandmates plenty of room to express themselves. "View" begins with extended interplay between Morgan and Christensen, before the rest of the group enters from the aural mist. Though subtle and rife with harmonic nuance, there is a straightforward sensibility to many of the songs here, a style that recalls the work of fellow guitarist Bill Frisell. The sweetly played "Lyskaster" sounds like a Nordic cowboy song, as if the band is performing campside at the edge of an expansive fjord.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar