Bay of Rainbows compiles music drawn from two nights at New York's Jazz Standard in 2017 by Danish guitarist Jakob Bro with his American counterparts Thomas Morgan on upright bass and Joey Baron on drums -- the same trio he showcased on his 2016 ECM studio album, Streams. Bro and his band intricately explore tunes from his catalog, including "Red Hook" (whose oringal studio version dates to 2007's Pearl River) and the more recent "Copenhagen" (Gefion, 2015). Also included are two versions of "Mild" that originally appeared on 2012's BRO/KNAK, a split album between Bro and electronicist/composer Thomas Knak. The tune has been a Bro staple for years, and in its first treatment here the trio's goal was establishing an m.o. for the entire gig: largely contemplative music offered in warm tones, intimate yet actively engaged with fluid, tasteful, and poignant improvisation. The fingerpicked electric six-string is engaged first in both complementary and contrapuntal interplay with Morgan before being joined by whispering snare and brushed cymbals. In its middle section, Bro uses looping technology and restrained feedback in his solo while his rhythm section members interact with one another. While the closing version commences the same way, it becomes even more spectral, offering some glorious pizzicato play from Morgan. The aforementioned "Red Hook" is economically introduced by Baron's tom-toms, with first Bro and then Morgan entering with a near spectral elegance. A minor modal offering, the shape-shifting exchanges between the bass and drum kit are bridged by Bro's fingerpicked, rounded plectrum style that sketches a melody -- but never quite asserts one -- as something of an ellipsis. Even when its dynamic increases via Baron's rolls and fills to introduce Bro's use of distortion and angularity, it remains mysterious. The studio version of "Evening Song" originally appeared on 2009's Balladeering. At just under five minutes, it's the shortest track here but easily the most lyrical. A near constant in Bro's live shows, the tune is constantly evolving; here its harmonic grace showcases the depth of this trio's close listening and empathic improvisation. Though Bay of Rainbows is relatively meditative and economical, the trio's execution is actually quite astonishing. There is so much here, in terms of melodic inference as well as articulation, that the music is mesmerizing. Who needs journeyman fireworks when the creation of music from these seasoned collaborators is so utterly compelling?
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek