Goodbye is one of, if not the most expansive and diverse collections pianist Bobo Stenson has ever released. This is his first ECM release in five years. Paul Motian takes over the drum chair vacated by Jon Christensen, and his shimmering, deep listening and subtlety add to the excellence and sheer quiet beauty of this recording. Goodbye is more a recording of songs than jazz pieces -- at least in a traditional sense. This trio doesn't swing, they play, they slowly dance through the lyric pieces found here. An excellent example is the opener, a cover of the way over-recorded "Send in the Clowns," by Stephen Sondheim. Stenson's approach to the melody is spacious, pensive, and utterly sympathetic. He removes the melodrama and instead replaces it with empathy and understatement. That he's not a flashy player should not be held against him, but celebrated in an age of pyrotechnic musicianship that often leaves emotion and nuance out of the creative and technical mix. Stenson is an awesome pianist with his choice, haunting, harmonic shades in his performances of Argentinean composer Ariel Ramirez's "Alfonsia," or in Henry Purcell's "Music for a While." This trio plays democratically, as well; there are no imbalances. Anders Jormin's bass work is utterly simpatico with Motian's drumming. His gorgeous arco work on Tony Williams' "There Comes a Time," is one of the few moments where he stands out, but it's not about that at all, it's about the harmony of the trio to interpret and express what can be so easily lost in a song: its heart. Jormin is also the band's arranger on the classical pieces. And he composed four of the set's works (Motian and Stenson contributed one each). The album closes with a spirited read of Ornette Coleman's "Race Face," where the band stretches, and engages jazz lightheartedly, with chops at the ready. Again, it is Stenson's ability to find the soul in Coleman's tune; with its repetitive phrasing gives the band a jump-off point. Motian kicks it into medium-high gear and there's something approaching more conventional notions of swing here, but it's extrapolated, pushed over the edge, into a more spacious and less strident space. Given the wait for this album, one can only say that they disc should have been titled, "Welcome Back; We Missed You."
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek