Very Early

Bobo Stenson

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Very Early Review

by Thom Jurek

This CD reissue of a 1986 recording by the wonderful Bobo Stenson Trio is a special date indeed, especially given how free it is from Manfred Eicher's ECM production. Along with longtime mates Run Carlson on drums and Anders Jormin on bass, Stenson runs through a program of new European jazz and American jazz classics, displaying his solid yet lyrical touch, ringing clear harmonic palette and timbral elegance. His interpretation of Bill Evans on the title track is one of the finest versions of the tune ever recorded, with Evans' long lyric lines captured here with a different emphasis placed on the accents and the ostinato. There is no inversion of line, but an extension of the already grand scheme of Evans' harmonic language. On Coltrane's "Satellite," the essence of the modal experiment the saxophonist placed on the interaction of treble instrument to bass is highlighted by Stenson as he and Jormin move the mode through three intervals, each one more compact than the last, until only the essence remains. And on his own "Coming on the Bike," Stenson reveals his singular lyricism, coming out of Evans, it shapes a melody in subtle shades of green, blue, and gray while putting forth enough physical force to push a rhythm section to fluctuate the tempo between them. Finally, Stenson closes with Ornette Coleman's "Ramblin," which has become a staple of his live set. Catching the saxophonist's eerie melody squarely on the one, he striates the harmony by comping and soloing at the same time in oddly voiced diminished chords that echo both the blues and the swinging R&B of Coleman's Texas, without allowing himself to float through the middle; it's all rhythm and punch and melodic invention as he plays counterpoint to his own rhythmic sensibilities. Having this available in a digital format is a treat indeed.

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