For more than four decades now Bobo Stenson has been the face of Swedish jazz piano. With his gorgeous solo recordings, as well as his collaborative efforts with fellow Scandinavians like Jan Garbarek and Joakim Milder and global figures such as Charles Lloyd, Tomasz Stanko and Don Cherry, Stenson has established himself as a broad-minded player with a carefully measured yet deeply probing sound. The latest work from his trio – with long-time bassist Anders Jormin and recently added drummer Jon Fält – finds him in top form. As is often the case with Stenson’s own recordings, he leads his cohorts through a wide array of music, taken from all corners of the globe, but manages to make it sound of a piece.
The album opens with a gorgeous version of “Your Story,” a late-career tune by Bill Evans that’s one of two works here giving the nod to Evans’s drummer, the late Paul Motian, who died in November 2011 and with whom Stenson had also worked. Yet the trio also tackles “La Peregrenación” by the great Argentine folk music composer Ariel Ramírez; “Ermitigung” by the German political folk singer Wolf Biermann, and “Tit er Jeg Glad” by the Danish classical composer Carl Nielsen. In each, Stenson creates an atmosphere that bridges it all, so the eclectic repertoire never sounds or feels willfully diverse.
Even when the trio freely improvises, as on gorgeous, peripatetic explorations like the title track and “Indigo,” the musicians retain a contemplative, tender vibe, massaging the repertoire to fit its graceful, tight-knit sound. Nearly everything flows by at a ballad-like clip, yet within that glacial pace there is action. Fält’s scrapes and judiciously deployed stutters generate wonderful friction, and Stenson and Jormin have such an intuitive connection that they can play loose and fast with time and harmony without ever losing the thread. This is small-group improvising at its most sublime.