Returnings

Jakob Bro, Palle Mikkelborg, Thomas Morgan, Jon Christensen

EN / DE
“Danish guitarist Jakob Bro creates magical music, impossible to categorize”, wrote Downbeat recently. On Returnings the magic is intensified as Bro and musical soul-mate Thomas Morgan reconnect with two living legends of European jazz, trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and drummer Jon Christensen. It’s a wonderful combination: Bro’s watercolour guitar sounds, Mikkelborg’s soft Milesian flugelhorn, Morgan’s impeccable choice of notes, and Christensen’s free-floating drumming. These components add up to one of the prettiest and subtlest jazz albums of recent times. Returnings was recorded in July 2016 at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio and produced by Manfred Eicher.
„Der dänische Gitarrist Jakob Bro kreiert eine magische Musik, die sich jeder Kategorisierung entzieht”, schrieb Downbeat kürzlich. Mit Returnings wird diese Magie intensiviert, wenn Bro und sein musikalischer Seelenverwandter Thomas Morgan sich erneut mit zwei lebenden Legenden des europäischen Jazz verbinden – mit Trompeter Palle Mikkelborg und Schlagzeuger Jon Christensen. Und es ist eine wunderbare Symbiose: Bros sphärische Gitarrenklänge, Mikkelborgs sanftes Milesisches Flügelhorn, Morgans untrügliches Gefühl für die Töne, Christensens freischwebendes Trommeln. Diese Bestandteile ergeben eines der feinsten, subtilsten Jazz-Alben der letzten Zeit. Returnings wurde im Juli 2016 im Osloer Rainbow Studio aufgenommen und von Manfred Eicher produziert.
Featured Artists Recorded

July 2016, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date

23.03.2018

  • 1Oktober
    (Jakob Bro)
    04:19
  • 2Strands
    (Jakob Bro)
    04:43
  • 3Song For Nicolai
    (Jakob Bro)
    05:19
  • 4View
    (Palle Mikkelborg)
    08:38
  • 5Lyskaster
    (Jakob Bro)
    05:03
  • 6Hamsun
    (Jakob Bro)
    05:14
  • 7Returnings
    (Jakob Bro, Palle Mikkelborg)
    05:36
  • 8Youth
    (Palle Mikkelborg)
    02:37
Damit kehrt Bro noch zu Anderem zurück: Als Kind habe er Trompete gespielt, Mikkelborgs Spiel seit jeher häufig gehört und bewundert, da beide in Kopenhagen leben. Im Quartett spielten die Vier übrigens bereits 2014; ausgehend von dem ungewöhnlichen, elektronisch klingenden Titelstück, das Bro und Mikkelborg gemeinsam schrieben, stellten sie mit Eicher nun ein schwereloses, bedachtes Programm zusammen, das weitestgehend enorm verhalten daherkommt, ganz anders, als man es von Jazzquartett-Alben gewohnt ist und wohl erwartet. Es ist vor allem dieser atmosphärische Gestus, der den Stil von ‚Gefion‘ aufgreift und fortführt. Daneben erinnert Bro noch einmal an Paul Motian, der allen Mitwirkenden nahe gestanden hatte, und an seinen unlängst viel zu jung verstorbenen Kollegen Nicolai Munch-Hansen. So gelang ihm mit ‚Returnings‘ ein stilles, gefühlvolles Werk, erfüllt von seiner souveränen, intuitiven Erzählkunst.
Ingo J. Biermann, Nordische Musik
 
With mood transcending any language or tempo, ‘Returnings’ draws emotional vulnerabilities from the prevailing, slow-moving instrumental streams. This is a great record to have at hand whenever you need to disconnect from the ‘outside’ world.
Filipe Freitas, Jazz Trail
 
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’. […] 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.
Matt Collar, All Music
 
Neben dem Bassisten Thomas Morgan bereichern auf Returnings zwei Altmeister ihres Fachs das Ensemble, die erstmals, lang ist’s her, auf Terje Rypdals ‚Fusion‘-Meilenstein ‚Waves‘ zusammenspielten: Palle Mikkelborg, Trompete, und Jon Christensen, Schlagzeug. Ist Jakob Bros Gitarrenspiel einmal mehr eine unerschöpfliche Studie in Transparenz, steuern Mikkelborg und Christensen im besten Sinne Eigensinniges bei: der Trompeter mit eindringlicher Strahlkraft selbst in abgründigen Zonen (so verinnerlicht habe ihn bislang nie gehört), der Schlagzeuger, indem er kaum je einen Rhythmus aufrechthält, allein Suggestionen und Schattenklänge zelebriert. In keinem Moment läuft das Album Gefahr, in (blauen) Pastelltönen zu zerfliessen – zwei lange Stücke sorgen, ideal platziert, für  eine Art Wildheit, ja,  Furor, die dem Werk immense Spannung verleihen.
Michael Engelbrecht, Manafonistas
 
If Danish guitarist Jakob Bro needed a good reason to further explore some of the music he’s recorded in recent years while also breaking new ground, he clearly found it here, collaborating with trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Jon Christensen in an intimate, fluidly interactive session.
Mike Joyce, Jazz Times
 
‘Returnings’ ist wieder eine Hymne auf die Stille und Kontemplation, ein behutsames Öffnen der Klangräume, ausgeleuchtet von Interaktionen, die ein heute selten gewordenes Wort umzusetzen scheinen: Wohlwollen. Mikkelborgs Trompete und Bros Gitarre – die ihr wie ein Schatten folgt – welch ein Hörgenuss.
Karl Lippegaus, Fono Forum
 
Throughout his career Danish guitarist Bro has been a champion of understatement, and this release marks an interesting stage in his ongoing progress. Perhaps more than on previous occasions he shows an intensely introspective and at times deeply mournful character in which composure, stillness and ‘sotto voce’ playing are at premium. […] an appealing offering from a musician who is steadily creating a notable body of work.
Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise
 
The disc moves through moods that become increasingly compelling in reference to one another. ‘Strands’, with its textured, breath-barbed horn lines and cinematic sense, is evocative as ECM as they come. ‘Returnings’ feels like the dark side of ‘Strands’, resolving some of the tension Mikkelborg set up in the latter song with shadowy swirls of movement.
Jennifer Odell, Downbeat
 
In einem leisen, langsamen Spiel finden sich die zwei jungen und die zwei alten Musiker. Vier eigenständige musikalische Stimmen haben hier nie nach Aufmerksamkeit zu fischen, sondern haben stets den Raum, den ihr nuancierter Ton braucht, um sich zu entfalten. Kaum je wird dem Hörer ein Puls aufgedrängt, und fast mit dem ersten Ton von jedem Stück ist alles Zeitgefühl weg und ein sanfter Traum beginnt. Allein im Titeltrack ‚Returnings‘ bläst Mikkelborg etwas heftiger in sein Horn und rückt ein reduziertes Motiv in Sekundenschritten herum, Christensen schlägt seine Tom-Toms und Bro tritt auf den Verzerrer und andere Effektpedale. Bro und Mikkelborg haben das Stück gemeinsam geschrieben, das diesem sterbensschönen Album gerade die rechte Prise bitterer Würze verleiht.
Florian Bissig, Jazz’n’More
 
A triumphant return for Jakob Bro and Palle Mikkelborg […]. This may just be an early contender for album of the year and will most certainly feature in the most enjoyable albums of the year. This writer seriously doubts whether a more relaxing recording is currently out there.
Tim Stenhouse, UK Vibe
“Danish guitarist Jakob Bro creates magical music, impossible to categorize”, wrote Downbeat, reviewing his album Streams. On Returnings, the magic is intensified as Bro and musical soulmate Thomas Morgan join forces with two distinguished elders of European jazz, trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and drummer Jon Christensen. It’s an inspired combination: Bro’s watercolour guitar sounds, Mikkelborg’s soft, sometimes Milesian flugelhorn, Morgan’s impeccable choice of notes, and Christensen’s free-floating drumming. These components add up to one of the subtlest and most alluring jazz albums of recent times.
 
The theme of “returnings” is central. The album opens with a new version of “Oktober”, picking up the story from Bro’s album Gefion. In recent years, Jakob’s trio with Thomas Morgan and Joey Baron has, happily, gained a strong following. Meanwhile, the guitarist had also been looking for a context in which to continue his association with Jon Christensen. Returnings provides this. It also reunites Christensen with Palle Mikkelborg for the first time on ECM since Terje Rypdal’s Vossabrygg (recorded in 2003), and marks the drummer’s return to playing after a break of more than a year.
 
“I never considered the first trio to be a one-off”, says Bro, noting that bassist Morgan plays differently with Christensen than in the group with Joey Baron. “Thomas is a very socially-skilled bass player. He’s picking up on Jon’s ideas, he’s making the melody sound better and he’s also accompanying each of us in the improvised sections. It’s incredible what he does simultaneously.”
 
Bro has admired Palle Mikkelborg’s playing for as long as he can remember. “I’ve known Palle since I was a kid,” he says. “I was playing trumpet myself, then, and listening to him a lot.” Both musicians live in Copenhagen, “and the scene is quite small, so we’ve crossed paths quite often. A few years ago, we were talking about collaborating on a large-scale music for choir. Then we decided to concentrate on improvised music. So I called Jon and Thomas and invited them to play with us. We did two concerts together with this formation in 2014 which really made me think about the potential. And Palle and I would meet, talk, drink wine and play a bit every few weeks, and gradually ideas for the album came together.”
 
Working towards the music for this session, Bro and Mikkelborg began with the title track. “The main part of that is Palle’s. He had come up with a composition based on the letters ECM and Manfred Eicher’s name – similar in a way to his compositional work on the album Aura which he produced for Miles Davis…” It seems to contain flashes of ECM history in its source code, and the way that Christensen and Palle Mikkelborg interact and overlap here is likely to make older listeners and scholars recall the tonalities and textures of 1970s albums like Waves and Descendre. Nonetheless, following Christensen’s free drumming, and the independence of the four voices moving in the transparent mix, leaves a deeper impression of music both modern and timeless.
 
“I think it’s both fragile and strong at the same time,” says Bro of the music’s contrasting attributes, “and I love the way Jon very often won’t give you the obvious stressed rhythm you might expect. When Palle is playing strong lines, Jon is heading somewhere else in his own way. To my ears that’s really interesting.”
 
For playing the unexpected in a jazz context, Jon Christensen has few rivals, though one of them would have been the late Paul Motian, erstwhile employer of both Bro and Morgan. The gently enigmatic piece “Hamsun” here, dedicated to the Norwegian author of such classics as Hunger and Mysteries, was also partly inspired by Motian. “Paul Motian had talked a lot about Knut Hamsun when we toured together, and that got me reading the books…This is an older piece which I’d written originally for Kenny Wheeler to play.” “Hamsun” is heard first as a duet by Bro and Morgan, and then the theme reappears – in a different key – as part of the title track, yet another “returning”.
 
Mikkelborg’s piece “View” begins with Christensen and Morgan in duo, with Palle and Jakob introducing the theme only after the halfway mark. Bro: “This is really a collaborative album, the outcome of a creative session with good input from everybody. Musically, any one of us could be considered the ‘leader’.”
 
One of the most touching pieces is “Song for Nicolai”, for Danish bassist Nicolai Munch-Hansen, who passed away last year, with soulful playing from both Mikkelborg and Bro.
 
“Oktober” was included at the suggestion of Manfred Eicher. “It’s also a piece that Palle likes to play, and at the mixing stage it was becoming clear that this version had a special character.” The tune “Lyskaster”, also heard on Gefion, is dedicated to the memory of Jakob Bro’s father. “On Gefion, we had just touched the melody [in a version more spacious and textural]. Here, Palle and I play it together, and that felt good. Also, my father was a trumpet player, too, and liked Palle’s sound. So, I was thinking about that as well.”
 
Returnings was recorded in July 2016 at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio and produced by Manfred Eicher. Further ECM projects with Jakob Bro are in preparation. Next up: Bay of Rainbows, a live album with Thomas Morgan and Joey Baron, recorded in New York.
YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
2024 May 25 Gnisten Ry, Denmark
2024 May 26 Gnisten Ry, Denmark
2024 August 09 Sildajazz Haugesund, Norway
2024 August 11 Kultursalonerne Gisselfeld Haslev, Denmark
2024 November 06 Bremen Teater Copenhagen, Denmark