Bobo Stenson Trio

The Bobo Stenson Trio’s ability of covering far-reaching idioms and wide-ranging repertoire within the scope of their personal diction has become both hallmark and custom, inspiring the New York Times to say the pianist “makes sublime piano-trio records without over-playing. It’s pulsating, with long improvised phrases; it’s alive.” Charting an equally subtle and idiosyncratic path through originals and melodies derived from various Scandinavian composers, the distinguished group proves of a particularly supple alchemy on Sphere. Here, a variety of musical tenets coexist in the unique blend, which the Swedish pianist has wrought, developed and refined over decades of collaboration with ECM and Manfred Eicher, who, as Bobo says “brings out the musicians’ best qualities” and produced the record. The pianist’s cohorts, Anders Jormin on bass and drummer Jon Fält, together accompanying the leader since Cantando in 2008, are more than ideal musical partners to Bobo’s soft touch and infinite appetite for interplay. Bobo: “We don’t have a way of playing ‘ready-made’. Things crystallise in the moment and we adjust to that. And that’s the quintessence. That’s the joy of playing together, to never do the same thing twice and to be determined about that.” The album was recorded at the Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano, in April 2022.
Die Fähigkeit des Bobo Stenson Trios, weitreichende Idiome und ein breit gefächertes Repertoire im Rahmen seines eigenständigen Ausdrucks zu umfassen, ist inzwischen so etwas wie ein Markenzeichen der Gruppe geworden und brachte The New York Times zu der Aussage, der Pianist mache "erhabene Klaviertrio-Platten, ohne jemals zu viel zu spielen. Es pulsiert, bewegt sich in Wellen mit langen improvisierten Phrasen; es ist lebendig". Das erfahrene Trio zeigt sich auf Sphere als besonders eingespielte Einheit und bewegt sich auf zugleich subtile und eigenwillige Weise durch eine Reihe von Eigenkompositionen sowie Melodien, die von diversen skandinavischen Komponisten stammen. Der schwedische Pianist hat in jahrzehntelanger Zusammenarbeit mit ECM und Manfred Eicher – der, wie Bobo sagt, "die besten Qualitäten der Musiker hervorhebt" und die Platte produziert hat – eine einzigartige Mischung aus verschiedenen musikalischen Strömungen entwickelt und verfeinert. Die Mitstreiter des Pianisten, Anders Jormin am Bass und Schlagzeuger Jon Fält, die den Bandleader seit Cantando (2008) begleiten, sind mehr als ideale musikalische Partner für Bobos sanften Anschlag und unendliches Verlangen nach Zusammenspiel. Bobo: "Wir spielen nie ‘von der Stange’. Die Dinge kristallisieren sich aus dem Moment heraus und wir passen uns dem an. Das ist die Quintessenz. Das macht die Freude des Zusammenspiels aus; nie das Gleiche zweimal zu machen, und mit Entschlossenheit." Sphere wurde im April 2022 im Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano aufgenommen.
Featured Artists Recorded

April 2022, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano

  • 1You shall plant a tree
    (Per Nørgård)
  • 2Unquestioned answer - Charles Ives in memoriam
    (Anders Jormin)
  • 3Spring
    (Sven-Erik Bäck)
  • 4Kingdom of coldness
    (Anders Jormin)
  • 5Communion psalm
    (Sven-Erik Bäck)
  • 6The red flower
    (Jung-Hee Woo)
  • 7Ky and beautiful madame Ky
    (Alfred Janson)
  • 8Valsette op. 40/1
    (Jean Sibelius)
  • 9You shall plant a tree (var.)
    (Per Nørgård)
Bobo Stenson makes sublime piano-trio records without over-playing. It’s pulsating, with long improvised phrases; it’s alive.
 – Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
The current incarnation of Bobo Stenson’s Trio, with Anders Jormin on bass and percussionist Jon Fält, has been active for almost two decades now, during the course of which they’ve recorded four albums – including this new one. The first, Cantando (2008), further investigated Bobo’s fluent ability to cover a wide range of influences and idioms, seamlessly integrating the new configuration into his personal sound from the start. The record prompted The Guardian to say, “few contemporary jazz groups sustain an atmosphere as evocatively as Swedish pianist Stenson’s trio, or conjure so many moods across a variety of material from Ornette Coleman to Alban Berg”. Praise continued with follow-up Indicum (2012), The New York Times noting that Bobo “is rightly heralded for his subtleties of touch and mood”, and then again with Contra La Indecision in 2018, which BBC Music Magazine called a “beautiful session”, proving ”that there is still much to be explored and revealed within this format.” More revelations and proof of the trio’s distinguished art are ever-present on Sphere.
“We don’t have a way of playing ‘ready-made’,” Bobo explains. “Things crystallise in the moment and we adjust to that. And that’s the quintessence. That’s the joy of playing together, to never do the same thing twice and to be determined about that.” From that confident joy and openness for the spontaneity of the moment is borne a particularly emotive brew on Sphere, with the pianist, bassist and drummer conjuring a poignant, pensive atmosphere through soft-spoken interplay with gentle yet agile emphases. In the trio’s approach to improvisation lies a heightened sense of experience and command. Anders concurs with Bobo when he says, “as an improvising artist, you have to learn time and time again that you can’t ever be entirely sure of something. You have to embrace that uncertainty, and be confidant about that embrace.”
Like the three previous albums, Sphere was recorded at the Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano, and the room’s distinctive acoustics play into the trio’s sound, intensifying the searching nature of their communication. Going into the studio with “more songs than usually”, as Jon Fält points out, the trio boiled down the material to a concentrated investigation into originals and music inspired by compositions from Scandinavian composers Alfred Janson, Per Nørgård Sven-Erik Bäck and Jean Sibelius. Anders: “Once we go into the studio we have more material than we believe will end up on the album, because we are improvising, so you never know. It’s also a collaboration with Manfred Eicher, who is of course a very creative artist himself, so the way we play is also developed together with Manfred. ”
The result of the prolific partnership between the trio and producer is marked by serene motions, a light touch and swift action, with part of the repertory being carved from 20th – 21st century compositions, transfigured and molded into colourful explorations of pace, rhythm and timbre. Danish composer Per Nørgård’s “You shall plant a tree” – originally set to words by the poet Piet Hein – bears hymnal cadences and appears twice, bringing the album full circle. The trio also refashions two pieces by Swedish composer Sven-Erik Bäck, bringing an ambient quality of acoustic discovery to “Spring” and turning “Communion psalm” into a platform for attentive rubato interplay, each player mindful of the space between them.
Among the originals in the programme are “Unquestioned Answer” – a stirring tribute to modernist composer Charles Yves – and “The red flower”, which offers a rare window into the group’s gentle approach to swing. In return, “Kingdom of Coldness” gives rise to some of Bobo’s most fluent lines, framed in bountiful interplay. As for “Ky and beautiful madame Ky”, a piece that borrows from the late Norwegian composer Alfred Janson, Bobo remarks how “normally we played it in a different way than how we recorded it. Manfred had lot of ideas about what we could do with the song and remodelled it with us. It brought something very new into the mix. But that’s what he does. He brings out the musicians’ best qualities. He feels what they are capable of doing in the moment, and then he captures that.” Lastly, Jean Sibelius’s “Valsette op. 40/1” through the trio’s lens is an exercise in deconstruction, where the subject doesn’t reveal itself until the very last bars, still in disguise.

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