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

Original Release Date


  • 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)
‘Sphere’, this incarnation’s fourth studio outing, is a mirror image of 2018’s ‘Contra La Indecisión’. The former offered a small handful of revisioned classical works, interspersed with original compositions. Sphere is the reverse. It is primarily comprised of works by 20th and 21st century composers including Per Nørgård, Sven-Erik Bäck, and Jean Sibelius and offers two originals by Jormin. […] 52 years after releasing his ECM leader debut, Stenson and his trio are still deep in the throes of discovery.
Thom Jurek, All Music
A powerful introspective album that draws us into a world of intense mutual concentration, with many moments of astonishing lyrical beauty. At its core is a ravishing reworking of  Sven-Erik Bäck’s ‘Communion Psalm’, its opening right-hand piano figures catching the essence of choral phrasing, before a deft bass solo ushers in some of the trio’s best collective work on the album.   
Alyn Shipton, Jazzwise
A heavyweight listen that rewards maximum concentration, this trio of pianist Bobo Stenson, bassist Anders Jormin and drummer-percussionist Jon Fält has been together for a long time and there is a gravitas to what they do that such a long association has helped create. It is no exaggeration to claim that the Stenson trio is one of the greatest jazz piano trios in Europe of recent decades and this latest output recorded last year only goes to underline that idea. […] While often an austere listen shaped around compositions (and arrangements) by Jormin and with repertoire also spanning the Norwegian pianist and composer Alfred Janson, Danish composer Per Nørgård, Swedish composer Sven-Erik Bäck and the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, Stenson escapes the barriers of any structures to radiate outwards his particular sense of freedom. And you get this factor especially on Jormin’s hugely expansive piece ‘Kingdom of Coldness’. Fält’s touch at the beginning of ‘Communion Psalm’ is perfect and here Stenson’s devout statement and recapitulation of his theme has a dimensional exactitude that is almost baroque in its sense of discipline and immaculate symmetry.
Stephen Graham, Marlbank
‘Sphere’ further enhances the trio’s reputation as one of the most distinguished and elegant trios working in Europe today. […] 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. Listening to the LP, the sound is gorgeous, crystal clear and atmospheric. There’s a lovely mix of repertoire on this album, with bassist Jormin supplying the new compositions and arranging more traditional pieces. […] The characterful explorations of the trio are at times simply stunning. Jormin’s arrangement of Jung-Hee Woo’s ‘The red flower’ is brought to life by Stenson’s superlative playing. This is a trio in the truest essence, with it being almost impossible to imagine just one of three not being part of the whole.
Mike Gates, UK Vibe
Seelenbalsam ohne Kitsch. Die sehr warm klingende Aufnahme aus dem holzgetäfelten Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano zeigt wieder einmal die ECM-Tugenden: wunderbar transparent und detailreich.
Lothar Brandt, Audio (‘Jazz Highlight’)
Gemeinsam ist diesen Herren eine bemerkenswert starke Neigung, sich neuen musikalischen Herausforderungen zu stellen. War dies auf ‘Cantando’ (2008) beispielsweise Alban Bergs ‘Liebesode’, so wandern die drei nunmehr durch Charles Ives’ reich bestückten Notenwald (‘Unquestioned Answer – Charles Ives in memoriam’) . Aber nicht nur durch diesen, findet zudem doch – neben eigenen Stücken – die melodiöse ‘Valsette’ op. 40/1 von Jean Sibelius Aufmerksamkeit. […] Stenson ist auch gegen Ende seines achten Lebensjahrzehntes ein jung gebliebener Entdecker.
Wolfgang Gratzer, Jazzpodium
‘Sphere’, his latest album with his current cohorts Anders Jormin (bass) and Jon Fält (drums), is a fine example of what he and the Trio do best. Stenson isn’t a flashy player; he’s not given to flights of fleet-fingered fancy or virtuosic soloing. Indeed, he often leaves the filigree to his bandmates – cf. ‘Kingdom of Coldness,’ a near-epic of ascending and descending melody driven as much by Fält’s busy kit work and Jormin’s wandering bass lines as Stenson’s licks. Instead, the bandleader tends to create an atmosphere, one of tuneful riffs and lush block chords, and encourages his pals to fill out the space with their own ideas. That allows Stenson to be both prime mover and anchor, creating the backdrop on ‘The Red Flower’ and ‘Unquestioned Answer – Charles Ives in Memoriam’ that allows Jormin to groove and Fält to cymbal his way around the beat. Stenson’s consistently distinctive sound remains strong on ‘Sphere’, five decades after he created it.
Michael Toland, Big Takeover
‘Sphere’ is another beautiful album by the 78-year-old Swedish pianist and composer Bobo Stenson who, with a unique style, brings his trio to new heights. […] Per Nørgård’s ‘You Shall Plant a Tree’ opens and closes the album with two different versions, immersing us in a vast sea of tranquility and deep feelings. The second track, ‘Unquestioned Answer’, is in memory of the modernist American composer Charles Ives. It’s a spacious Stenson piece shrouded in mystery and restraint where the trio explores emotional atmospheres with occasional abstract scraps and loose threads. The rubato dramatics of ‘Spring’, a classical composition by Sven-Erik Bäck, contrast with the palpable terrain offered by ‘Kingdom of Coldness’, one of the most bewitching cuts on the album. The latter was penned by Jormin, who makes a good use of the arco to define a circular ostinato; Fält creates an irregular stream through hair-raising cymbal scratches and brushed skins; and Stenson is as lucid and sensitive as ever in his melodic candor. […] Stenson , doesn’t hide the classical intonation on Bäck’s ‘Communion Psalm’, touching our souls with an introspective sense of freedom. His superlative melodies are even more intense on the exquisite ‘The Red Flower’, on which the bassist and the drummer build a subtle, stably rooted foundation. The immense beauty of Sibelius’ ‘Valsette Op 40 No. 1’ is possible due to the extraordinary cohesiveness of a one-of-a-kind trio that knows how to navigate spaces with both tantalizing vagueness and conscious direction. Virtuosity lives here with no need to show it off.
Filipe Freitas, Jazz Trail
This is another characteristically imaginative, free-wheeling and delicate release from the Swedish piano trio.
Geoff Andrew, Notes & Observations
Bobo Stenson hat in 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. ‘Sphere’ ist Ausdruck einer ganz eigenen und einzigartigen musikalischen Vision. Eine hingebungsvolle und uneitle Platte, die mit jedem Durchlauf immer noch mehr offenbart.
Sebastian Meißner, Sounds and Books
Stenson realizza una musica severa ed essenziale, mettendo per una volta da parte le proprie composizioni in favore di vari autori d’oggi (ma c’è anche Sibelius, e un sentito omaggio a Charles Ives). Si passa dall’introspettiva meditazione a brani luminosi e danzanti, che possono ricordare il primissimo, avventuroso trio di Keith Jarrett.
Claudio Sessa, Corriere della Sera
Hier, mit seinen deutlich jüngeren Landsleuten, stellt sich eine Balance ein, deren unspektakuläre Schlichtheit fasziniert. Drei Künstler weben gleichberechtigt aus vorhandenen Garnen neuartig schimmernde musikalische Stoffe. Einige Stücke basieren auf Ideen von Anders Jormin, andere auf Werken klassischer skandinavischer Komponisten des 20. Jahrhunderts – des Schweden Sven-Erik Bäck, des Dänen Paul Nørgard, des Norwegers Alfred Janson und des Finnen Jean Sibelius. Das ist aber nur das Material. Das Wesentliche vollzieht sich im Spiel, und die Suche genügt sich weitgehend selbst. Allen, die sich darauf einlassen, bietet die klangschöne Aufnahme feinsten Hörgenuss.  
Jens-Uwe Sommerschuh, Sächsische Zeitung
Une nouvelle fois,on se régale du fin toucher de Bobo Stenson et de l’interplay qu‘il amis en place depuis des années avec ses fidèles partenaires. Un jalon de plus dans une carrière dédiée à la beauté.
Jean-Pierre Goffin, Jazz Halo
Bobo Stenson ist mit seinen langjährigen Partnern, dem Bassisten Anders Jormin und dem Schlagzeuger Jon Fält, eine Einmaligkeit. Allein mit seinem Feingefühl, seiner Diskretion und einer sich um jede Phrasierung sorgenden Anschlagskultur, ferner mit dem Fluss der Synergien im kollektiven Dreieck hat Stenson einen unverwechselbaren Werkkörper jenseits der im weiteren Sinne verwandten Klangsprache von Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett oder auch Paul Bley geschaffen – im harmonisch abgeschatteten, vieldeutig gleitenden Bereich, aber auch mit leuchtend dagegengesetzten Melodielinien.
Peter Rüedi, Weltwoche
Habitué du label ECM depuis 1974, le pianiste suédois signe avec ‘Sphere’ le témoignage de vagabondage toujours aussi singuliers […] un voyage immersif aux mélodies et textures riches de subtiles variations. […] le trio offre une musique profondément intimiste […] De plages en plages, on se laisse captiver par ces développements harmoniques et délicates échappées improvisées. […] le jeu de Stenson: sensible, clair, son phrasé au lyrisme et à l’élégance tranquille prend le temps d’écloire, d’explorer, d’interagir en symbiose quasiment clanique avec ses partenaires. […] Un trio majeur à son sommet.          
Jean-Pierre Vidal, Jazz Magazine
Stenson’s current trio released ‘Cantando’, ‘Indicum’ and ‘Contra La Indecision’. Now there is ‘Sphere’. It is impossible to rank these four recordings. All are magical. All convey a sense of concentrated, timeless purity, as if they were preserved in amber. Jormin and Fält are the subtlest of collaborators, yet they continuously enlarge this music, Jormin with his illuminating bass subtexts, Fält with his hushed, perfectly timed cymbal swells.
Thomas Conrad, Stereophile
European piano trios, many of whom come from a classical background, often sound very different from their American jazz counterparts. Such is the case for Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson who made his debut with ECM a whopping 52 years ago with ‘Underwear’ and has remained in the ECM stable with producer Manfred Eicher ever since. […] ‘Sphere’, is their fourth project, similar in some respects to 2018’s Contra La Indecisión but containing just two originals. It is primarily comprised of works by 20th and 21st century Scandinavian composers including Per Nørgård, Sven-Erik Bäck, and Jean Sibelius, and offers two originals by Jormin. It’s a quiet album that demands a concentrated listen but rewards with a ‘lost in the music’ lasting effect which may have you returning to it when in a particularly contemplative mood. […] Only an experienced trio of this ilk could make this explorative music. Stenson and Jormin have been together for over four decades now and do not seem the least bit bored. Again, this is high level listening that demands full concentration for which you will be justly rewarded. This one is special.
Jim Hynes, Making A Scene
‘Sphere’,  sein neuestes Album mit seinen aktuellen  Mitspielern Anders Jormin (Bass) und Jon Fält (Schlagzeug),ist ein schönes Beispiel dafür, wie in diesem Ensemble Erfahrung, Sensibilität, Risikofreude und lyrische Kraft aufs Schönste zusammenfinden.
Achim Doppler, Concerto
While Stenson can groove and burn with the best-exemplified by his work on ’Witchi-Tai-To’, the album he cut in 1973 with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen, the discipline of classical music has long meant much to him. […]  A piece by Denmark’s Carl Nielsen featured on 2011’s ‘Indicum’ while ‘Contra La Indecisión’ of 2016 had material by Bartók, Mompou and Satie. ‘Sphere’ extends and intensifies this tendency. The album opens with Danish composer Per Nørgård’s ‘You Shall Plant A Tree’ and closes with a variation on this poised, patient and utterly beautiful meditation. There are two equally affecting pieces, ’Spring’ and ‘Communion Psalm’, from Sweden’s Sven-Erik Bäck (1919-1994), one (‘Valsette’) from Sibelius, and one (‘Ky and beautiful madame Ky’) from the Norwegian Alfred Janson (1937-2019)  – whose own work bridged jazz and classical worlds. […] Likewise the import of swing, most immediately evident in the lovely flowing take on Jung-Hee Woo’s ‘The Red Flower’ but a factor throughout this exceptional album: an album which cannot but recall the words that Nørgård wrote in his youth to Sibelius, when he praised the lyrical strength of music that might encourage ’the open mind [..] to lead a simpler […] and ineffably richer life.’  
Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal
Stensons luzide Lyrizität sucht nach wie vor ihresgleichen, für sein Klaviertrio gilt das Nämliche.
Harry Schmidt, Jazzthetik
The repertoire on ‘Sphere’ is focused almost entirely on Europe: two pieces by Jormin, one by the Danish composer Per Norgard, two by Sven-Erik Bäck, a Swedish composer who specialised in sacred music, one by the Norwegian pianist Alfred Janson, Sibelius’s ‘Valsette’ and the geographical outlier, a contribution by the Korean composer Jung-Hee Woo. Beginning and ending with limpid versions of Norgard’s ‘You Shall Plant a Tree’, the trio slide through the nine tracks so fluidly that each becomes a part of the whole, a single mood smoothing out (but not degrading) the very different contours and emotions of Bäck’s ‘Communion Psalm’, the gentle entanglements of Janson’s ‘Ky and the Beautiful Madame Ky’ and Woo’s ‘The Red Flower’, a springy waltz. The result is a very personal evolution of the impressionistic approach pioneered by Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, the jazz piano trio in its modern classical guise.
Richard Williams, The Blue Moment
Man spürt, dass sich die Musiker in grösster Vertrautheit begegnen und trotzdem in keinem Moment auch nur annähernd einer Routine verfallen; ihren Interaktionen scheint etwas Einmaliges, Jungfräuliches, vollkommen Unverdorbenes innezuwohnen. Die Leichtigkeit, mit der sie uns in ihre Geschichten verwickeln, die überraschenden Akzente und Auslassungen,  das Interplay und wie sich alles in größter Selbstverständlichkeit und im Fliessen ergibt – davon lebt die wunderbare Magie dieses traumtänzerischen Trios. Dabei ist es fast nebensächlich, was gespielt wird – hier Themen aus unterschiedlichen nordischen Quellen, – die drei Meister wissen damit immer Gescheites anzufangen, ihre Chemie bringt jegliche Musik natürlich zum Funkeln, wobei der Raum für Melancholie und das Überraschende immer offen und geheimnisvoll bleibt. Manchmal genügt eine kleine Geste, ein unerwarteterTon, der die ganze Spannung auf eher leise und umso wirkungsvollere Art entfacht. Große Kunst.
Steff Rohrbach, Jazz’n’more
La communion entre ces trois-là dépassent tout ce qu’on a entendu dans la formule piano-basse-batterie […] Une nouvelle fois, on se regale du fin toucher de Bobo Stenson et de l’interplay qu’il a mis en place depuis des années avec ses fidèles partenaires. Un jalon de plus dans une carrière dédiée à la beauté.
Jean-Pierre Goffin, Jazz Mania
On ‘Sphere’, the first three songs are quite impressionistic and seem like sparse free improvisations although each is based around a composition. Starting with the fourth selection, ‘Kingdom Of Coldness,’ the melodies become stronger and the trio swings in its own way. While Stenson is the lead voice, bassist Jormin has his solo spots while drummer Falt displays subtle ideas that quietly uplift the music. […] the final two-thirds of the CD is filled with rich melodies that Stenson and his trio build upon in fascinating fashion, making this an ultimately rewarding recording.
Scott Yanow, L.A. Jazz Szene
Die kontemplative Oberfläche seiner Triomusik ist (Anders Jormin am Kontrabaß, Jon Fält am Schlagzeug) ist jedoch nur Ausgangspunkt für Meditationen, die gewissermaßen das Unbewusste in dunklen Farben, Traumdramen und entrückten Instrumentalgesängen erhellen. Jederzeit kann auf ‘Sphere’ harmonische Komplexität ausbrechen, die zeigt, dass diese Spontanmusik mindestens doppelten Boden besitzt und damit auch Tiefe.
Ljubisa Tošic, Der Standard
Étape decisive dans sa carrière étroitement liée à ECM, Bobo Stenson donne naissance à ’Sphere’qui vient s’imposer comme une éclatante demonstration de l’art du trio piano, contrebasse et batterie. […] Ce trio est l’une des références européennes, tant l’entente des musiciens est fondamentale. […] l’introspection esquissée dans cet album révèle une variété de climats empreints d’une chaleur à la fois tender et nostalgique. La géométrie de cette formation sublime un point d’équilibre, faisant de ‘Sphere’ une pure extase musicale.
Mario Borroni, Citizen Jazz   
Kein Zweifel, dieses Album gibt einen Einblick in die Musik eines der großen ‘working trios’ unserer Tage.
Tom Fuchs, Piano News
On this new release, they open and close the album with a piece by the Swedish composer Per Nørgård (b. 1932) titled ‘You Shall Plant a Tree’. This is fascinating music – there is a melody here, but the three musicians are also freely exploring. […] The trio’s bassist, Anders Jormin, contributes a couple of pieces, one of them (‘Unquestioned Answer – Charles Ives in Memoriam’) inspired by Charles Ives, with a similar feeling of ambiguity; the other (‘Kingdom of Coldness’) tending into more familiar jazz territory. […] Sven-Erik Bäck (1919-1994) was a Swedish classical composer. His ‘Communion Psalm’ is an expressive piece that communicates a sense of reverence and ritual. From the late Norwegian pianist and composer Alfred Janson (1937-2019) comes ‘Ky and Beautiful Madame Ky’, restless and percussive. And then there is the Sibelius, his brief original piece for solo piano here stretched out by the trio more than five times its original length, improvised, given a whole new meaning and feeling. Beautiful recorded sound […] a highly recommendable release for both jazz and classical fans.
Karl W. Nehring, Classical Candor
Seine Trio-Aufnahmen sind beachtlich und künstlerisch vielleicht das Konzentrat seiner Arbeit. Nun ist ‘Sphere’ erschienen, mit den mittlerweile auch schon wieder langjährigen Partnern Anders Jormin und John Fält. ‘Wir spielen keine ‘vorkonfektionierten’ Sachen’, erklärt Bobo Stenson. ‘Dinge kristallisieren sich im Moment heraus und wir richten uns daran aus. Und das ist es im Kern schon. Das ist das Schöne am Zusammenspielen, dass wir das Gleiche niemals zweimal machen und dass wir von diesem Grundsatz nicht abweichen.’ Trotzdem gibt es für dieses Album einige Anregungen ‘von außen’, die sich das Trio zu eigen macht. Es sind, bis auf zwei Titel von Anders Jormin, Kompositionen der Skandinavier Alfred Janson, Per Nørgård, Sven-Erik Bäck und Jean Sibelius, die hier mit sehr individuellen Noten und Fantasien angereichert werden. Doch es erklingen in diesen Interpretationen statt mehr, weniger Töne. Stenson, Jormin und Fält lösen sich von allen Zwängen und Koventionen, sie folgen den eigenen Gedanken, schaffen stille Reibung und meditative Spannung. Es sind poetische Assoziationen, die die Intimität der Aufnahme auf der Basis des zwischenmenschlichen Austauschs ständig steigern. So gehen Leidenschaft und Würde ohne Pathos Hand in Hand.
Jörg Konrad, Kultkomplott
This stunning-sounding set, recorded for ECM in Lugano, is the fourth outing for Stenson’s trio, with Anders Jormin on bass and drummer Jon Fält. The easy familiarity of the three playing together allows them to tackle a range of works by 20th and 21st century composers, including three original works by Jormin. Opening with Per Nørgård’s ‘You Shall Plant A Tree’ before moving into Jormin’s tribute to Charles Ives, the set swings into Jung-Hee Woo’s ‘The Red Flower’ and on to Sibelius’s ‘Valsette op. 40/1’ before coming back to rest with variations on the opening track. The musicianship is sensational throughout, in both arrangements and performances, and enhanced by a stellar recording by ECM founder Manfred Eicher.
Andrew Everard, HiFi News
Questo lavoro pubblicato dall’etichetta ECM ribadische l’affinità artistica maturate nel corso dei decenni di collaborazione tra Bobo Stenson e la casa discografica di Manfred Eicher.
Alessandro Rigolli, Gazzetta di Parma
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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