Jakob Bro - Returnings

Label: ECM, 2018

Personnel – Jakob Bro: guitar; Palle Mikkelborg: trumpet; Thomas Morgan: double bass; Jon Christensen: drums.

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Danish guitarist Jakob Bro might not be a heavyweight like Rosenwinkel, Frisell, or Metheny, but is a legitimate owner of a sui generis sound whose rich tones usually translates into intimate musical settings.

On Returnings, his third release on ECM, the guitarist plays alongside the sought-after American bassist Thomas Morgan, a regular in his bands, and a pair of veteran musicians: Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen. The latter returns after a one-year hiatus, retrieving the drum chair that, two years ago, was occupied by Joey Baron on the previous recording, Streams. 

The album starts with “Oktober”, a compassionate, stagnant song previously recorded in the album Gefion, and rearranged at this point with a combination of idyllic, cordial, and intensely emotional manners. The balmy trumpet-led melodies tell a story, conveying a comforting tonality and reinforcing what Bro had delivered in the original version.

On the following tune” Strands”, the quartet presses on with the contagious languor that characterizes their routines. Sticking to light textures, Bro fingerpicks beautiful voicings while Morgan’s touches show how wide can the possibilities be when he’s around. The percussion, simultaneously unobtrusive and unflashy, really makes the difference in the creation of an ultrapolished fascination that gains further emphasis throughout the melodious routes of “Lyskaster”, another original from Gefion. The piece, strongly influenced by folk and pop idioms, have all the four instrumentalists taking part in a circular congruity.

Although composed for the Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun, we can picture icy landscapes while listening to “Hamsun”. This guitar/bass duet, partly inspired by Paul Motian, has the bassist nodding to the lyric suggestions of the bandleader.

Standing out from the remaining tunes due to a more experimental sonority, the title track features Bro’s curious electronic effects, Christensen’s unflappable drumming, Morgan's unremittingly spot-on bass notes, and the precise trumpet lines uttered by Mikkelborg, often mirroring or matching the guitarist’s melodic suggestions. Mikkelborg co-wrote this song with Bro, but also supplies a couple more compositions of his own: “View” and “Youth”. The former defies form as it operates outside the conventional, having drums and bass pairing down to create moments of orbital suspension. The latter, solely outlined by guitar and trumpet, sheds tears as it evokes nostalgia, wistfulness, and abandonment.

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.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Oktober ►05 - Lyskaster ►07 - Returnings 


Jakob Bro - Streams

Jakob Bro: guitar; Thomas Morgan: double bass; Joey Baron: drums.

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Jakob Bro is a Danish jazz guitarist with a highly identifiable sound and deep intimacy inherent to his poetic approach and pallid textures. Streams, his second album on ECM, is a more-than-competent follow-up to Gefion, released one year ago on the same label.
In this transcendent body of work, Bro kept the outstanding bassist Thomas Morgan on his side, giving the drummer’s chair to Joey Baron, who replaced Jon Christensen.

Opal” starts with a comprehensive circumspection. The trio embarks on a touching quietude that envelops us profoundly, instigating us to fly, open our hearts and souls, and gaze the infinite light beams that can traverse the scattered clouds up in the sky.
Heroines” assumes a song format, shinning with Bro’s blissful melodies, Morgan’s dedicated bass notes, and Baron’s frequent gentile ruffs. It conveys a glowing harmony that I refuse to let go, even when the following track arrives.

The relentlessly atmospheric “PM Dream”, dedicated to Paul Motian, expands horizons after developing delicate layers of guitar-synth that fall on top of bass free moves and pertinent percussion. Baron almost feels geometric in its strokes, eagerly trying to give the last retouches on a flawless canvas.
Cerebrally designed, “Full Moon Europa”, precedes the surprisingly groovy “Shell Pink”, which gracefully flows amidst the floating sounds created by Bro’s guitar fingerings. The rhythm section boasts an enviable tightness, fundamental to attain this level of quality.
The indelible classical undertones of “Heroines” echoes again, this time in an enchanting solo version.

Jakob Bro relies heavily on his peers to create an elegant album, free of individual exhibitionism, which is an assured itinerary for his compositional concepts. The collective does miracles as it distinctively shapes idle, hypnotizing, nocturnal, and intellectual streams of pacific nature.

          Grade  A

          Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Opal ► 02 – Heroines ► 05 – Shell Pink