The great Swedish trio of Bobo Stenson takes a stand against indecision in a decisively beautiful new album. As ever, the trio draws upon a wide range of source materials. A yearning title song by Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, Bartók’s adaptation of a Slovak folk song, a piece from Mompou’s Cançons I Danses collection, and Erik Satie’s Elégie are integrated into the programme, alongside original compositions by Stenson and Anders Jormin and group improvising. So strong is the group’s character and the musical identity of each of its members that the integration of this material always feels organic and logical. Stenson’s lyrical touch, Jormin’s folk-flavoured arco bass and Jon Fält’s flickering, textural drumming are all well-displayed on Contra la indecision, the trio’s first new recording in six years. Produced by Manfred Eicher, the album was recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI studio in May 2017.
Norwegian drummer/composer Thomas Strønen presents a revised edition of his acoustic collective Time Is A Blind Guide, now trimmed to quintet size, and with a new pianist in Wakayama-born Ayumi Tanaka. Tanaka has spoken of seeking associative connections between Japan and Norway in her improvising, a tendency Strønen seems to be encouraging with his space-conscious writing for the ensemble, letting in more light. As on the group’s eponymously-titled and critically-lauded debut album there are excellent contributions from the string players – the quintet effectively contains both a string trio and a piano trio – and Manfred Eicher’s production brings out all the fine detail in the grain of the collective sound and the halo of its overtones, captured in the famously-responsive acoustic of Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo in March 2017.
Improvisation assumes a fresh experience, an unfamiliarity with what is to come, a disruption of expectations. How much more intense and disorienting the experience becomes in the music of Markus Eichenberger and Daniel Studer. Each one has an impressive résumé of musical adventures, but as a duo their music expresses special qualities and asks challenging questions. Suspended offers no customary structures, no consistent prototypes; the titles are not instructions, illustrations, or explanations. Manipulating an abstract dialect of sounds, many of them in the grey area between recognizable pitch and expressive noise, they initiate a system of relationships that allows – requires – the listener to participate in the spontaneous search for meaning.
Jazz bass players are typically heard and not seen, but the lack of Stanley Clarke pictures on this predominantly instrumental collection of some of his best work is still alarming. No photos and no liner notes other than track personnel make this appear like a quickie release, maybe one without much of Clarke's input. Regardless, the 14 tracks compiled here are some of the bassist's best moments from notoriously uneven albums recorded between 1974 and 1989, with two previously unreleased tunes waxed in April 1995. As a jazz-funk bassist Clarke is perhaps without peers, and his second, third, and fourth albums from 1974-1976 best captured that style before he deteriorated into second-rate disco and watered-down R&B in the late '70s and '80s…