Jazz CD Reviews

Bobo Stenson Trio – Cantando – ECM

This stunning trio recording fully displays and sums up ECM’s original vision of what jazz should be.

Published on September 17, 2008

Bobo Stenson Trio – Cantando – ECM

Bobo Stenson Trio – Cantando – ECM 2023, 77:32 *****:

(Bobo Stenson – piano; Anders Jormin – double-bass; Jon Fält – drums)

For more than 40 years, Bobo Stenson has been astounding the jazz world with his unique pianistic conceptions and startlingly original playing.  Cantando, his latest, not only sums up his long and fertile career, it represents some of his finest playing ever.

One of the most striking features of Bobo Stenson’s work is his ability to weave a gorgeous tapestry from remarkably disparate materials.  Cantando, the Spanish word for singing, truly describes the enchanting music contained herein.  Be it a rarely heard Ornette Coleman piece, “A Fixed Goal,” an Alban Berg composition gracefully rendered, “Liebesode,” Don Cherry’s lovely “Don’s Corapiece,” New Tango from Astor Piazzolla, “Chiquilin de Bachin,” a collective improv from the band, “Pages,” or the darkly beautiful “Song of Ruth” from the recently deceased Czech composer, Petr Eben, here given two interpretations, each quite different—Stenson unfailingly finds the exquisite heart of each piece even as he links them one to another and eloquently draws out their interconnections.

Is there another living jazz pianist with such range?  Perhaps Frank Kimbrough, but the two sound nothing alike and draw from very different sources, inspirations, and materials.  Stenson has long mined the margins of jazz—folk songs, chamber music, classical composers, German lieder, show tunes—and transformed them into authentic vehicles of improvisation.  His grand understanding and use of space combined with a delicacy of touch and oddly pulsing time concept make him among the most original jazz pianists on the scene today.  

The band, which has been on the road together for several years, achieves a level of cohesive interaction rare these days.  Anders Jormin may be the most expressive and wide-ranging double bassist alive.  What makes him so special is that his prodigal technique is always in service to the needs of the band, never on display for personal aggrandizement or mere showmanship.  Amazingly, Cantando represents drummer Jon Fält’s recorded debut.  His deep swing, rhythmic deftness, and attention to detail belie his age (30) and lack of recorded experience.  Achingly beautiful, casually virtuosic, impossibly wide-ranging, Cantando represents some of the finest jazz of the new millennium.

TrackList: Olivia, Song of Ruth, Wooden Church, M, Chiquilin de Bachin, Pages, Don’s Corapiece, A Fixed Goal, Love I’ve Found You, Liebesode, Song of Ruth (alt. version)

– Jan P. Dennis

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