Bobo Stenson – ” Goodbye ” (With Anders Jormin and Paul Motian) – ECM

by | Feb 26, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Bobo Stenson – ” Goodbye ” (With Anders Jormin and Paul Motian) – ECM 1904 ****:

Back in the 1970s when I first began buying ECM vinyl LPs, the most striking thing about the gorgeous Manfred Eicher sound was how well he was able to capture the cymbals.  In all probability this was my introduction to Jack DeJohnette, as he seemed to almost be the ECM “house drummer” back in the day.  Over the years Eicher and his production team have remained one of the sonic standard-bearers, while even improving on their audio landscape successes.  The label has also established an enviable reputation for creating the chamber jazz genre.  All in all, an achievement of great note.  Heck, its magnitude could even be compared to the ubiquitous Rudy Van Gelder Blue Note sound, but just utilizing a different approach.

If one is focusing on percussion, Paul Motian certainly is right up there with DeJohnette, Roach, Haynes, Higgins, the Joneses and all the others.  He knows how to lay down a texture appropriate to the feel of a tune as he has demonstrated on hundreds of tracks.  On this “Goodbye” release, Mr. Motian steps in for Swedish Stenson’s usual drummer, Norwegian Jon Christensen.  The results are top flight.

This type of disc brings back the age-old audiophile dialogue about what’s more important:  the performance or the sound.  In other words, do serious listeners concentrate more on the playing or their playback system?  I’ll tell ya, on this one it’s pretty tough.  The engineering is absolutely first rate.  (I may have missed something over the years, but since when did James A. Farber take over ECM engineering chores from guys like Jan Erik Kongshaug?).  At any rate, it pays big dividends here as the sound on this release is exquisite.

Bobo Stenson might be more of a classical pianist than a jazz artist.  As proof, the first track, “Send In The Clowns”, hints at the tune before going off on a majestic journey incorporating periodic tidbits of the well-known standard.  An idiosyncratic treatment to say the least.  But this is representative of the entire program (a generous 14 selections at a TT of 70:13).  Throughout, the selections are played as a group, never as a pianist with a rhythm section.  On this one, it’s definitely 1+1+1=3.  A meeting of equals with each selection equally shared.  The Jarrett-influenced Stenson exudes class and style.  He feels no need to race on the keys – his mainly spare style is entirely refreshing.  He does, however, let loose on Ornette Coleman’s disc-closing “Race Face”.  Bassist Jormin’s performance is a total eye-opener.  The man is great.  Paul Motian absolutely thrives in this environment (program concept complemented by sympathetic production qualities).  But together, it gives the listener a feeling of great taste.  It’s pretty stupid to envision someone sitting alone in the dark listening while congratulating himself on having the ability to select such a magnificent jazz trio disc over all the others out there.  True audiophiles know the feeling.  In this case it is fully justified.  An excellent release!

– Birney Brown

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