Bobo Stenson Trio: Contra la Indecisión (ECM)

Review of album by Swedish jazz pianist and his longtime trio

Cover of Bobo Stenson Trio album Contra la Indecisión on ECM
Cover of Bobo Stenson Trio album on ECM

Contra la Indecisión is scintillating, soothing … and soporific. It is not to be attempted without a cup of coffee. Its sleep charm overcome, however, pianist Bobo Stenson and his longtime trio (bassist Anders Jormin, drummer Jon Fält) offer soundscapes of atmospheric beauty and stunning interplay in its melodies and texture.

Even the tunes on the record with rhythmic stridency prioritize softness. Fält plays brushes on Silvio Rodriguez’s “Cancion Contra la Indecisión,” Satie’s “Élégie” and Jormin’s “Oktoberhavet,” and focuses almost entirely on hi-hat and ride cymbal on the collectively improvised “Kalimba Impressions” (when not picking out muffled notes on the titular instrument). He and Jormin intensify their attacks on the bassist’s swingers “Doubt Thou the Stars” and “Stilla,” but Stenson tempers them with restrained theme statements and thoughtful solos. Jormin clarifies his quiet intentions on “Doubt Thou the Stars,” first with a weeping arco line in the introduction, then with an exquisite sotto voce solo.

The rest is gentleness. It’s not gentleness that elides detail, though; Stenson embroiders Bartók’s “Wedding Song From Poniky” with intricate turns of phrase, and Jormin subtly adds a near countermelody in his bassline. Fält’s stickwork on Jormin’s “Three Shades of a House” and Frederic Mompou’s “Canción y Danza VI” become part of the main melodies, sidestepping momentum entirely to add spontaneous coloring to the pianist’s explorations. (Jormin joins Fält in this mission on Stenson’s eerie “Alice.”) It doesn’t happen often, but on Contra la Indecisión, torpor is a virtue.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Contra la Indecisión by Bobo Stenson Trio on iTunes.

Read Thomas Conrad’s feature on Bobo Stenson in JazzTimes.

Listen to the Bobo Stenson Trio album Contra la Indecisión on Spotify:

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.