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Jakob Bro: Gefion

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The 37-year-old Danish guitarist and composer Jakob Bro, whose sideman credits include drummer Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band and Tomasz Stanko’s Dark Eyes Quintet, deals almost exclusively with the sort of twinkling, reflective, melancholic music that descends ultimately from midcentury chamber jazz and directly from Motian’s trio with guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano. Over the past 12 years, he’s become a champion of rubato wistfulness, quietly releasing stunning albums through his own Loveland imprint, some featuring startlingly high-profile personnel. (2009’s Balladeering, for instance, boasts Motian, Frisell, Lee Konitz and Ben Street.) Now Bro has recorded as a bandleader for ECM, where his Nordic-noir surfaces fit like a glove.

Gefion is an important album, not because it’s the best thing Bro has ever done but because the label’s ardent following and conglomerate-sized distribution will hopefully expand his base. Aesthetically this trio session with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Jon Christensen is business as usual. Shards of folkish melody reveal themselves slowly as the rhythm section swirls around and underneath-Morgan inserting his own LaFaro-worthy asides and occasionally keeping time, Christensen dusting the floor à la Motian.

In Bro, new listeners will identify Bill Frisell’s shimmery tone and textural gentility, but the comparisons end there. The younger guitarist homes in on atmosphere with an intensity approaching David Torn’s; a discussion of typical jazz-guitar properties like soloing and rhythm playing is futile, because they aren’t there. Come to Bro for the ambience but stay for the gorgeous intersections of melody and harmony, as on this album’s “Copenhagen” or Balladeering‘s “Evening Song.” There’s always at least one theme or revolving arpeggio that evokes both deep wilderness and urban twilight yet nothing in between.

Originally Published