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Jakob Bro: Returnings (ECM)

Review of album from Danish guitarist

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Cover of Jakob Bro album Returnings
Cover of Jakob Bro album Returnings

If Danish guitarist Jakob Bro needed a good reason to further explore some of the music he’s recorded in recent years while also breaking new ground, he clearly found it here, collaborating with trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Jon Christensen in an intimate, fluidly interactive session.

Not surprisingly, given Mikkelborg’s stellar contributions, an understated soulfulness marks this collection of mostly Bro-penned pieces, beginning with a gorgeous reprise of “October.” The affecting, resonating tones Mikkelborg projects on trumpet and flugelhorn are so generously showcased throughout the album, the music might seem tailored to accommodate his expressive gifts if the performances weren’t so multifaceted. In addition to accenting and shading Mikkelborg’s solos, often in artfully improvised tandem with Morgan and Christensen, Bro fashions a series of thematic solos that consistently underscore the economical and lyrical quality of his writing.

His sparse single-note lines and melodic bent occasionally bring to mind John Abercrombie, Bill Frisell and likeminded spirits. Yet both the familiar and fresh compositions project a distinct allure, variously laced with blues inflections, odd intervals, strings of unresolved triplets and effects-triggered dynamic shifts. The mood is mostly subdued, however, so you won’t find Bro busily running scales or abruptly deploying altered chords for funk’s sake. Nor will you find him engaging in routine exchanges with his similarly self-effacing bandmates when opportunities for free-flowing interplay arise, as “Song for Nicolai,” “View” and other highlights illustrate. All this bodes well for the quartet’s European festival performances this summer.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Returnings by Jakob Bro on iTunes.




Originally Published