Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Thoughtful and poetic, Gefion is Danish guitarist Jakob Bro's first ECM album as leader, following his sideman work with Paul Motian and Tomasz Stanko. Like the work of those masters Bro's balladeering distils a sense of jazz history in its specific and highly personal atmospheres. He is joined by drum legend Jon Christensen and creative bassist-of-the-moment Thomas Morgan.
Personnel: Jakob Bro (guitar); Jon Christensen (drums); Thomas Morgan (double bass).
Recording information: Rainbow Studio, Oslo (11/2013).
Photographer: Ryo Mitamura.
Though Gefion is Jakob Bro's debut as a leader for ECM, the guitarist is a seasoned veteran in the recording studio. The Danish guitarist has been releasing under his own name for the Loveland label since 2003. He has also recorded on ECM before, first as a member of Paul Motian's band for 2006's Garden of Eden (the great drummer later returned the favor on one of Bro's records), and as part of Tomasz Stanko's group for 2009's Dark Eyes. Bassist Thomas Morgan has played on a couple of the guitarist's recordings over the past six years and appeared on Stanko's 2013 date Wislawa. Jon Christensen, the veteran drummer whose free-floating, whispering restraint has made him iconic, played with Stanko in the latter years of the 20th century. The trio has been playing together since 2012. For those unfamiliar with Bro, the influence of Bill Frisell (who appeared on his 2013 set December Song along with Lee Konitz, Morgan, and Craig Taborn) is unmistakable. A pristine, atmospheric, lyrical, warm tone, elegant use of reverb, and a reluctance to play anything "extra" are all Frisell hallmarks. That said, Bro's playing is also decidedly European. Melodic frames are suggestions for explorations and he seldom takes them head on. Here it is Morgan who plays both a lyric center as well as a more insistent -- yet still sparse -- harmonic foil. Listen to the long, quietly unfolding title track for evidence. Add to this Christensen's unhurried, texturally contrasting cymbal work, which never centers but moves behind and in front of "the beat" to underscore the interactions between his partners and extend them with his own sense of lyricism. "And They All Came Marching Out of the Woods" reveals the most active interaction between these players. Led off by Morgan playing a set line, Bro moves front and center with one- and two-line articulations as Christensen slips through his lines with a wash of cymbals, adding tom-toms and even occasional force on the snare. The ideas on display here offer a portrait of the kind of direct harmonic engagement this trio can get up to. "Lyskaster" is completely solo, a haunting, sparse, whispering of resonance and suggestion. "Oktober" is actually a waltz, the slip of a single-note bassline accenting Bro's reverbed and digitally delayed intention of melody, moving chorus after chorus until Morgan begins to play chord lines and Christensen's darkly tinged cymbal bells point outward to something in the fringes that is implied rather than asserted. Morgan solos briefly near the end with a hint of a "song," but it fades before that occurs. That it never quite emerges underscores the beauty in the trio's exploration of the ambiguous rather than in direct utterance. Gefion is quiet; it never insists. The listeners' attention can be focused on the intersection of sounds and spaces because what emerges in the end is remarkable for all of its deliberate restraint. ~ Thom Jurek