Jakob Bro ‘Bay Of Rainbows’ LP/CD (ECM) 4/5

Guitarist Jakob Bro is in prolific form and has previously recorded as a leader for ECM, notably the critically acclaimed quartet album, ‘Returnings’, from earlier this year. This intimate trio outing pursues not dissimilar territory and, in trio format, follows on from the excellent 2016 studio recording, ‘Streams’. Interestingly, this new album was recorded live over two evenings at the Jazz Standard in New York, yet only weighs in at under fifty minutes which is a little surprising. The all-original selection of compositions includes a personal favourite that was previously recorded on ‘Gefion‘, namely ‘Copenhagen’, and is in essence a simple melodic guitar riff over which the acoustic bass of Thomas Morgan performs a largely supportive role. The number is indeed evocative of the city, possibly at either sunset or in the twilight hours, and reflects the quieter dimension that permeates any major city. A repetitive riff on bass greets the listener on, ‘Dug’, which, in addition, features a drum roll and electric guitar musings, while Morgan solos with increasing intensity. That developing pace is reflected by the deft use of the cymbals by Joey Baron, while guitarist Bro enters with echo to useful effect. Influenced by Bill Frisell among others, this live performance is noteworthy for its mid-tempo and deeply melodic phrasing and this is amply illustrated by a repeated motif on guitar on ‘Evening Song’ and the delightful empathy between Morgan and Bro makes this a thrilling rendition. An elongated riff lasting just over eleven minutes develops into a hypnotic piece on the second version of ‘Mild’, with the former opening up the album with a relaxing paced groove. In places, there is something of a dream-like quality to the music, with ‘Red Hook’ seemingly not having a starting point and, in general, a semi-rehearsed atmosphere, though within a general and coherent structure. Not quite on a par with ‘Returnings‘ but impressive musicianship nonetheless.

Tim Stenhouse