Jakob Bro ‘Gefion’ (ECM) 3/5 & 4/5

jakob-broI first heard Danish guitarist Jakob Bro on his 2013 release “December Song” (on Loveland Records), featuring a very on-form Lee Konitz. A wonderful album, reminding me immediately of the late, great Paul Motian and his trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano, I went on to listen to a few other releases featuring Bro including one by Paul Motian’s Elektric Bebop band. If there is a Zen Buddhist Guitar Master out there who trained Bill Frisell many years ago, he now has a new student. The comparisons between Frisell and Bro are inevitable… Frisell even featured on Bro’s aforementioned “December Song”. Jakob Bro though, is very much his own man, and with sought-after American bassist Thomas Morgan and Norweigan drummer and ECM stalwart Jon Christensen, the trio have made the incredibly beautiful “Gefion”, Bro’s first ECM release as a leader.
As I sat listening to the album’s ten minute opener and title track “Gefion”, the first thing that struck me was the gorgeous sound. As we have come to expect from ECM, this is stunningly recorded. The combination of Bro’s spacious, multi layered guitar sound, with Morgan’s natural, woody bass and Christensen’s crisp, ethereal drums make for an almost mystical, meditative listening experience. Bro, Morgan and Christensen create landscapes of sound that are achingly beautiful, sparse, yet full bodied at the same time. As the title track unfolded in my ears, releasing its secrets and gentle wonder, my mind wandered to thoughts of legendary folkster John Martyn. In the early 70’s Martyn was a true innovator as he developed his delay/reverb sounds from an echoplex tape machine. If Martyn had played electric guitar at that time, along with his ever reliable bassist Danny Thompson, this could have been what “Small Hours” may have sounded like in a cleverly utilised digital era. The relationship fostered and nurtured between guitar and bass is at its best here. Thoughtful, insightful interplay as the two instruments combine; the perfect foil for Christensen’s textural drumming. The pensive, reflective “Copenhagen” leads us into the bass driven “And they came marching out of the woods”. Highlighting the close musical relationship between Bro and Morgan, in another time and place this could be a soundtrack to a David Lynch movie. The haunting “White” conjures thoughts of a traveller winding his way across snow-capped mountains. A calm, contemplative aura is created by the trio throughout the 8 tracks, none more so than on the brooding “Lyskaster”, which in turn gives way to “Airport Poem”, with its solemn melancholia. “Oktober” is reminiscent of an Ennio Morriconi masterpiece. I can see Henry Fonda’s blue eyes staring at me through a haunted expression in Sergio Leoni’s epic “Once upon a time in the West”. “Gefion” closes with “Ending”, a slow, meandering landscape that gently walks us to the end of the album.

To get the most from “Gefion” you will need to be prepared to sit back and relax, allowing the music to drift effortlessly into your subconscious. Go with the flow of it and and you’ll enjoy an insightful, meditative musical experience.

Mike Gates Rating 4/5

Danish guitarist Jakob Bro may be a new name to some, but while this is his debut as a leader for ECM, he has recorded as sideman as long as a decade ago, for both Paul Motian (‘Garden of Eden’) and Tomasz Stanko ( ‘Dark Eyes’). The atmosphere throughout is relaxed on this guitar trio outing and the tone is set on the gentle and laid back opener and title track. Introspection permeates ‘Copenhagen’ with some lovely bass work from Thomas Morgan who stands out while Bro engages in some intricate guitar work. For a more uplifting journey, the melodic intro to the intriguingly titled, ‘And they all came marching out of the world’, features a lovely repetitive bass line while Bro maintains an air of restraint as the vastly experienced ECM drummer Jon Christensen lays down some subtle and inventive percussion. After graduating from Berklee, Jakob Bro has performed with some prestigious musicians including Paul Bley, Lee Konitz and Kenny Wheeler, but surely the influence of fellow guitarist Bill Frisell is the most discernible on this particular recording. There needs to be more work on the compositional side which will surely come in time, but this is nonetheless a commendable first album and the gentle explorations in sound will yield fruitful results in the years to come.

Tim Stenhouse Rating 3/5