Bobo Stenson Trio ‘Contra La Indecisión’ CD (ECM) 4/5

There has been a wait of some six years for this trio to record together again with the much praised, ‘Indicum’ setting a high bar to match, and yet the belated follow up is every bit as strong and reflective. It is no accident that this trio have performed as one for over three decades and this includes being the rhythm section for, at different periods, both Charles Lloyd and Tomasz Stanko. Some have remarked on the parallel with the classic Bill Evans trio that included bassist Scott La Faro, whose life was tragically taken away, and certainly those comparisons are not without merit. On this occasion, however, the album is a good deal more straightforward than it’s predecessor, and for that reason is easier to digest for listeners who may be new to the trio. Once again, Stenson showcases his love of both Cuban and Spanish music, with the title track a delightful composition by singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez who is something of a hero for the Swedish leader. Another treat is an interpretation of the Catalan classical composer Frederic Mompou, with an extended version of, ‘Cancion y danza VI’, while quite possibly strongest of all is a refined reading of the Erik Satie piece, ‘Elégie’, which starts off in a more conventional classical vein, but then as the piece develops shifts into jazz and later rapid mode. As a whole, this is a recording that is full of intimate creativity, even if the extended bow playing will not be to everyone’s liking. An exemplary piano trio performance.

Tim Stenhouse

Various ‘Svensk Jazzhistoria Vol. 11: Jazz Cosmopolit – Swedish Jazz History 1970-1979’ 4CD (Caprice) 5/5

Spanning an entire decade of jazz musicians in Sweden (though excluding resident overseas jazz artists such as Don Cherry whose, ‘Organic Music Society’ was re-issued by Caprice a few years back and is well worth investigating) and covering myriad styles from mainstream to hard bop, to fusion, taking on board free, world beats and Latin jazz, with big band and vocals not forgotten, this is a wide ranging anthology and one that any scholar of modern European jazz will wish to have in his/her collection. It includes musicians who came to prominence in the 1960s such as Alice Babs, Georg Riedl and Monica Zetterlund (the latter internationally thanks to her collaboration with Bill Evans), as well as a whole new generation of Swedish artists who soaked up the new developments in the US of the late 1960’s. What emerges is less of a copycat version of across the Atlantic, and more of a gradual clearly identifiably Swedish and Scandinavian sound, though there is no single voice for sure that dominates. A very brief illustration of the ECM label is made here, with the Bobo Stenson quartet featuring a then young Jan Garbarek on a memorable, ‘Witchi tai-to’, though there are ample examples of that label in its infancy elsewhere. The music divides up chronologically, with the four CD’s roughly covering between two and three years per disc. Various domestic labels are covered and, needless to say, these would be virtually impossible to find outside of the country and its near neighbours.

Helping to guide the non-Swedish jazz expert through this weighty tome is a beautifully illustrated and user friendly inner sleeve booklet of some one hundred and eighty eight pages, in both English and Swedish, though the latter naturally has pride of place and space. British jazz writer Stuart Nicholson has written a lengthy ten page introduction which sets the scene admirably, and thereafter there is an English language résumé of other sections in Swedish. Hitherto unheard of formations such as fusion band Oriental Wind are an interesting discovery, all the more so when one looks more closely at the band members and find out that Palle Danielson, Bobo Stenson and Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz are among the musicians. Free jazz band Mount Everest are another discovery and the innovations of Ornette Coleman did not go unnoticed with some. A major band leader to emerge during the 1970’s is alto saxophonist Bernt Rosengrans who, on this anthology, performs in both quartet and orchestral formats and is a fine musician and composer.

While there too many highlights to single out all individually, mention must nonetheless be made of the following formation who were influential in Sevda. On first appearance, they may look and even sound somewhat like a Swedish take on Pentangle. That is where is the parallel ends, however, for Sevda, were a band that fused world beats, especially Turkish, and folk-based jazz. The previous ten volumes go all the way back to the very origins of jazz at the very beginning of the twentieth century and especially noteworthy are volume 7, which is considered by Swedish jazz enthusiasts as a golden era between 1952 and 1955, coinciding incidentally, with the rise of Swedish film directors such as Ingmar Bergman, and volume ten during the 1960’s, chronicled in these columns previously. A praiseworthy latest installment of a series that is a comprehensive guide to jazz in Sweden.

Tim Stenhouse

The Dubbeez ‘Peace, Love and Dub’ (V2 Benelux) 4/5

From the peace-loving city of Amsterdam cometh their first album by two times award-winning six piece band The Dubbeez. In 2013 they took the crown at the battle of the bands contest in Holland and likewise were winners of the world reggae contest held in Poland in 2016. Their official debut long player entitled Peace, Love and Dub is exactly that with ten tracks exploring club reggae with a roots backdrop complimenting the soulful female vocals and the Jamaican delivery tones of MC Quincy. A tightly knit band with a superbly competent riddim section with female bassist Olivia Davina and the Carlton Barret style drumming of the one Earl Maddy who is a master of Hi Hat shuffle and drum fills.

So lets “bring out the cards and shuffle” as MC Quincy would say on the soulful candle lit reggae groove of a piece called ‘Hangover’ a Steel Pulse vibe that showcases the contrasting vocals of Joanne and Quincy which continue flawless throughout the album, an album of multi tempo vibes from the commercial upbeat happy (and should be a single) ‘Feelings’ to the laid back easy JA vibe body swayer that is ‘Rudeboy’ and the pop reggae ‘love in’ of ‘I Love Me’ and everything else in between.

OK let’s get down to serious vibe business, the ultra strong -and this is one of the three tunes on the album that seal their professionalism and playing passion- album title track ‘Peace, Love and Dub’ with an absolutely crucial bass run that brings Jamaica into your living room played with pure confidence by Olivia accompanied by Earl’s reverbed rimshots and with Quincy in full vocal throws exclaiming “Peace, love and dub, that’s what we stand for” on the hookline, this tune also contains a very convincing brass ensemble backdrop, this piece has a real vintage style mixdown, an uptempo ‘coming at ya like a bat with the shits’ ie; with attitude crowd pleaser complete with an extended few bars of the tune showcasing the band in full flow playout, superb, a 12″ version of this would be cool.

The other standouts..? the aforementioned ‘Feelings’ which is a full on commercial radio friendly hit waiting to happen, a sunny afternoon festival pleaser and also the very cool roots rock reggae that is a piece entitled ‘Obsession’ and what I dig about this album is that all the players are given their time to shine respectively during certain pieces, each player has ‘their’ moment given high light and that includes this piece where the overdriven sounding lead guitar work of Milan is given prominence in the mix with its roots rock crucial solo’s and the niceness that is Bobby’s organ shuffle work during the tune that also stands out as does Earl’s 80s style dancehall minimalist drumming, all tied nicely together with soulful vocals and MC interjections. The album plays out with a tune called ‘On The Road’ an easy going rockers vibe that proclaims this band aint for stopping.

Is it a non stop crucial album? well, a couple of weaker tracks to my ears appear, the weakest track on the album musically is the opener track ‘Dont Walk Too Fast’ and the weakest track on the album content wise is a piece called ‘Hold Us’ It’s an OK tune but a touch self congratulatory lyrically for me, but that’s purely a question of my taste perhaps not yours. If you’re in the area then this is a must see band, the album is very easy on the ears to listen to at home in all occasions and I feel your ears will be even more delighted to catch them in full wall of sound concert. Enjoy the vibes, they’ve worked very hard as a tight and dedicated unit to get this far and they deserve all accolades. I have a feeling their next long player could well be a five outa five , I’m giving this a heavy four. Check out their official site for gig news at www.thedubbeez.com

Gibsy Rhodes

Mopo ‘Mopocalypse’ LP/CD/Cassette (WE JAZZ) 5/5

This eight-track release by Helsinki based Mopo, their fourth full-length but their debut album for the We Jazz record label, resumes their contemporary approach to jazz, but all with a Finnish twist. The trio consists of alto and baritone saxophonist Linda Fredriksson, electric and double bass player Eero Tikkanen who also contributes violin parts, and drummer and percussionist Eeti Nieminen, who adds some further synthesiser work. Additionally, Otto Eskelinen supplies organ chops on one track. Writing duties are shared between the band but with Linda Fredriksson being the most prolific of the group.

The set begins with ‘Tökkö’, a bold and brash composition, which was also released on 7” in 2017 with ‘Nääspossu’ on the B-side – a track not featured on the album, which possess an almost hip hop sensibility and would definitely be a popular live showcase piece. ‘Riisto’ continues this high-octane formula, with the electric bass being particularly affective here. The third track of the set, ‘Ruusu’, again makes effectual use of bass, but with Eero Tikkanen moving over to double bass, which underpins the whole composition.

‘Musafa’ contains elements of Ethio jazz and could almost be mistaken for a Mulatu Astatke track – but without the vibes, with its steady percussive accompaniments and winding rhythm section. ‘Niin Aikaisin’, the only non-original piece being a traditional Finnish song, again draws upon some Ethiopian jazz qualities as inspiration. ‘Noita’ combines various musical cultures and concepts, including 1950s sci-fi movie cues with its Theremin-esque sonics, choppy Farisa organ chords and spiritual jazz flavours all within a 3/4 time signature metering. ‘Panama’ begins with a more subdued feel with its incredibly funky but tight snare drum sound, but without the track being wholly funk based. Melody takes precedence here with its assortment of melodic frameworks, as Linda Fredriksson’s playing becoming less frantic but more poignant.

There is a diverse collection of ideas and themes that run throughout the album, and for a trio configuration, the album radiates a very textured and dense quality. This is not a quiet, sparse and meagre affair, but a rich, deep and riveting album. Similarities with the fertile work of Shabaka Hutchings and other young players is apparent, especially the more brazen saxophone workouts and fans of more edgy contemporary jazz will feel at home with ‘Mopocalypse’.

We are massive supporters of the We Jazz organisation here at UK Vibe. Their forward thinking and progressive approach to the contemporary jazz climate is welcomed, with their growing back catalogue unquestionably worth investigating and their annual festival each December expanding year on year. As standard practice by We Jazz, the album is available on vinyl, but also in digital and CD formats, and is even additionally released on cassette tape.

Damian Wilkes