For his fifth ECM album as leader, Danish guitarist/composer Jakob Bro teams up for the first time with Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen and Spanish drummer Jorge Rossy. Given the nature of the trio’s musical synergy, it is perhaps surprising that this is the first time these musicians have performed together. Henriksen’s melancholic, whispering tones are the perfect match for Bro’s meandering soundscapes, with Rossy adding the textures and flourishes required to complete this stand-out trio.
Listeners familiar with Bro’s work will not be surprised to hear that “Umo Elmo” follows in a similar vein to his previous releases. There is an uncomplicated, undemanding quality to Bro’s music that although quietly introspective, also offers a unique clarity of vision and purpose. Contemplative and meditative, he successfully captures a spirit of subtle adventure within his music, and paired with trumpeter Henriksen, the music takes on an even more ethereal nature, with the two Scandinavian musicians working effortlessly and beautifully together.
The opening piece “Reconstructing A Dream” is a darkly lyrical reverie that sets the tone for the whole album. The guitarist recalls learning to re-contextualise his repertoire from Paul Motion’s example. “Performing at the Village Vanguard with Paul and also recording his ECM album “Garden of Eden”, it was an out-of-this-world experience for me to reimagine music with him. So having recorded “Reconstructing A Dream” 13 years ago with Paul for one of my albums, it felt like time to reinterpret this song.” The spirit of Paul Motion certainly lives on, with artists such as Bro taking the same approach and attitude toward music-making instilled in them by the shared, timeless, cooperative and thoughtful teachings of the wonderfully gifted late drummer/composer.
“To Stanko” celebrates the life and sound of the guitarist’s friend, Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, with whom he recorded and toured worldwide for more than 5 years. There’s an emotional pull to this tune as Henriksen’s softly spoken trumpet hovers gently above Bro’s tender guitar. As with much of this album, the textures and colours provided by Rossy’s drums add a lovely depth and warmth to the proceedings. Another track that serves as an homage to a late elder is “Music for Black Pigeons”, which was given its evocative title by saxophonist Lee Konitz, who Bro also worked closely with.
9 tracks in all, including 2 startlingly affecting takes of the atmospheric “Morning Song”, the more offbeat kinetic ruminations of “Housework”, the poise and quiet beauty of “Beautiful Day” and the gorgeously poetic “Sound Flower”, all grace this captivating album. Bro created the title of “Uma Elmo” using the middle names of his young daughter and infant son., with the guitarist having composed much of the album’s dulcet material between his newborn son’s naps. “To have this musical document from this year will always represent some kind of milestone for me.” says the guitarist. “And to have everyone there in Lugano: Manfred, Jorge, Arve and engineer Stefano Amerio, all determined to shape and capture this music with me despite the many obstacles facing us- needless to say, I’m very grateful.” As indeed are we, this album representing one of Jakob Bro’s musical highlights with the ECM label thus far.