Bobo Stenson and Lennart Åberg are among the best known Swedish jazz musicians, playing piano and saxophones respectively. I hear skeptics out there making cracks about “best known Icelandic blues musicians” and so on, but remember, Swedes, like many Europeans, are far more knowledgeable about this great American art form than 93.7% of all Americans. This pair of gifted musicians have both been playing internationally for more than three decades. Their eponymously titled CD contains an extremely abbreviated listing of some of the musicians these guys have performed and recorded with, including Don Cherry, Carla Bley, Charles Lloyd and Paul Motian. Among those familiar with modern jazz, they need little introduction.
There is something particularly satisfying about a good jazz duo recording. Here the listener is privileged to follow the musical conversation between two supremely talented players as they work their way through a dozen pieces, ranging from the Eden Ahbez chestnut “Nature Boy” to “Tonus,” an angular original by Stenson. Stenson also contributes “Bengali Blues” and shares credit with Åberg on “Tillfälligheternas.” Åberg wrote three tunes: “Lisas Piano” “Ostimmad blues” and “Catalogue Aria (For Ornette).” There are a pair of compositions by Thelonious Monk: “Trinkle Trinkle” and “Crepescule with Nellie,”plus “Gabriella” by Lars Gullin, “Consolation” by Kenny Wheeler and “Fragment an sich” by Freidrich Nietzsche fill out the 12 tracks.
As testament to Stenson and Åberg’s talents, there is never the sense of something missing in this album. When needed, they comfortably create the propulsion and rich bottom usually provided by bass and drums, but also make excellent use of the open, spare, quality inherent in the duo format. This is “chamber jazz” in the best sense of the term, intimate and personal. While one can imagine it playing in the background at a hip bistro or cocktail party, it has more than enough musical depth and nuance to make dedicated, concentrated, headphone listening satisfying and edifying.
While this disk is on Amigo Musik, it shares a certain sensibility with many of the releases on the ECM label. The recording exhibits an acute attention to sonic detail, capturing the rich nuances and dynamic range of the players. Claes Persson, credited as having recorded, mixed and mastered the disk, get high marks for the full, rich, transparent quality of the recording.
Bobo Stenson/Lennart Åberg has been in heavy rotation on our CD player ever since it arrived. I expect it will be one of those recordings that I’ll go back to again and again. If you are at all interested in jazz or acoustic instrumental music, this disk is highly recommended.
(Amigo Musik, 2004)