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Jakob Bro - Uma Elmo (ECM)

12 February 2021

Jakob Bro isn’t like most jazz guitarists. The Danish former Paul Motian sideperson is less concerned with hot licks or eye-popping solos than in creating an atmosphere, using his impressive technique to craft webs of melody that showcase his bandmates as much as himself. For Uma Elmo, his fifth album for ECM and twelfth as a leader, Bro dives deep into the hazy side of his personality, emphasizing his compositional skills over his musicianship and stretching his characteristic aesthetic to near-breaking point. Joined by former Brad Mehldau drummer Jorge Rossey and wide-ranging trumpeter Arve Henriksen, neither of whom he had ever played with before this session, Bro paints misty soundscapes like “Morning Song” and “Sound Flower,” on which Henriksen serves as lead voice, with Rossey providing ornamentation more than rhythm. Bro pays tribute to mentors and inspirations here, repurposing “Reconstructing a Dream,” originally recorded with Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, and dedicating exquisite cuts to late saxophonist Lee Konitz (“Music For Black Pigeons”) and another former employer, late trumpeter Tomasz Stańko (“To Stanko”). The blend of Bro’s compositions with improvised arrangements reaches a zenith on the eleven-minute “Housework,” on which Bro’s effects-laden, looped guitar lines set a stage for Henriksen and Rossey to explore the dynamics of the freedom the leader gives them. Named for his children, Uma Elmo gives Bro new vistas to probe, expanding and refreshing his exploratory musical outlook.