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Bobo Stenson’s career goes back very nearly to the beginning of ECM Records. The variety of avenues the Swedish pianist has taken helped define the ECM sound, but none of his stylistic turns embodies it more than his trio work. Sphere, his latest album with his current cohorts Anders Jormin (bass) and Jon Fält (drums), is a fine example of what he and the Trio do best. Stenson isn’t a flashy player; he’s not given to flights of fleet-fingered fancy or virtuostic soloing. Indeed, he often leaves the filigree to his bandmates – cf. “Kingdom of Coldness,” a near-epic of ascending and descending melody driven as much by Fält’s busy kit work and Jormin’s wandering bass lines as Stenson’s licks. Instead, the bandleader tends to create an atmosphere, one of tuneful riffs and lush block chords, and encourages his pals to fill out the space with their own ideas. That allows Stenson to be both prime mover and anchor, creating the backdrop on “The Red Flower” and “Unquestioned Answer – Charles Ives in Memoriam” that allows Jormin to groove and Fält to cymbal his way around the beat. Stenson’s consistently distinctive sound remains strong on Sphere, five decades after he created it.
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