For almost half a century, the ECM label under Manfred Eicher has been delivering jazz albums from the beginning to the present day, and for more than 10 years also classic albums which both kinds are the very first cream in both artistic and recording aspects. This is also true, to anticipate, of the new album Returnings, which contains jazz of a rather gentle, calm nature, which as such is also a hallmark of ECM. Returnings is the third ECM album by the Danish guitarist Jakob Bro, who is on Returnings together with his long-time partner, the bassist Thomas Morgan, with the trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, already an oldie among his peers and with just three years younger drummer Jon Christensen. Palle Mikkelborg plays the flugelhorn velvet-pawed, as Miles Davis once did, with the drums of Jon Christensen hovering over his teammates' contributions at nearly freely floating time signature, both streaming in line with Jakob Bros' colorful, softly pearling guitar playing. A trio with a gentle gait made for heaven.
With "October" Jakob Bro goes back to Gefion, his first ECM album. The new "October" however is not a mere copy of the old one, but led by the flugelhorn in a binding, downright idyllic tone, rearranged to a high degree of emotional skill. As a further recourse to Gefion, the pop and folk title "Lyskaster" is presented on the new album, draped in a new dress revoltingly woven by the four musicians via melodious ballads. "Strands" shows how seemingly casual the trio tackles and pervades musical themes.
In "Hamsun", a lyrical narrative recited by the guitar with active commentary on the bass, one thinks of the great Norwegian poet Knut Hamsun. Partly responsible for this composition is Palle Mikkelborg, of whom "View", a meandering title in combination with drums and bass, and "Youth" originate, again dominated by the guitar / trumpet duo, this time indulging in nostalgia.
What speaks highly for the relaxed "leadership style" of the bandleader Jakob Bros, is his obviously natural way to allow his two trio colleagues at any time the freedom to improvise and take over the lead either in solo or as duo. A sympathetic move, which additionally refines the relaxed, high-quality music making on Returnings.
Dazu gesellt sich, was für das Label ECM von Anbeginn eine schöne Übung ist, die hervorragende Aufnahmetechnik, in diesem Fall aus dem Rainbow Studio, Oslo stammt, wo Peer Espen Ursfjord hinter den Mikrophonen und Jan Erick Kongshaug am Mixer im Juli 2016 zugange waren und Manfred Eicher für optimale Produktionsbedingungen zuständig war, also dafür, dass ein ECM-würdiges Produkt zustande kam. Mission accomplished.
Added to this is what the label ECM has been doing well from the start, the excellent recording technique, in this case from the Rainbow Studio, Oslo, where Peer Espen Ursfjord was at work behind the microphone and Jan Erick Kongshaug at the mixer in July 2016. Not at least Manfred Eicher was responsible for optimal production conditions, so that an ECM-worthy product came about. Mission accomplished.
Jacob Bro, guitar
Palle Mikkelborg, trumpet, flugelhorn
Thomas Morgan, double bass
Jon Christensen, drums