December Song is the final part of a trilogy which started with Balladeering (2009) and continued with Time (2011). It started with the fivesome of Jakob Bro himself,Bill Frisell, Lee Konitz, Ben Street and the latePaul Motian. When Time was recorded in September 2011 at Avatar, Thomas Morgan subbed for Ben Street. Paul Motian could not make it anymore. He passed away soon after. Notwithstanding he can be sensed on both Time andDecember Song very clearly. To fulfill the mission, pianist Craig Taborn been invited for the third part.
Konitz’s voice not just fits in in this musical context; it that makes him sound at his best. It seems he himself is the one surprised most about it, surprised also about what he is doing: “I spent my whole life being influenced by Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano,Lester Young and all the great jazz players and all of a sudden I play whole notes and half notes and chord progressions and I don’t know why. It’s not folk music, it’s not jazz, it’s not pop music, it’s not funk, you know, it’s just balladeering or whatever.”
Bro’s and Frisell’s wonderfully intertwined guitar-lines undulate like Möbius strips in ever changing shadings. It is amazing how Konitz comes in from time to time, how his sound arises from the gently undulating guitar sounds, how he transcends it and makes the song sing. His now and then brittle sound is an ideal medium here. Thomas Morgan’s extraordinary bass-playing anchors and raises the whole by very well chosen countering, topping and elongating accents. He focuses on melody and form and keeps the space open by putting in his very own exclamation marks. In certain respect his remarkable new way of playing reverses and redefines the role of the bass. He is the one who has played the longest with Jakob Bro. Both know each other from the bands of Paul Motian. They have developed a highly refined form of mutual understanding which is an important cornerstone of the album’s music.
From the outside view it is hard to imagine there is still place for a piano- voice to contribute in a significant way. That is exactly what is happening here, however, and few will be able to use the inherent possibilities as carefully and well as Taborn is able to do with his absolute orientation on sound and shape. Together they dig up treasures and let them shine.
Bro and Co. go on where Carla Bley’s legendary “Utviklingssang” once left. In Bley’s piece, and on a larger scale in Bro’s trilogy, deeper properties of Scandinavian song are manifestated and reflected. Bro discovered it by himself and found the confidence not only to stick with the essence but also to let it unfold. December Song is not just more of the same but opens up a still broader spectrum on a higher level.