Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo makes time-worn standards sound brand-new
There's a presiding focus on newness and originality when you write about and voraciously listen to music, always looking for something that feels startling, fresh, and challenging. And every once in a while I'm reminded that such a search evolved after falling in love with music in the first place, discovering styles and approaches that resonated deeply or brought joy. An adoration for jazz is at the core of my musical curiosity, and I've recalled making comments to friends after hearing a group play a phenomenal, pleasing set that "it made remember why I love jazz in the first place." That sensation came roaring back last week when I listened to Rules (Moserobie), the fantastic new trio album by Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo who's known best for his membership in Atomic.
Atomic bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen (both Norwegians) accompany the trumpeter through seven concise readings of standards, and familiar ones at that. The album proves that playing the changes, navigating an old chestnut, and uncorking bitingly sharp melodic improvisation can be as timeless as anything. Few things have given me such pleasure this year. Broo started out a dyed-in-the-wool mainstream trumpeter, leaving his homeland to study at North Texas State University--home to one of the finer straight-ahead jazz programs in the US--but he eventually loosened up his sound and became a more curious listener, qualities that came into full-bloom as a member of Atomic. He doesn't engage in the practice too often, but Broo is a real motherfucker when it comes time to play free.
Still, the passages on Rules that are open are scattered on just a few tracks. Instead, this nimble trio tackles these standards with an infectious sense of fun, swinging gracefully, playing with tempo, and displaying an incredibly locked-in vibe where are three players are on fire even on ballads like. All three musicians have been playing together in the superb quintet I.P.A. (which was originally a quartet until vibist Mattias Ståhl joined a few years ago) for about a decade, so the rapport is understandable if not common. The trio does stretch out and experiment here and there: a version of the ballad "You've Changed" refracts with the theme, allowing the trumpeter to push into terse abstraction over the bassist's kinetic high-pitched, needling arco motion and the drummer's bumpy, restrained rustling (braiding gentle cymbal spray with spasmodic brushwork. The intro section to "I Fall in Love Too Easily," where Broo's affinity for early Miles Davis shines brilliantly, opens with Johansen injecting instant tension with drum mallets rolling persistently as the trumpeter softly attacks the theme, with Håker Flåten creeping in shortly thereafter--when the drummer switches to brushes the complexion of the performances flips with ravishing beauty. Broo ends the album with a wild, abraded coda to "Don't Explain," as if showing that he can play just as stridently and aggressively as he can lyric and gentle.
Below you can check out the trio's splendid reading of "Easy Living," where there's no missing an appealing west coast vibe. I wish Broo was a bit more active as a leader--it's been eight years since his last album--but if he drops gems like this one I don't have much reason to complain.