JONAS HELLBORG – The Concert Of Europe

Bardo 2023

Swedish master of celestially chthonic rumble and his stellar companions take the listener for a continental shift on the recently dusted-off tapes.

The Concert Of Europe

When a concert album is an artsy statement and also a stimulus to investigate the artist’s preceding oeuvre, it’s bound to be a special show of their talents, yet sometimes “concert” means a music form rather than a particular performance, and here’s a case of such ambiguity amounting to a stunning display of creative acrobatics. Not in terms of this trio’s actual playing – or, rather, the tremendously nuanced, almost telepathic, interplay between Jonas Hellborg, Bernie Worrell and Ginger Baker – although a few pieces demonstrate subaquatic runs one must expect from a bassist-led ensemble, but in terms of a flow the road-tested pieces which gelled into a fresh whole once brought to the studio in 1987, soon after the little collective delivered a fiery set at the Bracknell Jazz Festival. Sadly, the recordings languished on the shelf for years to be rediscovered close to four decades later and serve as a life-affirming memorial to Ginger, Bernie and engineer Tim Hunt.

Surprises are plentiful here, starting from Worrell’s baroque passages in epic fugue of “Moon Suite” that lends a scent of timelessness to the entire experience, before Hellborg’s nocturnal notes pull in Baker’s unhurried groove whose accents accumulate into a percussive plane to underpin the ivories’ symphonic swirls of a four-string swagger the scope of which will gradually grow and become simultaneously cosmic and grounded to take the whole aural space and drive its dynamic sway first towards abstract, if motorik, moves and triumphant, faux-orchestral finale. There can be no more perfect way to ease the listener’s entrance to “Zakir” – the number Jonas enjoyed evoking on-stage with his former employer John McLaughlin to let Ginger spice up the Hussain-dedicated instrumental with exquisite rustle of cymbals and knocks of toms on this platter to produce an economic and, thus, punchy effect, amplified by the spectral shimmer of Bernie’s Hammond.

All this contrasts the jovial “African Genesis” where funky beat and pseudo-techno rule the classically tinged game and allow the musicians to boast their dexterity and stamina that feed the fierce attack of “Ashhark” as well to render it extremely streamlined yet loose enough for sly pauses to seem slinky. And then there’s “Tim Hunt” which turns initial deceptive cacophony into a heavy chug with operatic electronica adding drama to the composition’s soundscape to conclude the album in style, cycling back to the beginning in search of glory the elements of “Concert” deserve. A fantastic find!


July 8, 2023

Category(s): Reviews
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