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CD Feature/ Bruno Råberg: "Lifelines"

img  Tobias

I was recently given a beautiful new two-disc set to vet, none other than Lifelines, the new album from Swedish doublebassist Bruno Råberg and his excellent band of impressionistic jazzers.  This recording marks Råberg's sixth as a leader, and though I must confess that I hadn't heard his music before hearing Lifelines, I've certainly heard of him now.
Råberg immigrated to the U.S. from his native Sweden in 1981 and since that time he has been increasingly active on the international scene.  With many recordings as a sideman under his belt, he has also produced six albums as a leader and has been a teacher at Boston's Berklee College of Music since 1986.
Many of the tracks on Lifelines are all about melody and rhythm, with the bass acting as both the melodic leader and as a super-solid, grooving foundation by turns.  As you might expect, many of Råberg's compositions feature his signature bass melodies which either settle into or spring out of his wonderfully melodic structural riffs.  The arrangements and orchestrations within the combo are beautifully done, and take full advantage of many different timbres and possible combinations of each of the instruments.

Disc one of Lifelines is titled the “Blue Disk.”  Råberg starts things rolling with “Agog,” opening an extended introductory duet between Råberg and Ted Poor on drums.  Råberg’s tone here is like dry wood; it’s muscular, full, and beautifully recorded.  “Agog” sets the mood for the whole album:  dancing, shifting rhythms and lines, harmonized in beautiful, unexpected ways.  With a generous helping of meaty groove.  “Agni” is a gauzy, transparent ballad, featuring Chris Cheek’s revolving saxophone melody that delicately intertwines Ben Monder’s guitar patterns.  The next three tracks, “April Suite,” “Chosen Path,” and “Lifelines” provide some nice vehicles for reflective solos by each of the players, in particular percussionist Ted Poor at the end of “April Suite,” where, like the intro to “Agog,” he uses soft clicks and subtle cymbal work to help build the tune to a final climax.
The next four tracks, "Revisited Path,” "Intersection,” "Moondown,” and "An Afternoon By The Meadow,” were written by the whole group and stem from collective improvisation.  For the listener who has sat down to hear the entire disc, these back-to-back improvisations provide a welcome interlude from the structured, carefully-composed and moodily atmospheric tracks that surround them.  Indeed, several of these were among my favorite tracks on the album, in particular "Intersection,” and the beautifully sparse "Moondown.”
The lazy melodic brushstrokes that open “Gymnastics/Skyscapes” are vertigo-inducing and nicely balanced with a more rhythmically straightforward B-section.  The first disc closes with the beautiful, unaffected “Ballad For Summer’s End.”  Råberg’s solo here is insistent, with some lovely melodic twists and turns.
Disc two, the “Red Disc,” opens with “Elegy,” a track which grows very gradually from a dark, hazy atmosphere, and slowly solidifies into a gorgeous, simple melody.  One of the things that strikes you repeatedly about this album are the imaginative solo accompaniments that each of the players comes up with at just the right moment. “Elegy” is a wonderful example of this; you feel that these guys are always looking for something new.  “Fora Do Retrato” is a slow, wistful ballad, followed by the raucous “Cosmic Kerfuffle.”  On this one the whole band gets a chance to cut loose, with waves of distorted guitar and heavy drums to keep the energy level high.  “Expectation” is the only straightforwardly-swinging track on the record, and it is quite refreshing to have our expectations fulfilled and hear some pushy swing after so many straight tracks and atmospheric ballads.  It’s also the only track without Monder’s guitar, and the open bass/sax/drums trio texture is wonderful.  Chris Cheek takes a nice sax ride through these ambiguous changes, followed by Råberg himself, and an assured, melodic solo by the album’s other drummer, Matt Wilson.
Again, the next four tracks were improvised by the group, and are interesting little studies in texture.  “Distant Roads” is particularly effective, using some different acoustic spaces and percussion sounds bring to mind a boundless horizon and an atmosphere of vague menace.  The album closes with “New Land,” a straightforward groove with sparse drums and a warm bass and guitar.

By Chad Langford. Visit Chad's homepage at

Homepage: Bruno Råberg

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