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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Palle Mikkelborg, Jakob Bro, Marilyn Mazur - Strands (Live at the Danish Radio Concert Hall) (ECM, 2023)

By Don Phipps

On their album Strands, Guitarist Jakob Bro and his cohorts, percussionist Marilyn Mazur and trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, offer up a meditative landscape of music which evokes red desert sunrises, blue ocean vistas, and sparkling celestial skies. The album, recorded live at the Danish Radio Concert Hall in February 2023 is a testament to collaborative playing, as each musician brings a combined sensitivity to coloring and phrases.

For the most part Bro takes an understated approach. It is only in his and Mikkelborg ‘s composition “Returnings” that he projects a forceful modern and piercing line. Elsewhere, however, he stays low key, creating an air of intimacy with the notes he generates. Mikkelborg also stays with a reserved approach, preferring long legato notes that perfectly capture the music’s broad themes. But the real star here - if such a colloquial expression can be proffered - is Mazur, who uses her percussion to create tension, foment motion, and add splashes of bright colors to the often wide-angle panoramas.

What strikes one most about this music is its ebb and flow. It paints the reddish glow of a morning sunrise over a rocky desert canyon, the quiet solitude of a dark nook, or the glowing embers of the night sky. There’s both joy and sadness here, a subtle complexity obscured within delicate lines.

On his composition “Strands,” Bro begins with a pastoral theme and Mikkelborg reiterates it. One feels immersed in the sound – like laying at the bottom of a pool and staring up through the water at the sky shimmering above. The effect is intimate beauty. An interaction occurs here in its own language – a language shared by each of the three musicians. Mazur’s cosmic percussion concludes the piece with whale-like howls.

Bro and Mikkelborg began playing together over a decade ago. They began their collaboration with Mazur in 2020. Bro said of the collaboration, “It seemed a natural extension of the music, which has continued to develop since then…. There is air in the music, great freedom, and a shared desire to create something that cannot necessarily be explained but felt.” True that. The feelings here are always genuine, never contrived, and touch the deepest parts of whatever one considers the fabric of reality.