I’ve been listening to Sleeper again this weekend, the record that took a mere 33 years to see the light of day, eventually appearing to massive acclaim last year. Tomorrow the drummer on this astonishing double album by the Keith Jarrett Belonging Band, the great Norwegian Jon Christensen who turns 70 next month, makes a genuinely rare London appearance at the Vortex in trio mode with Danish guitarist Jakob Bro and bassist Thomas Morgan. All three players have one thing in common, they’ve all worked closely with Tomasz Stańko, the very distinguished Polish trumpeter and composer whose latest album Wisława has just been released and on which Morgan appears. John Fordham in The Guardian on Friday referred to Morgan working with Gerald Cleaver on the album as embodying “a two-man summary of the 21st-century jazz rhythm section.” Bro was on Dark Eyes, Stańko’s last album and dig it out on YouTube if you haven’t got a physical copy to hand and just luxuriate in ‘So Nice’ one of Stańko’s best melodic inventions with Bro lingeringly close to the brutal romanticism of the trumpeter’s lead.
Christensen I haven’t heard in years, not since 1997 when he appeared at what became a fabled live gig at the Jazz Café in Camden. It was the Litania band, Stańko’s take on the music of Krzysztof Komeda, but Christensen was instrumental in the rehabilitation of Stańko’s international reputation some years before when he appeared on a little known but quite sublime record called Bluish put out on the label of Polish flute player and producer Krzysztof Popek recorded in 1991. Christensen would then power up once again with Stańko when the trumpeter came to record Litania, and later the chamber-like curiosity From the Green Hill.
On Sleeper there’s a 28-minute version of a tune called ‘Oasis’, a flute/percussion flavoured track on the second disc of the album some 10 minutes longer than the rendition of the composition you’ll find on companion album Personal Mountains. On that track it’s hard to avoid thinking about Jarrett and Christensen’s former employer in common decades apart, Charles Lloyd. Christensen is on a staggering amount of history-making jazz records as this short list attests: going way back, Garbarek’s Afric Pepperbird; Enrico Rava’s The Pilgrim and the Stars; Jarrett’s Belonging and My Song; and Charles Lloyd’s Fish Out of Water, as well as important records by Terje Rypdal and Masqualero. A remarkable list by anyone’s reckoning, by a drummer who doesn’t play by anyone’s rules but his own and keeps the freedom principle and the burning spirit within the rhythm of the moment at the heart of everything he does. Stephen Graham
Jon Christensen top photo: Karsten Meinich; and in Belonging Band days, above