Danish guitarist and composer Jakob Bro makes expansive, forward-thinking jazz that's atmospheric and experimental, while still being grounded in tradition.
What's more, his rich tone usually translates into intimate musical settings making his work accessible to a wide swath of jazz fans. A former member of Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band and Tomasz Stanko's Dark Eyes quintet, Bro's playing is informed by smoky, harmonically rich modernist jazz ballads, making him a kindred spirit with some of his non-guitar playing Scandinavian brethren such as Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, and Eberhard Weber. That said, he is not unfamiliar with aggressive, distortion pedal angularities that shift the calm center of his folk-inflected pastoral tunes to reflect dissonance and tension. His use of loops and effects sets him apart from many of his jazz-guitar playing peers. Though he established his reputation as an original voice on his 2003 leader debut Daydreamer (in a sextet setting with three horns), it was ECM's Gefion, his trio debut a decade later, that brought him to the attention of global audiences as a unique stylist.
Born in Risskov, Denmark in 1978, Bro played trumpet in his youth and was first exposed to jazz via his father's big-band and jazz record collection. Around age 12, Bro also started playing guitar, a passion that overtook trumpet and led to stints studying music at such institutions as Denmark's Rhythmic Conservatory, the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York. Although he never secured a degree, his adept approach to improvisation and group interplay caught the ear of local N.Y.C. musicians including Paul Motian, who hired him to play with his Electric Bebop Band, and featured him on the 2004 album Garden of Eden.
Since the mid-2000s, Bro has worked with a bevy of artists including Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell, Paul Bley, Chris Cheek, Ben Street, Mark Turner, Chris Speed, David Virelles, and others. As a leader, Bro has released a steady stream of albums, beginning with Daydreamer (2003) on Loveland. More efforts followed on the label, including Pearl River (2007), The Stars Are All New Songs (2008), Balladeering (2009), Bro/Knak (2011), and December Song (2013). Bro made his ECM debut in 2015 with Gefion, which showcased his trio with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Jon Christensen. Streams followed a year later, with Joey Baron in the drummer's chair. In 2018 he delivered the deeply lyrical Returnings, featuring longtime drummer Christensen, bassist Thomas Morgan, and Scandinavian jazz giant trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg. In October, ECM issued Bay of Rainbows, featuring the Streams trio. The release captured the band live at New York's Jazz Standard in 2017, playing a selection of tunes from Bro's catalog. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi