A 2-disk set, Lifelines is Råberg's sixth self-produced recording as a leader. Backed by some of the busiest players in jazz today, Råberg follows through with some of his most advanced and challenging compositions to date. Equal parts post-Ornette freebop, Frisell-ish rural folk-jazz, and hard-charging modern mainstream jazz - sometime all in a single track - Råberg's music manages to be as appealing as it is challenging. It's also varied enough to give stellar soloists such as guitarist Ben Monder and saxophonist Chris Cheek the leeway to express themselves to the fullest of their abilities. Cheek and Monder take full advantage of the liberties afforded them. The overall effect is that Lifelines has much more of a fully-integrated 'band' sound than most artist-led CDs.
Though he has incredible chops and great technique, Råberg is not one of those 'lead bass' sort of players. Instead, he concentrates on being a supportive and highly sensitive accompanist in the mold of Red Mitchell or Charlie Haden. That said, his solo on the CD-opening 'Agog' is a real attention-grabber. Monder is his usual amazing self, playing everything from gentle chordal structures, to clean-edged classic jazz pointillisms, to fuzzed-out fusionistic fusillades of rapid-fire metallic jazz damage. Chris Cheek, whom Iis a very capable mainstream jazz player, proves to be quite the out-cat here. While he shines, as you'd expect, on mellow modern jazz tunes such as the title track, Lifelines also contains some of his most radical tenor and soprano playing to date. Drummers Ted Poor and Matt Wilson switch off throughout the CD, with Poor on 14 of the 23 total tracks. The quick-witted Wilson is well-known to many as the late Dewey Redman's drummer of choice for the past 15 years or so. Ted Poor, who contributed to Cuong Vu's wonderful 2007 CD on ArtistShare, is cut from similar cloth though he is a slightly more aggressive, rock-oriented player than Wilson.
In an age when most artists cannot sustain my interest over a single CD (a tall order to fill when you consider that CDs can go on for 80 minutes), Bruno Råberg's Lifelines succeeds in providing over two hours worth of imaginative and stimulating music. The combination of imaginative compositions, great improvisations, and the overall warmth and approachability of this otherwise avant-garde session is utterly compelling. Fans of cutting-edge jazz found on adventurous labels such as OmniTone, ECM, and Palmetto should take note and seek out Bruno Råberg's Lifelines.