Gustav Renberg: Introspection

Mellow-toned Swedish jazz guitarist eases through a melodic, pulsing set mixing Latin, light rock and a touch of swing


Nostalgia and kindred longing are the cousins of introspection. For the Stockholm-based guitarist Gustav Renberg the thought processes involved have resulted in “a sort of musical summary” of his formative years and the development of a personal world-view. Self-absorption has opened his mind to possibilities that challenge the exemplars of his upbringing.

It’s always difficult to tell how verbal commentary like this pans out in the actual music, especially as embodied in the new album, on which his quartet – guitar, piano, bass, and drums – is often augmented by alto sax and flugelhorn. Certainly, there’s no anxiety involved, the tranquil mood rarely disturbed by anything more febrile than a crescendo, as on the title track.

Renberg and his pianist, Britta Virves, evoke the Metheny-Mays partnership on Rise & Shine, as good an example as anywhere on the album of how the leader defers to the band’s internal workings and the different ways in which one of its members can opportunely step up to the mark, as bassist Tomas Sjödell does on Fellowship and masterly drummer Jonas Bäckman does in a late seismic rumble on The Mountain. Renberg himself is primus inter pares, a leader who knows his place but solos with quiet eloquence and authority.

Soul-searching is outdoors on Sun Street, which has a short bass-guitar duo repeated towards the end, an instance of how Renberg, the composer of all eight charts, has invested the arrangements with subtlety and shape. The title track is one of two where altoist Sebastian Mattebo and the flugelhorn of Ari Bragi Kárason turn quartet into sextet, both admirably resisting any temptation to slip the leash and, on the rondo-like Slumber Song, giving body to the choral theme.

Introspective musicians are undemonstrative almost by definition. Renberg establishes a calm and collected mood that enables all of his band members to give of their phlegmatic best.

(1) Bandolim; (2) Introspection; (3) Fellowship; (1) Rise & Shine; (4) Yotam; The Mountain; (3) Sun Street; (2) Slumber Song (53.00)
(1) Renberg (g); Britta Virves (p); Tomas Sjödell (b); Jonas Bäckman (d). Sweden, November 2021.
(2) as (1) but add Sebastian Mattebo (as); Ari Bragi Kárason (flh).
(3) as (1) but add Mattebo.
(4) as (1) but add Kárason.
Prophone Records PCD 320