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Album Review

Terje Rypdal has visited some interesting places on his recordings over the past decade. In 2003 there was Lux Aeterna, where Rypdal's band debuted a new classical work — complete with soprano Åshild Stubø Gundersen and a chamber ensemble — performed live at a jazz festival. The wonderful Skywards appeared in 1996, featuring string players David Darling on cello and Terje Tønnesen on violin, along with a bassist and electronic keyboards. Rypdal has over 20 records to his credit and is ever-restless, ever-seeking some more crystalline form of expression. Vossabrygg, means Vossa Brew translated. And from the opening moments of the opening track "Ghostdancing," we can hear why: Rypdal's band quotes directly from "Pharoah's Dance," by Miles Davis from the Bitches Brew recording. At over 18 minutes, it's easily the longest track here, and the most frenetic in its exploration of jazz and rock themes with space and tension. It evokes and pays tribute to Davis, but other than that quote, he doesn't ape him or beat the reference into the ground. It's literally a stepping stone to group improvisation. Some of the players here, like Palle Mikkelborg, Jon Christensen, and Bugge Wesseltoft are familiar collaborators, but there are new players here, too, such as son Marius on turntables, electronics, and samples, bassist Bjørn Kjellemyr, organist and electric pianist Ståle Storløkken, and drummer Paolo Vinaccia. Together they create a sublime textural palette for Rypdal's compositions such as the beautiful medley, "Waltz for Broken Hearts" (that references ever so briefly "I Only have Eyes for You"), and "Makes You Wonder." Silence, space, and lyricism haunt the frames of these tunes without ever entering their margins directly. The music hovers, floats, and occasionally touches down, such as when Rypdal's guitar creeps into the frame, only to lift off again gently and purposefully. Elsewhere, Rypdal quotes his own classical works — Fifth Symphony and "Ineo" — courtesy of Marius' intensively creative sampling on "Hidden Chapter," "Incognito Traveller," and "Jungeltelegrafen," where drum'n'bass and hip-hop rhythms stride alongside the drummers. But then this is what you have come to expect from Rypdal, the kinds of musical and ambient juxtapositions that seem not make sense elsewhere, but come to the fore and mix nearly seamlessly. "Hidden Chapter"'s choir samples behind a strolling hip-hop beat sequence are layered with Rypdal's edgy guitar playing — played forwards and looped backwards. The Miles ghost comes back to preside over "That's More Like It," where Wesseltoft's electric piano dances with Kjellemyr's electric bass. The joint never loses its cool, though. That's Nordic Cool to you and me. The solos are brief and never stroll outside the ensemble mold much. Rypdal's collective ideas are well-known in the European jazz world. He's not following a model, but creating one. Everything is interconnected here. The spacey lyricism of Mikkelborg's electronically treated trumpet presides over much of "You're Making It Personal," but here again the composer and bandleader's idea of ensemble holds court. The tune waxes and wanes and fires itself in places with razor-wire lines, fluttering, funky bassing, and smattered trumpet notes wound by electric keyboards. But nothing stands out, it's a hypnotic mass, as is the final cut that whispers to a close this wonderful recording. Vossabrygg is the latest adventure in a stunning, unraveling labyrinth, created by a master explorer.


Born: 23 August 1947 in Oslo, Norway

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal has an instantly recognizable, difficult to peg style, both an as ensemble player and as a soloist. He has directly or indirectly influenced virtually every one of his countrymen who followed him on the instrument. He is also a virtuoso multi-instrumentalist and, perhaps most importantly, a world-class composer. He has written six symphonies, numerous chamber works, and sonatas. Rypdal was born in Oslo in 1947, the son of a conductor and clarinetist for a military...
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