"Vossabrygg" was inspired by Miles Davis's "Bitches Brew", and "Ghost-
dancing" includes a quote from Joe Zawinul's "Pharao's Dance".
Choir and string elements from Terje Rypdal's "Ineo" and Fifth Symphony
were sampled by Marius Rypdal, who co-composed "Hidden Chapter",
"Incognito Traveller" and "Jungeltelegrafen".
Recorded live April 12, 2003
at Vossa Jazz Festival, Norway
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 Ashild Stubo 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 T?nnesen 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 Bjorn Kjellemyr, organist and electric pianist Stale Storlokken, 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.
All Music Guide
Commissioned in 2003 by Norway's Vossa Jazz Festival, "Vossabrygg" translates literally as "Vossa Brew". The title prompted beer breweries in the area to assume, initially, that guitarist-composer Terje Rypdal was saluting their potent products ("I was a local hero for a few minutes", says Rypdal), but the "Brew" alluded to is of course Miles Davis's.
"Bitches Brew", Miles's 1969 recording, changed the course of jazz, and for Rypdal it has remained an album of enduring importance. "Ghostdancing", the opening section of Rypdal's opus 84, deploys Milesian textures of the electric era: shimmering Fender piano, thick, swirling Hammond organ, pumping bass ostinatos and tesselated rock-influenced drum patterns - plus a quotation from Joe Zawinul's "Pharoah's Dance" which introduced Miles's then-revolutionary concepts. Into this familiar soundworld step two powerful soloists - Rypdal himself and his frequent collaborator, Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg. Miles, of course, famously recorded Mikkelborg's extended composition "Aura" in 1985, hailing it as "a masterpiece" in his Autobiography. "Miles and Palle were friends," Rypdal notes, "so that gave me a very obvious choice for trumpet player in a project inspired by Miles." "Ghostdancing", eighteen-and-a-half minutes long will be welcomed especially by long time followers of Rypdal's work on ECM. It re-enters the spirit of his earliest recordings for the label, some of which also established new directions in music, using Miles's art as a blueprint. Yet "Ghostdancing" is but the first movement of Rypdal's new work and as "Vossabrygg" unfolds it touches on many other ways that rock and jazz have influenced each other over the years. This is music with a lot of history in it - played by a band whose members have contributed significantly to that history:
Keyboardist Stale Storlokken, for instance, is a member of both the popular electronic improvisation/noise-rock group Supersilent and of Rypdal's Skywards band (which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2006). Latterly, Rypdal has also been appearing with Supersilent, playing freely and continuing to influence a younger generation of improvisers.
Bugge Wesseltoft first came to ECM 15 years ago, playing with the Jan Garbarek Group on "I Took Up The Runes". He has since found wider recognition with his "New Conception of Jazz" albums for Verve/Jazzland, cross-referencing mainstream and progressive jazz with DJ remix concepts. Terje Rypdal: "It's especially nice to have Bugge and Stale playing together, with their multiple keyboards. I see that also as being in 'Bitches Brew' 'tradition'.
Italian drummer Paolo Vinaccia has been Oslo-based for so long - more than a quarter century - that he is now regarded as an honorary Nordic improviser. He appears on ECM recordings with Arild Andersen (see "Electra" and "Hyperborean") as well as with Rypdal ("Skywards" - where he also partners Jon Christensen), and has been a regular contributor to Wesseltoft's projects. His harder, heavier beat contrasts effectively with Christensen's freedom and looseness.
Christensen, of course, has been one of the defining architects of jazz of the north and other compass points, and he appears on dozens of ECM albums, heard with all the major Scandinavian players, as well as international musicians ranging from Keith Jarrett to Miroslav Vitous, and from Dino Saluzzi to L. Shankar. Working with Rypdal even before ECM was founded, he continues to have a productive musical relationship with the guitarist. In addition to his frequent membership of Rypdal ensembles, Jon has played with Terje in pianist Ketil Bjornstad's popular band The Sea. Committed to the continuing development of Norwegian jazz, he plays regularly with guitarist Jacob Young's group ("Evening Falls"). Christensen's most recent ECM releases include "Sendereos" with Saluzzi, and his own "Selected Recordings" disc in ECM's :rarum series.
On electric and acoustic basses is Bjorn Kjellemyr. Known to Rypdal followers for his work with the Chasers band, Kjellemyr is an extremely resourceful musician who also plays with Rolf Lislevand's ensemble, improvising creatively in the context of 17th century music. He appears with Lislevand on the forthcoming ECM New Series CD "Nuove Musiche."
Co-author of three of the movements of "Vossabrygg" - "Hidden Chapter", "Incognito Traveller" and "Jungeltelegrafen" - is Marius Rypdal, Terje's son, making his ECM debut. Responsible for the transitions between the movements, Marius makes use of electronics and samples. Intriguingly, the samples are all derived from Rypdal's own discography, with a special emphasis on "Ineo", for choir and chamber orchestra, and the 5th symphony. "In the case of the 'Ineo' excerpts, I now find myself improvising on top of my own choral composition, which I hadn't done previously, and I think that makes for some very interesting juxtapositions of sound, and I also especially like the way Marius brings in the chords from the 5th symphony." Marius Rypdal is active in Norway as a drummer, percussionist, keyboardist and electronics player as well as live DJ, he appears with the groups Love Thugs and Ravi & Lov Orkester, and leads his own electronica/dub group Chilinuts.
Recorded live at Vossa Jazz by Norwegian Radio in April 2003, "Vossabrygg" was subsequently edited and remixed by Marius and Terje Rypdal.
You don't need to know that Vossabyrgg means literally "Vossa Brew" to recognize this homage to the late trumpeter Miles Davis. From the first notes of "Ghostdancing"-which quotes directly from "Pharoah's Dance" on Miles' 1970 classic, Bitches Brew-it's clear that Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal is mining turf similar to early records like What Comes After (ECM, 1974). He even emulates producer Teo Macero's editing innovations by returning to the theme two-thirds of the way through the track. Rypdal does it so accurately that it feels like an edit, though this clearly is a live performance, in contrast to Miles' pastiche-like approach.
Rypdal's early albums made clear the significant influence of Miles' late-'60s/early-'70s electric work. Still, ensuing years have seen the references obscured by Rypdal's classical compositional aspirations and a stronger pop/rock approach that exceeds even Miles' desire to work in a more rock-inflected context-two worlds Rypdal amalgamated with great success on If Mountains Could Sing (ECM, 1995).
With two keyboardists and two percussionists, the lineup on Vossabrygg even pays tribute to Miles' dense ensemble sound. The blend of Stale Storlokken's Hammond organ and Bugge Wesseltoft's electric piano creates an ethereal texture at times that's similar to Miles' equally seminal 1969 recording In a Silent Way. Rypdal's John McLaughlin-like fuzz tone on "Ghostdancing" and trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg's mute work on the gentle ballad "Waltz for Broken Hearts/Makes You Wonder" create further inference.
The clear antecedents of Vossabrygg in the music of Miles don't obscure the fact that this is unequivocally a Rypdal record, transcending mere imitation and applying a distinctive filter. The spacious Nordic cool that has defined Rypdal's work since the beginning-a strange paradox to his often blistering guitar lines-is also in full view on the groove-based "You're Making It Personal."
As is Rypdal's more structured compositional approach. "A Quiet Word" may allude to some of Miles' atmospheric pieces from the Bitches Brew era, but there's a stronger focus right from the start, as opposed to the kind of form created in Miles' work during post-production, through Macero's creative editing.
Nor is Rypdal only looking back. On "Incognito Traveller" Marius Rypdal's drum programming, electronic processing and sampling bring things into the 21st Century-perhaps suggesting where Miles might be were he alive today. Equally, the brief electronic territory of "Key Witness" leads into "That's More Like It," where bassist Bjorn Kjellemyr's hypnotic repetition anchors Wesseltoft's gossamer piano work.
While there are delineated solos throughout Vossabrygg, it's more about creating an aural landscape where the various instruments seem to almost randomly come and go. With distinctive players like Rypdal and Mikkelborg-who wrote "Aura" for Miles in 1984-it's in some ways surprising that, while their voices are never less than clear, the album is more about atmosphere and less about instrumental prowess. It's been too long since Rypdal delivered a real "group" effort, but with Vossabrygg he's created some of the finest music of his career.