Terje Rypdal

May 11, 2006

Norwegian guitarist and composer Terje Rypdal is not well known in the U.S., and that’s a shame, as he has been making extremely interesting and compelling music since the late ’60s. On this, his 20th (depending on how you count them) album released under his own name for the prestigious ECM jazz label, Rypdal pays homage to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, presenting a work commissioned for Norway’s 2003 Vossa Jazz Festival. With dual drummers and keyboardists, and both acoustic and electric basses featured at various times, the line-up is reminiscent of Miles’ electric bands—but the addition of Rypdal’s son, Marius, on electronics, samples (including samples of his father’s earlier works), and turntable, brings a modern feel to the proceedings. On trumpet is longtime Rypdal collaborator, Palle Mikkelborg, who’s “Aura” Miles covered in 1985.

The disc opens with “Ghostdancing,” an 18-minute-long cut that initially conjures up the vibe of Bitches Brew—though by the end of the piece, the mournful, vibrato-inflected guitar playing, intertwined with Mikkelborg’s trumpet lines, places the listener squarely in classic Rypdal territory. Other pieces range from breakbeat-driven workouts, to atmospheric electronic sound collages, to vaguely classical works—with lots of passionate and inventive guitar playing by Rypdal throughout. Readers unfamiliar with Rypdal—particularly young readers—might find this a good place to begin exploring the work of this exceptional artist.( ECM).

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