LEGENDARYNORWEGIAN GUITARISTTERJE RYPDAL HAS COMPOSED music for everything from neo-classical duos to rock power trios to jazz ensembles to symphony orchestras, but his latest work finds him in lessfamiliar surroundings—a jazz big band. Crime Scene [ECM] was recorded live with the Bergen Big Band and several longtime Rypdal collaborators. “Bergen had recently recorded variations on Coltrane’s Meditations, which was one of the first really important jazz albums for me when I was still a young rock guitarist, so that was interesting,” says Rypdal. “I was also intrigued by the fact that three musicians in the band could play bass clarinet, which opened up some interesting timbral possibilities. And because there were numerous excellent improvising soloists in the band, I put them at the center of the composition, with just enough structure and direction to control things. Additionally, the drummer, Paolo Vinaccia, added bits of recorded dialogue that fit with the story, such as Clint Eastwood counting his bullets.
“The guitar mostly stays in the background, doing textural things, though there are a few places in which it is featured prominently as a solo instrument. I played a new guitar that was built for me by Svein Martin Olsen—a Strat-style instrument with great sustain, specially made pickups, and a tremolo bridge that lets me bend down almost an octave. I played it through Marshall and Vox 2x12 combo amplifiers.”
Finding the right balance between structure and improvisational freedom was key. “The piece made everyone play in a certain way, so that they contributed what was needed—but if it had been too thoroughly written out, like an orchestral score, it would have been too complicated. Interestingly, during one rehearsal the situation became very similar to a strange dream I had a few years ago, in which I was I was called into an orchestra rehearsal and everybody kept asking, ‘Why do we have to do this?’ and ‘Why do we do we have to do that?’ I was trying to find out, and then just before waking I said to the orchestra members, ‘It’s no wonder there are lots of problems. You are rehearsing something that I haven’t written yet!’”