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CD Review: Terje Rypdal – Vossabrygg

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When I first started listening to “real” jazz records, they had to compete with a pile of cartoonish hair metal and new wave discs. I had always been curious about jazz, but at that point I’d done far more reading about the genre than actual listening. Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis…more concept than music to my as yet inexperienced ears.

Then a friend bought a copy of Chick Corea’s A.R.C. The explosive weirdness produced by that trio (with Barry Altshul and Dave Holland) left my jaw slack. Funny enough, my Corea experience occurred not too long before the purchase of my first Wynton Marsalis record, Hot House Flowers. So somehow I managed to get a taste of both the traditional and the modern in very close proximity.

By the time I made my way to records like Miles’ Kind of Blue and In A Silent Way, I mainly thought I had a decent handle on this thing called ‘jazz’.

Right. Then along comes Bitches Brew. No amount of press hyperbole (and there was a ton of it out there) could prepare me for that record. It’s not that it’s so out. No, it’s the odd combination of jazz, rock and deep, dark funk. I may not have understood it (whatever that means) at the time, but I did realize that something great and sort of mysterious was hidden in those grooves.

With all manner of gauzy, stretched out chords, echoing guitar and trumpet runs, sampled weirdness and insistent rhythms (from the drums, bass, keyboards and electric piano), it would not be out of line to subtitle Terje Rypdal’s Vossabrygg with “Terje Runs the Voodoo Down”.

Recorded live at Norway’s Vossa Jazz Festival, Vossabrygg does not hide the fact that Bitches Brew was its main inspiration (in fact, the title translates as “Vossa Brew”). The opening eighteen plus minutes of “Ghostdancing” harken back to Miles’ groundbreaking masterpiece (I call it that but, to be honest, I prefer In A Silent Way). What’s interesting (and perhaps not entirely coincidental) is how the rest of the recording seems to illustrate the very expansion of jazz that Davis’ “Brew” set off. Fusion (I hated to use the jazz “F-word”….sorry) indeed opened the jazz world to the possibilities of new textures, sounds and structures (or even lack of them). Vossabrygg moves beyond the mostly pure Miles tribute of “Ghostdancing” to employ some trip-hop vibes (“Hidden Chapter”), techno of sorts (“Incognito Traveller”), soundscapes (“Jungeltelegrafen”, “Key Witness”, “De Slagferdige”), and some more rock-oriented grooves (“You’re Making It Personal”).

“A Quiet World”, the closing track on Vossabrygg, reminds me of In A Silent Way, which to me foreshadowed Bitches Brew. It also showcases the best musical element of this recording: the fine, fine trumpet work of Palle Mikkelborg. Rypdal and Mikkelborg trade ideas throughout, but it is here that the trumpeter pays tribute both to Miles and Rypdal’s collective idea. Fantastic stuff.

Maybe Terje Rypdal isn’t a jazz household name. Maybe he should be. Here, a musician puts a hero in the spotlight and comes back with something completely new and fresh. Nothing good to listen to out there anymore? Sorry, this record disproves that statement. Easily.

(First posted on Mark Is Cranky).

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About Mark Saleski

  • http://Dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    I’m thinking that Sir Saleski ought to open his own music shop/bar/library. A place where somone can come and hear all this great shit he’s been describing. Failing that, then certainly, certainly – his own podcast.

    Hmm, I like that idea.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    maker of trouble, you are.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com Michael J. West

    Oooh, I’m drooling at the thought of such a CD.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Couple things… first, well-written piece.

    Second, it is so easy and so lazy to bag today’s musical output and bitch about there being nothing worthwhile. I’ll concede some years are stronger than others but there is good music being made today (this from a guy who most wants to buy a Muddy Waters Chess Collection and Springsteen’s Hammersmith Odeon ’75 show). There is good music being made today and to deny that is just lazy.

    And I think the rabble being roused by Mary makes sense. You do need to consider doing your own show to talk about and play all these things that have been the subject of your Friday Morning Listens and other reviews.

  • http://Dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    maker of trouble, you are.

    Cute. But could you sustain that Yoda voice and style in your podcast?

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    woa…it never occured to me that that would sound like yoda.

    oops.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    sweet melinda’s teeth, i wanna be hearin this madness! i’m in very much of the position you refer to way up yonder, sir saleski, the ol’ loada theory an thought goin on, but not a terrible lot a music listened to, beyond King Miles an some Coltrane, long the lines o’ Giant Steps an Blue Train (which i prefer to most anythin else jazz-esque i’ve heard, even though i got more heart-space reserved for miles an his demented funk-outs). i still dunno how much of it i actually LIKE, aside from the Bitches Brew an the Agharta an the Blue Train an the like. but t’is all sortsa wondrous, the finding out of these things. an so aye, marvellous review, i need to be hearin this.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com Michael J. West

    I just got this album five minutes ago. Here’s a question: what’s up with the recent trend of fusion revival? wouldn’t you have thought fusion would be the last style of jazz to have a renaissance?

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    yea, you might think that. hell, i certainly would! but…some of what’s been coming out that we can refer to as ‘fusion’ (and here i’m thinking specifically of releases from labels like Thirsty Ear) are fusing different elements. they’re far less rock and chops-oriented that the original “f-word”.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    I meant to comment on something else… I just re-read this and remembered. I can identify with sort of that ‘academic’ awareness of an artist or genre that happens before being actually musically aware. That has been my blues experience. I read about it and knew a bit about it before I ever started listening to it.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com Michael J. West

    Actually, now that you mention it, Mark, Thirsty Ear is doing the best/most consistent job of any label out there of finding the elusive, but long-sought, jazz/hip-hop fusion…