May 19, 2024

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Terje Rypdal converted to jazz as a member of Jan Garbarek’s Esoteric Circle: Video

23.08. – Happy Birthday !!! Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal (1947), raised at the intersection of classical and rock music, converted to jazz as a member of Jan Garbarek’s Esoteric Circle (october 1969).

He had cut his teeth in Dream, a psychedelic-rock band that released only Get Dreamy (1967), and had then debuted as a leader with Black House (october 1968), featuring Jan Garbarek and Jon Christensen.

His next album as a leader, Terje Rypdal (august 1971), was orchestrated for oboe, English horn, flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone (Jan Garbarek), electric piano (Bobo Stenson or Tom Halversen), bass (Arild Andersen) and percussion (Jon Christensen), and sounded like a cross of Weather Report’s jazz-rock, Soft Machine’s progressive-rock and Pink Floyd’s psychedelic-rock (Keep It Like That Tight and especially Electric Fantasy), and it already signaled a significant departure from the prevailing (much more aggressive) style of guitar-based fusion jazz. The same gentle tone permeated Bend It and especially What Comes After on What Comes After (august 1973), recorded by a smaller ensemble (that retained oboe and English horn, but neither the horns nor the piano). Instead Whenever I Seem To Be Far Away(1974) explored the other end of the spectrum: the 14-minute Silver Bird Is Heading For The Sun was a majestic piece of progressive-rock with mellotron and French horn, while the 18-minute Whenever I Seem To Be Far Away for electric guitar, strings, oboe and clarinet was an ambitious neoclassical suite. The double-LP Odyssey (august 1975), recorded by an ensemble with soprano saxophone, trombone, organ, strings, bass and drums, was the crowning achievement of the early phase of his career, representing all the poles of his art, from vibrant jazz-rock (the 26-minute Rolling Stone) to neoclassical ambience (Adagio), from progressive-rock (Midnite) to atmospheric jazz (Farewell). Rypdal played all the instruments (electric and acoustic guitars, string ensemble, piano, electric piano, soprano saxophone, flute, tubular bells, bells) on After the Rain (august 1976) and downgraded his ambitions to the humbler format of impressionistic vignettes such as Autumn Breeze and After The Rain. Continuining in his stylistic zigzag, Rypdal turned to a more traditional format for Waves (september 1977), recorded by a quartet with trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and containing the effervescent, polyrhythmic Per Ulv. Yet another departure came with Descendre (march 1979) that featured a trio of guitar, trumpet and drums crafting emotional multi-faceted atmospheres that represented Rypdal’s sonic peak (CirclesInnseilingMen of Mystery).

Odyssey was reissued as a triple-disc album including Rolling Stone, that had been omitted from the original release, as well as live performances.

Two collaborations with bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer DeJohnette, namely Rypdal/ Vitous/ DeJohnette (june 1978) and To Be Continued(january 1981), failed to sustain the interest, but one with cellist David Darling, the electronic Eos (may 1983), boasted pieces such as Eos and Mirage that ranked among his most futuristic endeavors.

After indulging in conventional jazz-rock and fronting a guitar-bass-drums power-trio on The Chasers (may 1985), with Ambiguity, Blue(november 1986) and The Singles Collection (august 1988), Rypdal delivered definitive versions of some of his classical compositions: Undisonus (1990) for violin and orchestra, Ineo (1990) for choir and chamber orchestra, the five-movement Q.E.D.(december 1991) for electric guitar, string ensemble, and woodwinds, the sinfonietta Out Of This World, off Skywards (february 1996), Double Concerto(1998) for two electric guitars and orchestra, 5th Symphony (1998), the five-movement Lux Aeterna(july 2000) for chamber ensemble.

Vossabrygg (april 2003) is a confused work that recycles material from Rypdal’s classical compositions and toys with drum’n’bass and hip-hop. High Lines (april 2004)

Crime Scene (may 2009) documents a sextet with Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet), Ståle Storløkken (Hammond B-3 organ), Paolo Vinaccia (drums and sampling), and the 17-piece Bergen Big Band conducted by Olav Dale.

The 41-minute suite of Melodic Warrior documents two sessions (december 2003 and november 2009) with the Hilliard Ensemble’s voices.

In 1968, Terje Rypdal was a long way from the iconic status he quickly achieved within the European jazz community. He had just left stints in a pair of rock bands in his native Norway—The Vanguards and The Dream—and was settling into a studio in Oslo to record Bleak House, the guitarist/composer’s first solo album. And at the time, he wasn’t entirely sure what direction he wanted to go in, musically speaking.

Whether that was a result of uncertainty or curiosity or sheer indifference to try to sustain one groove or mode, the record does suffer a bit from this chameleonic spirit. But with this newly pressed edition from Round 2 Records, the reissue arm of Norwegian record shop Big Dipper, needs to be appreciated as a marker in the history of the musician’s now-storied career.

Keep in mind that three years later, Rypdal would unveil a self-titled album of austere, psych jazz that would not only mark the start of a long-standing relationship with ECM Records but also set the course of the next 40+ years of studio and live work. Before he could get there, though, it seemed he had to shake some sounds out of his system with Bleak House.

The album even starts out with a track that signals his farewell to the psych-prog rock he was known for just a year earlier. On “Dead Man’s Tale,” Rypdal is joined by his former Dream bandmates, drummer Tom Karlsen and keyboardist Christian Reim (the latter who feature throughout Bleak House, and it’s the kind of groovy bluesy apparition that so many bands of the time were invoking, capped off with quaintly broken hearted lyrics. From there, he brings in a big horn section to dabble in blowsy swing compositions that are more in the spirit of Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears than they are Kenny Burrell or Jimmy Smith, and “A Feeling of Harmony,” a bossa nova bauble that closes the album with Rypdal tripling up on guitar, flute and wordless vocals.

Where he truly comes into his own sound is with the marvelous improvisation “Winter Serenade.” Through six minutes of freeform playing, Rypdal and a smaller ensemble (including fellow future jazz giant Jan Garbarek) set the blueprint for the first part of the guitarist’s future work. Building from a quiet foundation of Reim’s strong piano chords and percussive guitar lines, the song slowly takes shape and weight, leading to an explosive middle section that heaves and spits fire before slowly dissipating in its final minutes.

What Bleak House may lack in consistency, it more than makes up for in its substance and its resolute spirit. Rypdal clearly knew where he wanted to go; he just had to work out some of the kinks and fine tune some detail before he could set off in a new direction. Would that all of our rough drafts be as fascinating and reissue-worthy as this.

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