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 Ståle Storløkken, 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 Ståle 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 Bjørnstad’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 Bjørn 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 & Løv 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.