Terje Rypdal guitar
Palle Mikkelborg trumpet, synthesizer
Bugge Wesseltoft electric piano, synthesizer
Ståle Storløkken Hammond organ, electric piano, synthesizer
Marius Rypdal electronics, samples, turntables
Bjørn Kjellemyr electric and acoustic bass
Jon Christensen drums
Paolo Vinaccia percussion
Recorded live April 12, 2003 at Vossa Jazz Festival, Norway
Engineer: Per Ravnaas, NRK
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher
Terje Rypdal’s Opus 84 is an interdisciplinary suite of epic proportions. The fruit of a 2003 commission by Norway’s Vossa Jazz Festival, this live recording finds the Norwegian guitarist-composer fronting an all-star cast that brings trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, bassist Bjørn Kjellemyr, drummers Jon Christensen and Paolo Vinaccia, and keyboardists Bugge Wesseltoft and Ståle Storløkken to the fold. Truly special, though, is the ECM debut of Marius Rypdal, who provides digital connective tissue at key points along the way and mines his father’s own discography—particularly Ineo, op. 29 and the 5th Symphony, op. 50—to nu-jazz levels. His veritable hand basket of samples, breakbeats, and atmospheres spreads a picnic that tastes much like Khmer (and, for the obscurists out there, also like Japanese guitarist Sugizo’s 1997 drum ‘n’ bass solo effort, Truth?). His computational acumen is clearest on the three movements he co-writes with Terje: “Hidden Chapter,” “Incognito Traveller,” and “Jungeltelegrafen.” Of these, the first two wield classically cinematic brushes, moving waves of ambience and computerized utterances across swaths of bedrock. Samples range from violin and chorus to a warped phone call pulsing through city streets under cover of night. Gesture for gesture, Mikkelborg matches Rypdal’s every cry, breaking out in the final piece toward full-on escape.
The “brygg” of the album’s title means “Brew,” a forthright reference to Miles Davis’s seminal electric-era Bitches Brew. The introductory, 18-and-a-half-minute “Ghostdancing” mixes a likeminded concoction of heat-distorted drums and organ over a rocking bass line. The thinking is bold, dynamic, and recalls “Rolling Stone,” the once-lost track off Rypdal’s own Odyssey. In this sea of reverberation, Mikkelborg’s vessel stretches the broadest sail.
If Rypdal and friends seem to be digging into the past, it’s only because they are messengers from the future. Be it encoded in the double-headed “Waltz For Broken Hearts / Makes You Wonder” or the halting “That’s More Like It,” his resonant stream is palpable whether his plectrum touches string or not. In this context, Mikkelborg, ever the empathic performer, plays the melodic prince to Rypdal’s atmospheric king. The guitarist holds his authority by no small feat of restraint, as he does further in the post-meridiem groove of “You’re Making It Personal.” Bass and drums haul a heavy cart of night while trumpet cuts shooting star scars over the cityscape. This leaves only “A Quiet Word,” actually a rather dense wave of dreams, to build the afterglow, particle by particle.
This is how it’s done.