Release date: April 1, 1985
Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal almost singlehandedly defined an era with his signature electric sound. While that sound had much to do with his balancing of lyricism and grunge, and of his classical and rock leanings, it was forged in no small way in his compositional foundry. Such eclectic roots were already well-watered by the time of his 1971 self-titled ECM debut, from which “Rainbow” is included in this deserving collection. Joined by Jan Garbarek on flute, Eckehard Fintl on oboe, Arild Andersen on bass, and Jon Christensen on percussion, Rypdal delineates a resonant dream space where symphonies and concertos go to be reborn.
Though the works featured here are not presented in chronological order, it makes sense to do so here. Next in the chain is “The Hunt” (Whenever I Seem To Be Far Away, 1974). This relatively surreal tune marries the Mellotron of Pete Knutsen with the deep digs of bassist Sveinung Hovensjø, while the French horn of Odd Ulleberg exchanges letters of the soul with Rypdal through forested landscapes. Said letters might as well be signed “Better Off Without You” (Odyssey, 1975), in which Rypdal’s delicate arpeggio draws a trajectory through the heat distortion of Brynjulf Blix’s organ. The title track of 1978’s Waves carries over the same Hovensjø/Christensen rhythm section over the uninhabited spaces mapped by Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet and keyboards. Rypdal takes an immaterial rather than physical role, brushing on the atmosphere one shadowy strand at a time.
“Den Forste Sne” references Rypdal’s marvelous 1979 trio album with bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The latter’s call is so bright that it would blind Vitous and Rypdal were it not for their solar responses. “Topplue, Votter & Skjerf,” from the 1981 follow-up To Be Continued, casts Rypdal in a leading role. Like a warrior without armor, he wields only melody and protective instincts. Between those two signposts stretches the hybrid banner of Descendre. With Mikkelborg and Christensen at his side, he digs through clouds like an archaeologist of the ether in “Innseiling” and sings like liquid mercury personified in that 1980 album’s title track. These are, however, but a few of his many facets, all of which are worth exploring in a career that continues to evolve with listeners firmly in mind.