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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rypdal and friends ...

Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal is a rocker converted to jazz, the master of the icy guitar with the deepest reverb you can imagine, making this his kind of signature sound, easily identifiable. His Oddisey album is easy to recommend. He got a little bit lost in the course of his career, stuck in the own idiom he created. His expansive playing, yet full of rock energy and drive is something that appealed to many younger guitarists. So here are some good things to hear.

Terje Rypdal & Bergen Big Band - Crime Scene (ECM, 2010) ****

The good news is : this is the best Rypdal album in many years, conceived as the soundtrack for an imaginary gangster movie (the mob kind of thing, with Italians running the show), with a big band in support of the action and the deep coloring of what is taking place, while the soloists create the action. Terje Rypdal plays guitar, Palle Mikkelborg trumpet, Ståle Storløkken Hammond B-3 organ, and Paolo Vinaccia drums and sampling. The Bergen Big Band is conducted by Olav Dale.

The whole thing is hence a little bit fun, with Robert De Niro's well-known phrase from Taxi Driver ("Are You Talking To Me?", thrown in with samples of The Godfather ("I have to go to the bathroom, is that OK?"), Mean Streets, and other movies, to create the right backdrop. You will also recognise some texts from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly ("When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk"), but also The Last Tycoon ("This man has an influence on you, this man has a bad influence on all young people"), etc. A puzzle of quotes to keep the film fans busy for a while.

So much for the movies. The music itself is an incredible mix of big band, sampling, wild guitar playing, pumping rock rhythms, atmospheric muted trumpet, television series chase scenes: you name it. It is bombastic, it is ambitious, but then with the kind of humor that makes it palpable and captivating throughout. And curiously enough, Rypdal's guitar is one of the least heard solo instruments on the album. But when he's there, it's in full force, as in "Don Rypero".

And even though the end result is not the most authentic jazz expressivity you can imagine, you're taken along for one of the most entertaining pieces of music you will probably hear in the course of the year. Just like gangster movies and westerns, not always the most highly regarded kind of genre, but everyone seems to like them. So should this album be liked.

Eivind Aarset & The Codex Orchestra - Live Extracts (Jazzland, 2010) ***½

Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset is a real Rypdal acolyte, but to his credit, he has crafted out his own style in the genre-bending environment between jazz and rock. The Sonic Codex Orchestra consists of  Bjorn Charles Deyer on guitar and pedal steel, Audun Erlien on bass and Wetle Holte on drums, electronics, percussion. The band is further expanded on several trackes with Gunnar Halle on trumpet and synth, Erland Daheln on drums and percussion, Håkon Kornstad on saxophone, and Torstein Lofthus on drums.

At moments, and especially on the long "Electromagnetic", the voice of Rypdal comes through, because of the concept of the piece, a long and rhythmic floating composition, over which the guitars and the trumpet soar, full of power and drive.

The most beautiful composition is "Drøbak Saray", a theme which I remember from a Dhafer Youssef album (but couldn't find back which). Some of the other tracks are more rock in concept and nature, closer to Pink Floyd than to jazz, like "Still Changing" or "Sign Of Seven", others are avant-garde ("Murky Seven").

Not for die-hard jazz fans, but those of you who can appreciate instrumental rock, will certainly enjoy it. 

Mark O'Leary, Senol Küçükyildirim, Murat Çopur, Ömer Can Uygan - Live In Istanbul (Tibprod, 2010) ***½
Irish guitarist Mark O'Leary is another Rypdal fan, yet unlike his great example, he is also quite open to fast runs on his strings. He is also a world traveller, playing with many musicians in the countries where he performs, and recording as well, which explains his prolific output.

On this album, his guitar-playing is quite contained to broad, almost synth-like scene-setting, leaving the solo space to Ömer Can Uygan's trumpet. Murat Çopur plays bass guitar and Şenol Küçükyıldırım percussion.The EP was recorded in Istanbul in November 2008 with local musicians, and I must say that it works quite well. Like on O'Leary's excellent "On The Shore", the combination with trumpet works really well, whether it's on the atmospheric pieces like "Istanbul", the more fusion "The Black Sea, Part 1", or on the jazzy intro duet on "The Black Sea, Part 2".

A nice album.

Listen and download from eMusic.


Watch Eivind Aarset Live on Youtube.

© stef