Dan Berglund, above left, Bugge Wesseltoft and Magnus Öström
AN 8 FEBRUARY RELEASE Reflections and Odysseys (Jazzland **** RECOMMENDED) is a must from Rymden, the brilliant ex-EST bassist Dan Berglund, the great Norwegian nu jazz innovator keys maven Bugge Wesseltoft, and ex-EST drummer Magnus Öström. This mighty prog-jazz supergroup have a real life force to what they are about.
It is fascinating how different this is to the sound of EST even when the unit is comprised of two-thirds of that great much missed band.
Wesseltoft is coming from a different standpoint. He certainly is less of a romantic than the late Esbjörn Svensson, more a Joe Zawinul-type figure and certainly on other projects follows Zawinul’s globe trotting instincts to explore world music.
In terms of tick boxes: yes to absorbing metrical investigation, lots of electricity, big bass and energetic drums. No however to navel gazing and ponderous pomposity which often bedevils prog-jazz.
This style is the antithesis of ambient Nordic spaciousness and it is a busy sound. On a tune like ‘Pitter Patter’ however you can source the sound back to say Chick Corea because Wesseltoft using the Rhodes electric piano knows that terrain inside out and manages to sound ahead of the game even when the sound of the Rhodes is everywhere this last decade.
‘The Lugubrious Youth of Lucky Luke’ is probably the most EST-like of all the tunes, a slow ballad that takes its time to unfold after a folk-ish opening melodic mood is established by Wesseltoft on piano with almost a country lilt to it.
But really you are coming to the album for more blood and guts and certainly you get that in the more intense band passages when everybody is firing. On a piece like ‘The Celestial Dog and the Funeral Ship’ which is a big achievement there is plenty of nuance, unusual chord progressions and a quiet malevolence that is conjured by Öström’s martial snare rolls and a lot of engrossing narrative and that is one of the strengths of this album: the three are storytellers.
While I enjoyed albums by Tonbruket and Öström’s solo projects in the decade since the tragic demise of EST I never got that elated feeling much as I was enthusiastic about them that I get from this.
The little episodic amuse bouches however you get sandwiched in between tracks I do not particularly care for but for the proggier among you the sonic experimentation of ‘Råk, The Abyss’ will intrigue you most.
‘Råk’ begun by a drum solo gets more to the heart of the matter: then Wesseltoft with his left hand stabbing out a dark riff that ups the muscle power of the album and certainly there is plenty of that here and throughout the album.
‘Homegrown’ in a major rather than minor mood at the end is a beauty and shows this band are not afraid to use warm and rich melody, cadences to die for, to their advantage without being at all twee.
So, extravagantly beautiful music. If you are an EST fan like me you will see how time is a healer and how too Bugge Wesseltoft is the perfect person to harness the beauty of that band and paint new pictures with the spirit and all that heart. Everything glues together which may have been the hope but certainly to these ears is the reality. SG. Rymden website.
The latest from Paolo Fresu, Richard Galliano and Jan Lundgren in a series of gently dreamy Mediterranean themed albums which began with the first in the series in 2007 followed nine years later by the second. A river, the Seine, no less on ‘Blues sur Seine’ begins the flow Lundgren pensive in a Ludovico Einaudi space and then the plaintive trumpet of Fresu who has such a pure tone it speaks to you instantly. Galliano’s solo has a sadness to it that is not contrived at all and again like his colleagues has that intimate ability to connect with the listener. This is a facility incidentally that is beyond technique, it is about the interpretation of notes and many musicians forget this when they are simply intent on navigating material and neglect the power of emotion. Simplicity is key on Mare Nostrum III: the lengths are relatively brief ‘Le Jardin des Fées’ at well under five and a half minutes is the longest of the 15 selections. And in terms of improvisation the accent here is firmly on embellishment rather than a full scale deconstruction of melody. The pace is often more a walk than a run. Among them is a piece by Galliano dedicated to French master violinist Didier Lockwood who passed away just a few months before this Gothenburg studio affair was recorded. René Hess deserves a lot of credit for shaping the direction of the album artistically as producer. Long term fans of the trumpet-accordion-piano trio may not be surprised to discover that there is a lot of romance in these new selections nor that there is a pervasive warmth once again. And this is so melodic. Fresu’s composition ‘Pavese’ for instance has a gorgeous theme delivered with great sensitivity... the album is a feast of song. Coloured by the great accordionist Richard Galliano whose unravelling of melody and capturing of mood is unrivalled you will find material by Michel Legrand (the classic ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’), Quincy Jones (‘Love Theme from The Getaway’), as well as originals by all three of these iconic European bandleaders whose rapport is evident in their sincerity and skill all of which elevates their coming together into something very much of an occasion indeed. Look for the charming Mare Nostrum III in late-January. SG
Richard Galliano above left with Paolo Fresu and Jan Lundgren.
Photo: Steven Haberland/ACT