Dan Berglund, above left, Bugge Wesseltoft and Magnus Öström
AN 8 FEBRUARY RELEASEReflections 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.