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July/August 2003

Terje Rypdal
Lux Aeterna
ECM Records

Norway's Terje Rypdal artfully blends symphonic and improvising elements on Lux Aeterna (ECM). The five-part piece was commissioned by the Molde Jazz Festival to celebrate the Molde church's newly installed organ, which accounts for the presence of organist Iver Kleive. But Kleive's swirling passages sometimes seem more suited for a Sunday morning prayer service or a monster movie than an ostensibly serious collection of suites. The music's beautifully engineered, and the Bergen Chamber Ensemble adds a soothing, often entrancing presence. When Rypdal does solo, his array of piercing notes, slashing phrases and biting riffs add some welcome energy and presence to what's otherwise an overwhelming laid-back, sometimes nearly morose work. The opening movement "Luminous Galaxy" contains some exciting sections, but like the final title cut, it fails to sustain interest over nearly 16 minutes. The finest piece among the five from an intensity standpoint is "Toccata," the fourth composition, and the disc's second shortest tune. It's inaccurate and unfair to evaluate this within a strict or mostly jazz context. Rypdal's far more interested in creating an atmosphere and working within it, and to that end, he's quite successful. Lux Aeterna certainly draws you into this otherworldly musical environment, and if you're not seeking anything beyond soaking in the ambiance, it should be considered a success.

Originally published in July/August 2003
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