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May 2006

Terje Rypdal
Vossabrygg
ECM Records

Vossabrygg, the latest from Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal, recorded live at the Vossa Jazz festival, is something of a tribute to one of jazz-rock’s most sacred artifacts, Miles Davis’ circa-’69 head-expander Bitches Brew. Rypdal, a guitarist whose playing and tone fall somewhere between Electric Ladyland and Windham Hill, mined the electric Miles vein pretty hard throughout the ’70s, thus this new brygg (Norwegian for “brew”) is less a brassy concept than a welcome return to roots. Eighteen-minute opener “Ghostdancing,” for example, sounds like a shined-up archival find; the track’s marriage of modal and New Thing jamming and plugged-in instrumentation would fit in fine on any of the six-stringer’s early-career highlights. And much of the new album—which features, among others, Supersilent keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, trumpeter and Miles pal Palle Mikkelborg and drummer and longtime Rypdal collaborator Jon Christensen—is similarly and pleasantly evocative of that recombinant era.

Paradoxically, Rypdal’s concoction is at its stalest when it references more recent trends. Vossabrygg’s trio of trip-hop tracks foreground son Marius’ machine beats at the expense of theme—not to mention swing—and, in general, come across as painfully unhip. (What’s next? Reggaeton in 2016?) Too obviously shoehorned, these tracks mar an otherwise excellent reminder that Rypdal is still shredding after all these years.

Originally published in May 2006
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