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Molde International Jazz Festival 2013

John Kelman By

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That relaxed sense of playfulness defined the entire set. At one point, a recording of some delta blues slide guitar began as Moran said, "And now for some real blues," returning to the stage a few moments later with a set of shakers that he began to play near the piano mics as Waits took a solo that revolved around a second line rhythm, the trio coming back in for a tune based on a single motivic idea that was deconstructed and then reconstructed into something that epitomized why Bandwagon has remained together for so long: the looks around the stage made clear that there was as much surprise, amongst the musicians, as there was in the audience.



A few hours later in the same venue (Plassen's Teatret Vårt Konsert), Terje Rypdal premiered a new piece, commissioned by the festival. Titled The Sound of Dreams, it expanded his longstanding Skywards Trio of keyboardist Ståle Storløkken (Supersilent, Humcrush, Elephant9 and drummer Paolo Vinaccia (Arild Andersen Trio) with an additional drummer (Jon Christensen), a bassoonist (James Lassen) and the guitarist's son, Marius, on electronics. Sveinung Hovensjo was also scheduled to perform, but a sudden (and serious) illness put the bassist in hospital (thankfully, now on the mend), forcing the group to make some adjustments to the music (literally pulling a couple pages, according to Lassen) and Rypdal to contribute some electric bass, in addition to his usual electric guitar.

It's unfortunate that Hovensjo was unable to make it, as it would have meant a marriage of Rypdal's legacy bands from the '70s—both Christensen and Hovensjo playing on the guitarist's early ECM recordings—with his more recent concerns. That both Rypdal and Christensen were members of "the big five" that, also including Jan Garbarek, Andersen and Bobo Stenson, literally put the region on the international jazz map through their early '70s ECM recordings, was not lost on the crowd. Not unlike Westerhus, this first live performance had its flaws, but was overall a significant success, and for a number of reasons.

First, Rypdal has never played better. His tone—that tone—was as instantly recognizable as Frisell's the previous night, and his overdriven, whammy-bar informed lines were as exhilarating as they've ever been. But beneath the rock stance, Rypdal has also divided his career between more jazz-centric recordings and work in the contemporary classical sphere, stemming from his discovery of György Ligeti in the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's iconic film, 2001: A Space Odyssey—his most recent Melodic Warrior (ECM, 2013) finally allowing recordings nearly a decade old, with the renowned Hilliard Ensemble, to see the light of day.

While The Sound of Dreams wasn't as decidedly classical in tone, neither was it rock-inflected either—though Rypdal's three encores ("The Curse," "Mystery Man," and "Tough Enough," culled from across his 50-year career) demonstrated that the more Jimi Hendrixian Rypdal was still as capable as ever in that department.

It was a terrific ensemble that even found Christensen, who has long since left playing more straightforward time, slamming his snare and cymbals together with the powerful Vinaccia—whose playing, for the most part, drove the set, while Christensen largely added color and texture. While an old radio recording acted as something of a rallying point during The Sound of Dreams, the music was largely atmospheric in nature, with large rubato sections.

Given that everyone else in the group had a history with Rypdal—his son Marius also appearing on his father's Vossabrygg (ECM, 2006), Lassen—despite looking and, with his name, sounding distinctly Nordic but, in fact, an American who moved to Bergen 17 years ago and is currently a member of the city's symphony orchestra—was the performance's real surprise. Bassoon isn't a particularly easy instrument, and an even more difficult improvising instrument, but Rypdal's choice of the bassoon as a melodic foil for his guitar was an inspired one, and when Lassen was given some latitude, as he was during the set but especially during the encore, he proved himself a superb soloist, with terrific tone, great ideas and absolutely none of the problems that plague lesser bassoonists like Daniel Smith, of Bebop Bassoon (Zah Zah, 2006) infamy.

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