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Bugge Wesseltoft: New Conception of Jazz Live

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Reflective electric piano chords, the tsk tsk of percussion – it could almost be the the first half of a '70s buildup to a souljazz masterpiece – there’s a little electric bass, the occasional unidentifiable sound and then suddenly the marshal pulse of an electronic house rhythm sounds out accompanied by the low growl of an electric bass. Instead of resolving immediately, the music sounds like the players are feeling their way abetted by the ebb and flow of DJ Strangefruit’s samples of people’s echoing voices. Bass and percussion find a mutually conducive pattern and Bugge rejoins on Rhodes creating warm, optimistic melodies. The impression is of a grooving improvisation, each musical partner working out in real time what to contribute. Bugge’s melodic lines act as a focus for the rest of the group. Towards the end Ingebrigt Flaten’s bass moves to the fore, more on the one and surges purposefully through the shoals of white noise, drums and percussion.

This is Bugge Wesseltoft’s long awaited follow up to 2001’s Moving – a live album whose seven tracks employ themes from his previous New Conception Of Jazz studio recordings as points of departure. The structures of the originals are stretched and kneaded until at times they’re almost unrecognisable. The live recordings cover a period between February 2000 and December 2002 with a number of different groups ranging from trio to sextet.

"Live in Cologne" sees an uncredited sample of David Sylvian’s "Words with the Shaman" employed as soundscaping introduction. A twitchy electronic rhythm is built up with effects and bass weaving throughout. The template is "Gare Du Nord" from Moving which represents a sort of house/ jazz variation on Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express – train track rhythms, sustained chords, rail samples and effective Rhodes soloing on top: something you might never have realised you needed, but once you hear it, pretty indispensable. Rhythm is the thing here, cadences unfolding restlessly, driving onwards. Bugge stokes up the intensity with staccato chords, whipping up the rhythm section as he does so before the journey ends.

"Sharing" from the album of the same name receives another radical facelift, starting off with a highly engaging percussion solo full of activity, detail and variety. “Once upon a time there used to be another way of living... of thinking... of sharing things. Somewhere there is another way of living, of thinking, of sharing things” – is this Bugge’s call for social change? I’m not sure but it’s set to such a funky beat that I’ll be voting for him anyway.

"Live At Bla" begins with a very dramatic, engaging acoustic bass solo from Ingebrigt Flaten before a period of mayhem resolves itself into a set of driving rhythmic explorations pushed forward by special guest John Scofield’s abstract guitar shapes and Bugge’s imperious chords. By the end of its twenty minutes, it’s difficult not to feel exhausted.

Bugge’s playing carries traces of Lyle Mays’ warmth and Herbie Hancock’s synthesizer figures. It’s unclear what exactly the new conception of jazz is, but in practice it’s a highly successful conflation of house groove and extemporised melodic and rhythmic invention, all delivered in highly contemporary sonic colours. The combination of these elements makes music for the head, heart and feet. Makes you want to stroke your chin, smile and jump up and get down all at the same time.

Track Listing: 1. Live In Amiens 2. Live In Cologne 3. Sharing, Live In Paris 4. Live At Bla 5. Feel Good 6. Existence

Personnel: Bugge Wesseltoft

Title: New Conception Of Jazz Live | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Jazzland Recordings

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