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Rymden + KORK: Rymden + KORK

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Rymden + KORK: Rymden + KORK
The Norwegian Radio Orchestra (aka KORK) performs each year at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert. By contrast, it has also twice provided backing to the Eurovision Song Contest in Norway. Intriguing then to find them linking up with Bugge Wesseltoft, leader of Rymden and a pianist-composer whose work is both learned and accessible. Both parties create music that hammers at the spine, whilst also tingling it. The name of Wesseltoft's trio means "outer space" or "universe," whereas KORK is an acronym of the less snappy Kringkastingsorkestret.

This collaboration is a thrilling remake of existing Rymden tracks from their albums Space Sailors (Jazzland Recordings, 2020) and Reflections & Odysseys (Jazzland Recordings, 2018). KORK add plush layers and grooves to Rymden's progressive-jazz, enhancing the original versions yet never trampling on them. Wesseltoft's composing is highly visual, as if constantly fitting music to dramatic or heartbreaking images. He offers a reminder of jazz's impact on movies since the silent era, but without the cliched auras of backstreet sleaze and deviance. Each piece here is strewn with spikes and flares, with sudden softenings and tempo changes.

KORK replicate Rymden's keyboard parts to gooseflesh effect at the start of "Reflections & Odysseys." From thereon, the piece smoulders into piano rolls, bellowing brass and an eerie shading of strings. As an opening cut it could hardly be more exhilarating or unnerving. Buzzy bass, synth and drums on "The Space Sailor" then give way to the main theme's cosmic cinematics, bolstered rousingly by KORK.

Wesseltoft goes solo at the piano for "Sender" and "Söndan" in a hushed romantic style akin to Espen Eriksen. Amid the silver-toned and frugal phrasing, we get a playful touch of Henry Mancini too. In party mode, "Pitter Patter" brings us toe-tapping funk bolstered by vibrant brass. And if the album seems less about hot solos, more about tight unity, there is greater room for improv than might be expected among so many performers. "Råk—The Abyss" even allows for a drumming showcase of sorts.

After the walking bass lines and keyboard thrills of "Terminal One" come this album's two mighty closing cuts. "My Life In A Mirror" has a painfully beautiful melody, like joy remembered in sorrow. "Free As A Bird" then offers a stirring ballet that would have done Aaron Copland proud, reminding us how Wesseltoft represents a vital link between American and European influences. The ending also reveals the presence throughout of a studio audience, who explode into a long bout of whooping applause. Fearless without fault, Rymden + KORK is an immense success of heartfelt tunes and arrangements.

Track Listing

Reflections And Odysseys; Space Sailors; Sender; Söndan; Pitter Patter; Råk - The Abyss; Råk; Terminal One; My Life In A Mirror; Free As A Bird.

Personnel

KORK
band / ensemble / orchestra

Album information

Title: Rymden + KORK | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Jazzland Recordings


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