Reflections & Odysseys (Jazzland Recordings)
Released February, 2019
Jazzwise Top 20 Releases of 2019
While Bugge Wesseltoft is a musician with a keen appreciation of music wherever it comes from, and the unity among people that music can bring, he also appreciates music as an expression of an identity. His championing of the cause of “European Jazz as its own art form” sees him return to the piano trio format with the Swedish rhythm section consisting of Magnus Öström and Dan Berglund.
The groups New Conception of Jazz and e.s.t. (esbjorn svensson trio) moved in different orbits around the same musical planet, and produced some of the best recorded music and performances that spanned the 90s into the new millennium. The influence of both groups was profound and can still be seen and heard today in the emerging young talents from Scandinavia and beyond, many of whom have found encouragement and a home on Wesseltoft’s Jazzland Recordings label. e.s.t. remain regarded as one of the best live acts of the era, and they hold their position as the most successful artist on the Munich-based ACT record label. Both groups were explorers, experimenters testing the limits of existing forms or trying to discover new ones.
That a crossover between these two powerhouses of 21st century European jazz should occur is not surprising, although perhaps long overdue. With the formation of RYMDEN (meaning “space” – as in “outer space” or “universe”), we are presented with a music that is innately Scandinavian in mood and attitude. This is not the “Scandinavian sound” one might picture: this is not music for meditating over a view of frozen mountains or tranquil fjords (although the listener is free to do so!): This is music that reflects all aspects of the Scandinavian milieu of the 21st century. This is music filled with rugged dynamism, extended playing techniques, brooding or melancholic atmospheres. It offers cinematic and epic sounds, cascading drama, crashing and splashing, tension and release. It delivers melodic, high-octane unison riffs, Minimalism immersed in rich improvised tapestries, vocal doubling of melodies, and moments of growling menace. It does this with minimal electronic trickery, with Wesseltoft moving between piano and Rhodes, and Berglund and Öström coaxing just about every possible sound from their instruments.
1. Rymden – Reflections (Rymden) 01:10
2. Rymden – The Odyssey (Bugge Wesseltoft) 06:03
3. The Peacemaker (Dan Berglund) 00:38
4. Pitter-Patter (Dan Berglund) 05:15
5. The Lugubrious Youth Of Lucky Luke (Magnus Öström) 06:55
6. The Celestial Dog And The Funeral Ship (Bugge Wesseltoft) 08:06
7. Bergen (Magnus Öström) 06:24
8. Råk – The Abyss (Magnus Öström) 02:01
9. Råk (Bugge Wesseltoft) 06:25
10. Orbiting (Bugge Wesseltoft) 00:57
11. Homegrown (Bugge Wesseltoft) 03:52
Bugge Wesseltoft: piano
Dan Berglund: bass
Magnus Öström: drums
Recorded January and August 2018, at Svenska Grammofonstudion
Recorded and Mixed by Åke Linton
Mastered by Björn Engelmann
Photography by Egil Hansen
Artwork: Magnus Öström
Design: Rune Mortensen
Calling Rymden a Scandi-jazz ‘supergroup’ might not be very useful, but neither is it overstating the pivotal role these three musicians had in reshaping Nordic jazz from the mid-1990s. Bugge Wesseltoft, for his jazztronica innovations with his New Conception of Jazz and Berglund and Öström for their contribution to the highly influential EST, the piano trio that gave birth to a million other contemporary Euro-jazz piano trios.
With the untimely passing of Esbjörn Svensson in 2008, Öström and Berglund have buried their head in their own solo projects. As with those projects, Rymden also takes its cue more from rock than jazz, even though it retains a jazz sensibility. Wesseltoft is really at home here, creatively shifting around sci-fi like synth-centred soundscapes, tastefully funky Fender Rhodes and meditative acoustic piano.
The tunes are well-crafted with ‘Råk’ a highlight, switching from a hammering metal riff to Miles-like funk-rock with Wesseltoft excelling on a raw Fender sound. ‘Pitter Patter’ has echoes of Chick Corea’s Return to Forever, but with none of the pyrotechnics, while the farewell ballad ‘Homegrown’ flickers out with a melancholic earworm worthy of EST.
Selwyn Harris (Jazzwise)