Rypdal, Torn/Berne/Smith, Feliciati

Rypdal, Torn/Berne/Smith, Feliciati

Nov 21, 2020 0 By Marcello Nardi

Terje Rypdal – Conspiracy (ECM, 2020)

The Godfather of Norwegian jazz has come back with his unique voice, made of an original Fender Stratocaster, his unmistakable use of tremolo bar, volume knob, violin-like glissandos mixed with raw, earthy energetic playing. Terje Rypdal releases a studio work for the first time in the last two decades, a recording that could be easily labeled as the manifesto of his most romantic and lyrical side. Ethereal, intense, that’s music that would tear apart any fan of the legendary guitarist. 

Terje Rypdal is one of the founders of contemporary Norwegian jazz. Son of a clarinetist, he studied piano and trumpet before approaching guitar and redefining the jazz sound. Yet he started with a charts rock band called Vanguard, before meeting with ECM’s producer Manfred Eicher, recording the manifesto album Sart with Jan Garbarek and mixing his Hendrixian roots with jazz early in the 70s. He added up classical study and improvisation teaching with George Russell to his curriculum and, during his career, Rypdal contributed to define the almost unique sound of Norwegian jazz: no matter he was playing trio, with orchestra, with choir, duo with piano, or even composing for classical ensembles throughout all his career in ECM, still his trademark romanticism was clearly visible.

Conspiracy, the name of the band which hailed his 70th birthday, now becomes a studio recording: it started with the idea of playing the repertoire coming from Odyssey and Chasers, but it grew into a radically new sound. Similarly to what happened to an early 2000s recording which Rypdal joined forces in, Karta, also in case of Conspiracy the band’s studio output consistently differs from the initial live rendition. Sided by Ståle Storløkken, longtime collaborator in Crime Scene, Vossabrygg and Skywards live touring, the Supersilent and Elephant9 keyboardist is the perfect partner for the soaring and flying melodies depicted by Rypdal‘s guitar. Along with them, the rhythmic section includes young bassist Endre Hareide Hallre, who superbly matches the comparison with several legendary bassists Rypdal played with, and the return of drummer Pål Thowsen, who was first heard in Arild Andersen‘s 70s recordings.

The initial As If The Ghost…Was Me!? could be easily labeled as a piece coming from any decade in the career the guitarist, showcasing some of the musical traits which gave his music its peculiarity: the gentle fast cymbal work by Thowsen prepares the ground for the guitar, which paints a romantic, heartfelt melody over a sweet organ carpet. Rypdal ascends and descends over his typical cadenzas, with a magical use of the tremolo bar and the volume knob. Storløkken is unobstrusive, understatedly creating shimmering soundscapes, while Hallre adds few snippets of fretless bass. And the closing crescendo hits the heart with a languid, heartbreaking coda.

The young Hallre stands up the challenge with Chasers‘s Björn Kjellemir with the delicate, dreaming theme in By His Lonesome, using fretless’s glissandos in a similar manner as a double bass. Moving softly over a carpet that unveils Rypdal‘s masterful mix of rock, jazz and classical harmonic concepts, the rubato melody is punctuated in an almost hidden way by the remaining musicians. Recalling Over Birkerot, the title track starts from a deceiving use of half-tone movements in the bass register to create a slow tempo jazz rock. Rypdal‘s guitar reinforces it with distorted chords, which create a sort of ambiguos mood, until the theme explodes in a mid-tempo jazz rock jam. That is the perfect environment for Storløkken and his organ, an instrument which played a pivotal role in Rypdal‘s career since Odyssey to Lux Aeterna, to exude a ripping solo, that pushes forward the tension.

What Was I Thinking potentially showcases some of the most lyrical moments we have ever heard from the guitar of Terje Rypdal since ages. Tearing, sincere, melodramatic; he rises up, ascends until the highest peaks, just to fall down. Conspiracy contains evidently some of the most genuine moments Terje Rypdal could please his fans with. His guitar, yet after 50 years have passed, continues to investigate hidden depths that we can barely glance from the distance.

Terje Rypdal


1. AS IF THE GHOST … WAS ME!? 05:43
6. DAWN 02:37

Terje Rypdal: electric guitar; Ståle Storløkken: keyboards; Endre Hareide Hallre: electric basses; Pål Thowsen: drums, percussion

ECM 2658


David Torn / Tim Berne / Ches Smith – Sun of Goldfinger (Congratulations to You) (Screwgun Records, 2020)

In an era of sequels and prequels, spin-offs and Christopher Nolan‘s, it is unfathomably difficult to find a place for Congratulations to You, the new release by trio SunofGoldfinger. The trio made by guitarist David Torn, alto saxophonist (here also at baritones) Tim Berne and drummer Ches Smith releases an album that sheds new light on their 10 year caeer that ultimately found its first album only last year on ECM. Congratulations to You re-assembles two past performances, the very first performance of this trio and another one that took place seven years later. Two performances that point at both the past and the future of this line-up at the same time.

David Torn and Tim Berne are considered two landmark artists in the respective instrument over a 40 year long career. The first, an icon of the avantgarde guitar, the second, an icon of avantgarde jazz. As soon as they ended pairing up in the ECM-released Prezens, Berne, who had started playing in his own quartet Snakeoil with Ches Smith, suggested forming a trio to the fellow David Torn. The three convened in Brooklyn for a totally improvised gig. The first two track on Congratulations to You, taken from that early performance, depict a a band that has no need to warm up, like they had played together since ages. Bat Tears‘ start is triggered by Tim Berne at alto, swiftly switching at baritone. David Torn seems to like the move so much, as to start mixing into it with an assault of distorted and high pitched guitar sounds. But wait what happens at the four minute mark, when Ches Smith puts a more organic beat, with a delicious hip hop vibe. Yells, mumbles, noises, drones… eveything falls down in an amazing manner, just to move to a sudden, haunting mood in the second part of the track.

A noisey free improvisation at the highest octane is the blueprint for Coco Tangle. And again the surprise is coming from Torn, who samples Berne‘s alto in a danceable riff. Ches Smith picks up the glove and puts a bumping and energetic bass drum riff (when I say energetic I mean Slipknot-like). Let now enter a seething plateau of noises that brings the trio in gloomy lands, a sort of John Zorn‘s Painkiller mood. An energetic travel through disturbance, at times propelled by Smith‘s eletronic percussions, Berne‘s ostinatos or Torn‘s scratchy guitars. By contrast, the closing piece, recorded in 2017 during their performance at London’s Vortex, shows a remarkably different side. The music develops in a slower manner, the three cheer their energy in a more organic, sometimes even danceful way. Starting from a train-like sound by Torn, the track gently evolves into an hip hop rhythm that unexpectedly pleases the listeners through assaulting noises. 

A necessary testament, this first chapter of Sun of Goldfinger shows a facet of how the band came to release their eponymous record on ECM, but first and foremost, shows potentially an evolution from that ground. Others to come, please.

David Torn, Time Berne, Ches Smith – (Congratulations to You!)

1.Bat Tears 13:55
2.Coco Tangle 28:42
3.Congratulations to You 13:51

DAVID TORN Guitars,loops,live sampling
TIM BERNE Alto and Baritone saxophones
CHES SMITH Drums and Electronics

Bat Tears recorded in Brooklyn by Joe Branciforte and Daniel Goodwin (last 5 minutes)
Coco Tangle(Brooklyn) by Joe Branciforte
Congratulations To You by Unknown Entity(London)
Mixed and mastered by David Torn


Lorenzo Feliciati – Rumble (2020)

Lorenzo Feliciati has the power to reassemble every complex rhythmic structure, every refined arrangement in catchy hooks that perfectly balance the guilty pleasures with the highest masterful work. And Rumble expectedly replicates this assumption, with the Italian bassist navigating the edge between contemporary fusion, with tinges of progressive rock.

Feliciati has played with the likes of Bob Mintzer, Pat Mastelotto, Steve Jansen, Chad Wackerman, Colin Edwin and Cuong Vu -just to name a few- and is regarded as one of the most important bassists moving in the contemporary fusion and prog scene. He brings these two minds together in several of his projects, mostly recorded with RareNoise records, bringing an immediately recognizeable sound, whether he explores ambient, dancefloor, prog, pure improvisation, standard jazz or King Crimson covers. On the EP Rumble he is sided by the same horn section he worked with on Koi, the fellow Alessandro Gwis on piano, Martin Verdonk on percussions, Aidan Zammit on keys. Add to this lineup the new entry, drummer Jason JT Thomas, current member of fusion sensation FORQ and previously with Roy Hargrove and Snarky Puppy.

And it is the man behind the kit to often take the scene, a perfect companion of the sharp and clear playing Feliciati puts at show. So the opening Art of Mistake starts with a straight fusion jazz vibe, with Thomas driving a juicy riddle of intricated rhythms that add layers to the catchy melody by Feliciati, punctuated by the big band. The momentary GRP mood is suddenly broken by the fatty and energetic chords of the chorus, led by the bassist and the horn section, a perfect ground for the sparkling solo by Alessandro Gwis at piano.  Five enemies is a more standard 70s funky fusion, driven by the repeated chords by Zammit at keys, until a surprisingly deceiving bridge. 

The relaxing vamp in Force Quit again grows in an interesting extended bridge that allows the bass dialogue with the horn section, creating a growing sense of uprising. Feliciati brings back his progressive rock influences for the eponymous track, a testament of the early King Crimson, a sort of Pictures of a City. The bouncing and elusive rhythmic structures create an involuted contrast with the fatty and deep-ended bass lines, driven by the horn section and the electric bass. 

A musician that relentlessly produces new music and explores new grounds, Feliciati can bring new shine in every single song he produces and refine it with masterful art.

Lorenzo Feliciati – Rumble

1.Art of Mistake 04:59
2.Five Enemies 03:35
3.Force Quit 05:56
4.Rumble 03:25

fretted and fretless electric bass, upright bass, electric guitar, keys, soundesign

Jason JT Thomas : drums
The Koi Horn Section + stan adams : trombone
Pierluigi Bastioli : bass trombone
Duilio Ingrosso : baritone sax

Martin Verdonk : percussions on Force Quit
Alessandro Gwis : piano and electronics on Art Of Mistake
Aidan Zammit : prophet on Art Of Mistake and Five Enemies


Horn section written and directed by Aidan Zammit,
recorded by Lucrezio De Seta at Groove Studio in Rome, IT
Drums recorded by Joey Lomas at January Sound Studio in Dallas, TX