This end-of-the-millennium quartet session probably best defines all the inherent contradictions in who ECM attracts to the label – what kind of musician records for them – and what concerns these artists and ECM's chief producer (and creator) Manfred Eicher hold in common. This set, although clearly fronted by Markus Stockhausen and Arild Andersen on brass and bass, respectively, allows space for the entire quartet to inform its direction. Héral and Rypdal are not musicians who can play with just anybody; their distinctive styles and strengths often go against the grain of contemporary European jazz and improvised music. Of the 11 compositions here, four are collectively written, with two each by Andersen and Stockhausen.
For twenty years electric guitarist Terje Rypdal (and ECM producer Manfred Eicher) have helped define the most sensual, moody, alluring aspects of European jazz and new music. And while Rypdal, the improvising guitarist, may structure his solos and chamber-like accompaniments in the manner of a jazz or classical composer, there's a lyric, rock edge to his guitar playing that will transport anyone who has ever contemplated the vocal cry of a Fender Stratocaster driven into distortion.
This laconic yet lasting statement from Terje Rypdal marked the Norwegian guitarist’s third ECM appearance as composer and leader. Its crucible continues to yield an enticing tincture of prog-rock and classical stylings for the weary musical mind. The reverberant French horn that animates “Silver Bird Is Heading For The Sun” betrays nothing of its cooption by a punchy g/d/b constituent. Floating on a well-aged mellotron, it bows out gracefully as Rypdal rolls in like a fuzzed haze.
Terje Rypdal has long had an unusual style, mixing together elements more commonly found in new age and rock than in jazz; yet he is also an adventurous improviser. Associated with the ECM label since the early '70s, Rypdal's playing is definitely an acquired taste, using space and dense sounds in an unusual manner. Classically trained as a pianist, Rypdal was largely self-taught on guitar and originally most influenced by Jimi Hendrix. Rypdal played with Russell for a time and started an association with Jan Garbarek in the late '60s. He formed the group Odyssey in 1972, and has led various small groups since the mid-'70s. An important guitarist and composer in Norway, Terje Rypdal gained a cult following in the United States.