Long before ECM released its first remix album (for Nils Petter Molvær’s Khmer), it put out this, its first singles collection. Or so it’s nice to think: the title actually has nothing to do with the content. For their third album, Terje Rypdal & the Chasers instead spit out one of the most transcendent rock albums this side of the Milky Way. So much of that transcendence lies in the bandleader’s characteristic sere. When spurred on by the keyboard stylings of Allan Dangerfield and Audun Kleive’s clear-and-present drumming, he simply can’t go wrong.
With an incendiary initiation on Jan Garbarek’s Afric Pepperbird, and after successfully leading far-reaching experiments like his first self-titled project and the plush Whenever I Seem To Be Far Away, Terje Rypdal opened a new door for ECM when he stepped into the studio to record perhaps his most intimate statement to date. In spite of their brevity, the ten tracks on After The Rain flow in a single 38-minute ode to the almost painful depths of life’s greatest joys. Rypdal overdubs every instrument himself, with his former wife, vocalist Inger Lise, providing the occasional organic touch. Shielded by a holy trinity of intimacy, sincerity, and fearlessness, Rypdal plunges with open eyes into the darkest eddies of his emotional waters.
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.
Lux Aeterna is an orchestral work in five movements, with featured parts of trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and Rypdal himself. It is filled with that curious melancholy which distinguishes contemporary Nordic music on both sides of the jazz-classical divide: trailing wisps of melody and harmonies moving with glacial slowness. But then, just as you are beginning to lose patience with it, in comes Mikkelborg's trumpet, with a tone half-note and half-breath, and the effect is utterly magical. And that is as close as I can get to answering the question of whether this is jazz or not. Just be patient and listen.
Those accustomed to Rypdal's jazz and jazz-rock albums may be startled when they discover his extensive work in orchestral composition, although in some ways Rypdal seems to take these pieces closest to heart. Begun in 1979, "Undisonus" (opus 23), a composition for violin and orchestra, slowly grew through additions and revisions over the course of a decade. The result here, recorded in London by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, is an amalgam of near-minimalist tonalities and bursts of lushly romantic violin solos. "Ineo" (opus 29) was originally penned by Rypdal for Danish radio with himself as the soloist on electric guitar; in this rendition it is a piece for choir and chamber orchestra.