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Rymden - Reflections & Odysseys Rating: 4 out of 5 A strong début showing from Rymden. This is a ‘supergroup’ with the potential for further development as the rapport between the three musicians continues to blossom.

Rymden

“Reflections & Odysseys”

(Jazzland Records No. 29,  Bar Code 377 920 6)

Rymden is the new Scandinavian ‘supergroup’ featuring the Norwegian pianist,  keyboard player and composer Bugge Wesseltoft in a co-operative trio with the Swedish musicians Dan Berglund (bass) and Magnus Ostrom (drums).

Berglund and Ostrom are best known to jazz audiences as the long serving rhythm section of e.s.t., the ground breaking trio led by their compatriot, the great pianist and composer Esbjorn Svensson.
Formed in 1993 and signed to the German label ACT e.s.t. became the biggest jazz act in Europe, achieving near pop star status in many countries. They made substantial inroads in the UK, US and Australia too and were still exhibiting signs of artistic progress when Svensson was tragically killed in a scuba diving accident in 2008 aged just forty four.

Both Berglund and Ostrom remained with ACT following the tragedy and both subsequently recorded their own groups for the label, Ostrom working under his own name and Berglund leading the co-operative quartet Tonbruket. Both achieved considerable critical and commercial success.

Meanwhile Wesseltoft is celebrated for his 1990s/2000s ‘New Conception of Jazz” ensemble which fused jazz with the dance beats and DJ culture of the time. Also an accomplished acoustic player Wesseltoft has recorded solo piano albums for ACT and has collaborated with many of Norway’s leading jazz musicians including saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Arild Andersen, guitarist Terje Rypdal and trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer. He has also recorded several albums as co-leader with the experimental vocalist and composer Sidsel Endresen. Wesseltoft is the founder of the Jazzland and OK World record labels and is one of most influential figures in contemporary Norwegian music.

Rymden take their band name from the Swedish word for ‘space’ but the initial idea for the trio came from Wesseltoft, who had often been on the same festival bills as e.s.t.
Wesseltoft and Berglund subsequently worked together in Trialogue, a project that also featured the Berlin based electronic musician Henrik Schwarz.

Following Svensson’s death both Berglund and Ostrom made a point of avoiding the piano trio format and also elected to spend time apart from each other, in a professional sense at least. It’s only after a ten year interim that they felt able to re-unite as a rhythm team and to do so in what is ostensibly the piano trio format.

But Rymden is very different to e.s.t. in that it places a greater emphasis on electronic keyboards and rock rhythms, a reflection of the new trio’s shared prog rock past that embraces Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Rush plus jazzier offshoots such as Billy Cobham, and particularly Weather Report. Not that e.s.t were strangers to electronics, those influences also fed into their music, particularly with Berglund’s heavily distorted arco bass solos, which became something of a group trademark.

The influence of Weather Report and of fusion era Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea are detectable in Rymden’s sound but the trio have also cited the influence of more contemporary acts such as Armenian pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan and the Swedish math metal band Meshuggah plus numerous other contemporary metal and hip hop acts.

The Rymden trio introduced itself to the UK jazz audience with a well received set at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival, which included the bulk of the material to be heard on this eponymous début album. My review of that performance can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-day-seven-thursday-22nd-november-2018/

Rymden are due to return to the UK and will appear at the Jazz Arena on May 4th 2019 as part of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Please visit http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/jazz for further details.

Turning now to the album which sees the three musicians dividing the writing credits between themselves but with the largest proportion of the compositions coming from the pen of project instigator Wesseltoft.

However we commence with the jointly improvised atmospherics of “Rymden – Reflections”, which is credited to the group as a whole and segues into Wesseltoft’s “Rymden – The Odyssey”, effectively making this opening double salvo the title track.
“Reflections” mixes fragile, glacial acoustic piano with the electronic sounds of deep space, seguing into “The Odyssey” as Wesseltoft establishes a melodic/rhythmic motif which is given weight by the addition of Ostrom’s drums. With lift off achieved a powerful groove is established, one that goes through several permutations as the music gathers momentum, Wesseltoft moves seamlessly between acoustic and electric keyboards, soloing on acoustic piano but also weaving rich sonic tapestries and textures on synthesiser and Rhodes. At the QEH he was surrounded by a bank of keyboards, effortlessly and instinctively gravitating between the various instruments.

By his own admission Wesseltoft’s compositions tend to be simple affairs, but based around strong ideas that the trio can collectively develop. “I don’t really compose as much as I make firm guidelines”,  he explains, “I might have a very simple theme or riff or combination of these, so it’s the group as a unit that brings energy and life to it to make the best possible version. My goal was never to write a composition with more than one page”.

Credited to Berglund “The Peacemaker” is a short (thirty eight seconds), but beguiling passage of unaccompanied bass that introduces the same composer’s “Pitter Patter”. This is a playful, slyly funky piece underpinned by Berglund’s muscular bass figures and Ostrom’s skittering drum grooves. The pair remain a great rhythm team and they complement Wesseltoft’s lively work on electric piano, his plating variously recalling Corea, Hancock, Zawinul and even Stevie Wonder. There’s also a powerful but highly dexterous solo from Berglund at the bass.

In contrast to Wesseltoft’s writing Ostrom’s pieces tend to be very much through composed, an approach that he perfected with his own bands. The drummer also has a special way with a title and it was he who gave the name to most of Svensson’s compositions for e.s.t.
The drummer’s first contribution with the pen is “The Lugubrious Youth Of Lucky Luke”, a ballad featuring Wesseltoft acoustic piano and with a richly melodic solo from Berglund on double bass. The composer’s own contribution is understated, consisting of atmospheric mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers on a piece that recalls e.s.t at their most reflective.

Wesseltoft’s “The Celestial Dog” was written in honour of the canine cosmonaut Laika and commences with the gentle militarism of Ostrom’s drums.  The sparse but beguiling melody is reminiscent of e.s.t. at their most accessible while Berglund’s rich but eerie bowed bass adds a suitably otherworldly quality to a tune whose title suggests that it be seen as a companion piece to e.s.t’s “From Gagarin’s Point Of View”. Subsequently the trio develop the composition into something more dramatic and dynamic before eventually fading away and coming full circle.

Ostrom’s balladic “Bergen”, a fully composed piece, combines jazz harmony with beguiling folk like melodies and includes features for Wesseltoft on acoustic piano and Berglund on double bass, the latter playing both with and without the bow, his arco playing again sometimes evoking memories of e.s.t. . The focus on melody and the use of uncredited wordless vocals also recalls the music of Pat Metheny, with whom Berglund and Ostrom once worked, the three paying tribute to Svensson on Ostrom’s 2011 solo début “Thread Of Life”.

Also credited to the drummer is “Rak – The Abyss”, the carefully constructed and highly atmospheric solo percussion introduction to Wesseltoft’s “Rak”, a piece named after a region of Sweden. “Rak” was one of the highlights of Rymden’s London appearance with its powerful riffing and judicious use of rock rhythms. Wesseltoft moves between acoustic and electric keyboards, soloing effectively on Rhodes as those “Bitches Brew” and Weather Report influences come to the fore. There are more impressionistic episodes too, very much in keeping with the group’s space theme.

The brief “Orbiting” represents Wesseltoft’s ‘solo’ feature, although Berglund’s bowed bass is in there too, and represents a prelude to the closing “Homegrown”. Written by the pianist this charming ballad is one of his prettiest tunes and contains a delightfully melodic pizzicato bass solo from Berglund, who also makes subtle and atmospheric use of the bow. An intentionally simple arrangement places the focus on melody with Ostrom supplying sympathetic and understated drum accompaniment. It’s a piece that has been compared to e.s.t at their most lyrical but the hymn like quality of the tune and the sparseness of the arrangement also reminds me of the Tord Gustavsen Trio.

“Reflections & Odysseys” confirms the promise of that London show and establishes a distinctive group sound that combines elements of jazz, rock, folk and classical music. The differing writing styles of the three protagonists make for effective contrasts and the music makes effective use of light and shade and skilfully combines acoustic and electric sounds.

“Reflections & Odysseys” represents a strong début showing from Rymden and this looks like a project with ‘legs’. The album has been well received by the jazz press and the new trio is proving to be popular with audiences too. Wesseltoft doesn’t attempt to emulate Svensson but instead brings his own musical personality to the project in a way that suggests that this is a ‘supergroup’ with the potential for further development as the rapport between the three musicians continues to blossom.
Rymden’s journey into space looks set to continue.

Reflections & Odysseys

Rymden

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Reflections & Odysseys

A strong début showing from Rymden. This is a ‘supergroup’ with the potential for further development as the rapport between the three musicians continues to blossom.

Rymden

“Reflections & Odysseys”

(Jazzland Records No. 29,  Bar Code 377 920 6)

Rymden is the new Scandinavian ‘supergroup’ featuring the Norwegian pianist,  keyboard player and composer Bugge Wesseltoft in a co-operative trio with the Swedish musicians Dan Berglund (bass) and Magnus Ostrom (drums).

Berglund and Ostrom are best known to jazz audiences as the long serving rhythm section of e.s.t., the ground breaking trio led by their compatriot, the great pianist and composer Esbjorn Svensson.
Formed in 1993 and signed to the German label ACT e.s.t. became the biggest jazz act in Europe, achieving near pop star status in many countries. They made substantial inroads in the UK, US and Australia too and were still exhibiting signs of artistic progress when Svensson was tragically killed in a scuba diving accident in 2008 aged just forty four.

Both Berglund and Ostrom remained with ACT following the tragedy and both subsequently recorded their own groups for the label, Ostrom working under his own name and Berglund leading the co-operative quartet Tonbruket. Both achieved considerable critical and commercial success.

Meanwhile Wesseltoft is celebrated for his 1990s/2000s ‘New Conception of Jazz” ensemble which fused jazz with the dance beats and DJ culture of the time. Also an accomplished acoustic player Wesseltoft has recorded solo piano albums for ACT and has collaborated with many of Norway’s leading jazz musicians including saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Arild Andersen, guitarist Terje Rypdal and trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer. He has also recorded several albums as co-leader with the experimental vocalist and composer Sidsel Endresen. Wesseltoft is the founder of the Jazzland and OK World record labels and is one of most influential figures in contemporary Norwegian music.

Rymden take their band name from the Swedish word for ‘space’ but the initial idea for the trio came from Wesseltoft, who had often been on the same festival bills as e.s.t.
Wesseltoft and Berglund subsequently worked together in Trialogue, a project that also featured the Berlin based electronic musician Henrik Schwarz.

Following Svensson’s death both Berglund and Ostrom made a point of avoiding the piano trio format and also elected to spend time apart from each other, in a professional sense at least. It’s only after a ten year interim that they felt able to re-unite as a rhythm team and to do so in what is ostensibly the piano trio format.

But Rymden is very different to e.s.t. in that it places a greater emphasis on electronic keyboards and rock rhythms, a reflection of the new trio’s shared prog rock past that embraces Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Rush plus jazzier offshoots such as Billy Cobham, and particularly Weather Report. Not that e.s.t were strangers to electronics, those influences also fed into their music, particularly with Berglund’s heavily distorted arco bass solos, which became something of a group trademark.

The influence of Weather Report and of fusion era Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea are detectable in Rymden’s sound but the trio have also cited the influence of more contemporary acts such as Armenian pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan and the Swedish math metal band Meshuggah plus numerous other contemporary metal and hip hop acts.

The Rymden trio introduced itself to the UK jazz audience with a well received set at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival, which included the bulk of the material to be heard on this eponymous début album. My review of that performance can be read as part of my Festival coverage here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/features/article/efg-london-jazz-festival-day-seven-thursday-22nd-november-2018/

Rymden are due to return to the UK and will appear at the Jazz Arena on May 4th 2019 as part of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Please visit http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/jazz for further details.

Turning now to the album which sees the three musicians dividing the writing credits between themselves but with the largest proportion of the compositions coming from the pen of project instigator Wesseltoft.

However we commence with the jointly improvised atmospherics of “Rymden – Reflections”, which is credited to the group as a whole and segues into Wesseltoft’s “Rymden – The Odyssey”, effectively making this opening double salvo the title track.
“Reflections” mixes fragile, glacial acoustic piano with the electronic sounds of deep space, seguing into “The Odyssey” as Wesseltoft establishes a melodic/rhythmic motif which is given weight by the addition of Ostrom’s drums. With lift off achieved a powerful groove is established, one that goes through several permutations as the music gathers momentum, Wesseltoft moves seamlessly between acoustic and electric keyboards, soloing on acoustic piano but also weaving rich sonic tapestries and textures on synthesiser and Rhodes. At the QEH he was surrounded by a bank of keyboards, effortlessly and instinctively gravitating between the various instruments.

By his own admission Wesseltoft’s compositions tend to be simple affairs, but based around strong ideas that the trio can collectively develop. “I don’t really compose as much as I make firm guidelines”,  he explains, “I might have a very simple theme or riff or combination of these, so it’s the group as a unit that brings energy and life to it to make the best possible version. My goal was never to write a composition with more than one page”.

Credited to Berglund “The Peacemaker” is a short (thirty eight seconds), but beguiling passage of unaccompanied bass that introduces the same composer’s “Pitter Patter”. This is a playful, slyly funky piece underpinned by Berglund’s muscular bass figures and Ostrom’s skittering drum grooves. The pair remain a great rhythm team and they complement Wesseltoft’s lively work on electric piano, his plating variously recalling Corea, Hancock, Zawinul and even Stevie Wonder. There’s also a powerful but highly dexterous solo from Berglund at the bass.

In contrast to Wesseltoft’s writing Ostrom’s pieces tend to be very much through composed, an approach that he perfected with his own bands. The drummer also has a special way with a title and it was he who gave the name to most of Svensson’s compositions for e.s.t.
The drummer’s first contribution with the pen is “The Lugubrious Youth Of Lucky Luke”, a ballad featuring Wesseltoft acoustic piano and with a richly melodic solo from Berglund on double bass. The composer’s own contribution is understated, consisting of atmospheric mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers on a piece that recalls e.s.t at their most reflective.

Wesseltoft’s “The Celestial Dog” was written in honour of the canine cosmonaut Laika and commences with the gentle militarism of Ostrom’s drums.  The sparse but beguiling melody is reminiscent of e.s.t. at their most accessible while Berglund’s rich but eerie bowed bass adds a suitably otherworldly quality to a tune whose title suggests that it be seen as a companion piece to e.s.t’s “From Gagarin’s Point Of View”. Subsequently the trio develop the composition into something more dramatic and dynamic before eventually fading away and coming full circle.

Ostrom’s balladic “Bergen”, a fully composed piece, combines jazz harmony with beguiling folk like melodies and includes features for Wesseltoft on acoustic piano and Berglund on double bass, the latter playing both with and without the bow, his arco playing again sometimes evoking memories of e.s.t. . The focus on melody and the use of uncredited wordless vocals also recalls the music of Pat Metheny, with whom Berglund and Ostrom once worked, the three paying tribute to Svensson on Ostrom’s 2011 solo début “Thread Of Life”.

Also credited to the drummer is “Rak – The Abyss”, the carefully constructed and highly atmospheric solo percussion introduction to Wesseltoft’s “Rak”, a piece named after a region of Sweden. “Rak” was one of the highlights of Rymden’s London appearance with its powerful riffing and judicious use of rock rhythms. Wesseltoft moves between acoustic and electric keyboards, soloing effectively on Rhodes as those “Bitches Brew” and Weather Report influences come to the fore. There are more impressionistic episodes too, very much in keeping with the group’s space theme.

The brief “Orbiting” represents Wesseltoft’s ‘solo’ feature, although Berglund’s bowed bass is in there too, and represents a prelude to the closing “Homegrown”. Written by the pianist this charming ballad is one of his prettiest tunes and contains a delightfully melodic pizzicato bass solo from Berglund, who also makes subtle and atmospheric use of the bow. An intentionally simple arrangement places the focus on melody with Ostrom supplying sympathetic and understated drum accompaniment. It’s a piece that has been compared to e.s.t at their most lyrical but the hymn like quality of the tune and the sparseness of the arrangement also reminds me of the Tord Gustavsen Trio.

“Reflections & Odysseys” confirms the promise of that London show and establishes a distinctive group sound that combines elements of jazz, rock, folk and classical music. The differing writing styles of the three protagonists make for effective contrasts and the music makes effective use of light and shade and skilfully combines acoustic and electric sounds.

“Reflections & Odysseys” represents a strong début showing from Rymden and this looks like a project with ‘legs’. The album has been well received by the jazz press and the new trio is proving to be popular with audiences too. Wesseltoft doesn’t attempt to emulate Svensson but instead brings his own musical personality to the project in a way that suggests that this is a ‘supergroup’ with the potential for further development as the rapport between the three musicians continues to blossom.
Rymden’s journey into space looks set to continue.


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