Terje Rypdal’s opus list is vast, and he has often worked with large instrumental forces, but collaborations with jazz big bands have been infrequent. Invited to write music for the Bergen Big Band he was intrigued by the fact that they had recently issued an album of variations on John Coltrane’s “Meditations” (Grappa Records, 2007), a very progressive choice for jazz big band. Late period Coltrane had been one of Rypdal’s entry points into jazz improvising in the 1960s, so he was pleased to extend this influence in his writing for the Bergen ensemble. “They are,” he observes, “a rather special big band.” Apart from the skills of the individual members, Terje was delighted to find that the line-up of the 17 piece big band included three musicians playing bass clarinet: great news for a composer who loves to work with sound texture.
A small Rypdal group – his partners Ståle Storløkken and Paolo Vinaccia from the Skywards trio plus old comrade Palle Mikkelborg – are flanked by the massed Bergen players, conducted by Olav Dale, in a quasi concerto grosso format, a band inside a bigger band. There is passionate playing both at the centre and on the edges of the music and periodic bursts of flat-out rock jamming by Rypdal and his team, including incendiary exchanges between Terje and Storløkken, the latter perhaps best known for his contributions to noise/electro/improv band Supersilent. When the smoke clears, Mikkelborg and Rypdal evoke the spatial/textural skyscapes of their early collaborations (“Waves”, “Descendre”); a good deal of Rypdal’s musical history is referenced here.