Sunday, March 11, 2007

Terje Rypdal-Bleak House,LP,1968,Norway

original Polydor 1968 issue cover
1974 Karouzel rei-issue cover

Terje was born to a musical family on August 23rd, 1947 in Oslo, Norway. His father was a clarinetist and conductor of a military band in Oslo. Terje studied piano from age 5-12, trumpet at age 8, and guitar at age 12-13 (self-taught). He was a teen guitar hero in the group Vanguards (1962-7), which was a sort of Norwegian take on the British Shadows and the American Ventures. He planned on studying electrical engineering at the Technical University in Trondheim, Norway, but left to pursue a career in music. He studied musicology at the University of Oslo; he attended the Music Conservatory in Oslo (later named the Norwegian State Academy of Music) from 1970-2. He served as orchestra leader in the pit band of the Norwegian production of "Hair" back in 1970 or 1971. He studied composition under composer Finn Mortensen, with further study in composition under jazz composer George Russell. In fact, Terje performed with Russell and Garbarek from 1969-71, and released several albums with them (see discography). He also formed a band named Dream (1967-69), which was a blend of Hendrix-styled psychedelia and blue-eyed soul and power pop all-in-one; they released one album entitled "Get Dreamy". Terje's only recording released in his own name PRIOR to his to-be long association with Manfred Eicher's wonderful ECM label was entitled "Bleak House", and was a very interesting grab bag of all the many styles that Terje was to embrace later in his career (jazz, pop, contemporary composition, fusion, and even a bit of bossa nova thrown in!). Once married to actress/singer Inger Lise Rypdal. Was later married to Elin Kristin Rypdal (1988). He has three sons and one daughter.Terje owns an "Iceland horse" (named "Blakkur") and enjoys riding amidst the beautiful scenery where he lives in Tresfjord. His kids play in the school brass band there, and Terje helps out with fundraising, arranging concerts, etc.. In fact, his composition "Det bla Folket" was written for the Tresfjord people.Some of Terje's popular music influences were/are Jimi Hendrix (during the Dream years, Terje had his hair curled and did a great impression of Jimi, vocally and guitaristically - on the "Get Dreamy" album, there is a tune called "Hey Jimi" a la Hendrix's "Hey Joe", and another great psych-jam with Terje on vocals, "Ain't No Use" - in fact, Hendrix actually heard the Dream album at this time), Hank Marvin (of the Shadows), Jeff Beck, Stevie Winwood, Eddie Van Halen, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Charlie Byrd, John McLaughlin, Gary McFarland (specifically the 1968 album "America the Beautiful"), Sex Pistols, Prince, 10CC, and others.
Some of his classical and contemporary composer influences were/are Mahler, Beethoven, Grieg, Debussy, Ligeti, Stockhausen, Penderecki, Mortensen, Nordheim, Rolf Wallin, Bjorn Fongard (invented the micro-interval guitar), and others. He is a member of the Norwegian Composers Guild.
Terje was honored with the Deutschen Scallplattenpreis (German Record Award) for "Odyssey" in 1976. Other awards he has received include:1977: "Artist of the Year", all classes, granted by Adressavisen, Trondheim Norway.1982: "Spellemannsprisens Silver Harp", special honour, for his total achievements for norwegian music.1984: "Work of the year" for Undisonus, granted by the Norwegian Composers Association, the prize that means most for Terje, ("at last I'm recognized as a composer, even by my colleagues.").1985: "Buddy Prize", the highest honour granted by the Norwegian Jazz Musicians Association ("He should have had it years ago").1995: "Spellemannsprisen", Norwegian Grammy, for "If Mountains Could Sing"
On the flip side, some musicians that claim Terje as influence on them are Andy Summers (" the best guitarist I know"), David Torn ("Terje...wunna my all-time favorite gitfiddlers!"), Bill Frisell, Jeff Beck, Gunnar Andreas Berg (Norwegian guitarist), Eirik Lie (Norwegian composer), Bobby DeVito (American guitarist), and yours truly (American guitarist! hehe), amongst MANY others.
Terje is respected in his homeland by such established and respected musicians as pianist Iver Klieve (Audun's brother), pianist Kjell Baekkelund (for whom Terje's piano concerto was composed for Baekkelund's 50th birthday), violinists Tellefsen and Terje Tonnesen, composer Finn Mortensen (who said Terje was his all-time favorite composition student), Arne Nordheim, Christian Eggen, and others. However, Terje has had his share of criticism from musicians and critics as being a hack rock-star composer who gets too much attention, etc.. For example, when his Opus 1, "Eternal Circulation", was first performed, rumour has it that the orchestra members sat leering at each other, making jokes about this rocker who thought he was able to write "real" music. Terje's "neo-romantic" composing style has annoyed critics at times. But he manages to write modern music that retains that most critical ingredient: BEAUTY!
Terje has remained faithful to Eicher and the ECM label for 28 years now. In fact, Terje composed a "Concerto ECM" in 1982 as tribute to Eicher for all his efforts and hard work on behalf of Norwegian musicians such as himself. And his recent "Skywards" project was a 25-year celebration of the work done by Terje and Manfred - a concert billed as "Music for Manfred's Men" was staged in February 1996, and a special composition, "Sinfonietta", was composed for the event. The work was performed at Lillehammer with a large group of outstanding ECM artists. Oh, to have been there!

Review for "Bleak House"

"Dead Man's Tale" - played by the Dream band (sans bassist Stormoen) - very laidback minor-key blues tune with vibrato-rich guitar (I assume it was Terje's hollowbody) and organ and vocals (Terje) - similar in tone to the Zombies' "Time of the Season" but more laidback - some really tasteful and enjoyable solos by Terje and Reim (the organist), plus some breathy flute soloing by Terje - I do like this tune quite a bit "Wes" - an obvious guitar-and-bigband tribute to Wes Montgomery, with the intervallic guitar lines and all - I admit that I laughed when I first heard this track, not because it is a poor composition (which it most definitely isn't), but because of Terje's weak (to my ears) attempt at being a "swingin'-cat" jazzer. Hehe. But the tune is cool, the heads going from 4/4 to 5/4 to 3/4 in upbeat swinging fashion. "Winter Serenade" - this is a short freely-improvised piece that is apparently supposed to intonate "Falling Snow", "Snow Storm", and "Melting Snow", its three "movements" (without any breaks between them) - some nice improv by all (sorta like Rypdal's "Rainbow" or something from Garbarek's first couple of ECM releases), with great guitar doodling and wailing and fine pointilist playing by Garbarek, Reim, and trumpeter Johansen, amongst others - I really like this piece (surprise, eh? haha) - a good break between the big band sounds of "Wes" and..... "Bleak House" - a triple-meter upbeat big band tune with very nice horn arrangement and some fine guitar work (lead and rhythm - you don't get much chance to hear his rhythm work very often) by Terje - some may prefer this tune over all others on the album - although it is quite derivative sounding, it is fun nonetheless - some fine drumming by Christensen - he and Terje really get down on the extended Im7-IV jams "Sonority" - by far my favorite piece on the album!! - a lovely intro with flute, piano, and guitar with nice chords on horns - gradually swells to a gentle undulating flow of IImaj7-Im7 (sorta like the theme to Shaft! haha) - actually this reminds me of some of the work of another big favorite of mine, Claus Ogerman (a superb orchestral jazz arranger/composer) - and some of the most laidback and subdued guitar doodling I have ever heard Terje do, and I really like it."A Feeling of Harmony" - Hahaha! Imagine Terje trying to sound like Joao Gilberto or Dori Caymmi, etc. - the bossa nova craze was at its height in the early-mid 60s, and apparently Terje dug it (as do I) - here he is with nylon-string guitar (MY main instrument!) and humming away with poor intonation, the whole silly bit. Why he decided to include this tune on this album is a mystery (unless he just wanted to demonstrate stylistic diversity), and it kinda stinks - this commentary from a lover of Jobim, Bonfa, Powell, etc. too! Haha.So, there it is - a fun album, even though all the pieces are not works of genius. But like Dave said, it is a great window into the workings of Terje's mind at the time, and his struggle to come to grips with his true calling, so to speak. My favorite tracks are "Sonority" and "Winter Serenade", but all of them (except the silly "A Feeling of Harmony") are worth hearing over and over again.(reviewed by Jeff Gower)From Lasse: Even the sound quality on (especially) Dead Mans Tale (from "Bleak House") is amazing. That tune has a strong melody, good guitar and flute solos (by our man) , GREAT Hammond organ, and HAmmond bass pedals, that tune has cult-status (and the entire record) in Norway. Im sure if you ask Terje today he is probably still proud of that record. He also plays some Wes- stuff, but I think on hte soloing he gets rythmically "uptight", while his soloing in DMT is rythmically brilliant. Ive always focused on guitarists rythmical sense, its possible to play 10 times more interesting stuff with a hip rythmic feel and not-so-much tecnique than vice versa. This is of course banalities for you, but it really concerns me, and the worst thing is to hear those trying to prove their limited technique, they always tend to forget the rythmical aspect. (Which I think Terje did on the Wes-stuff on BH). On BH there is also two big band tunes (where de plays his Wes-stuff), and the big band compositions are amazingly hip for a 19-20 year old! There is one tune which leads ahead of coming greatness, a real beauty, and also a free-jazz tune called "melting ice". On "WAter Stories", the cover-info on Bjornstad says that BH had such impact on him that he converted from a classical carrier to his present, with improvisational music. One more thing I'm sure not even E. Lie is aware of: On BH a trumpeter called Jarle Furuholmen plays in the big band. THat was the father of Magne Furuholmen ("Mags" in "Aha"!)! He died in an plane-crash 2-3 months after BH was recorded, in-68.
From Dave:...i think it's a great listen... mainly because you can really see the inner working of his music so clearly in retrospect. I could hear where a lot of his ideas were coming from (i.e., things he is still dealing with today even) while listening to this tape. For all its missteps & tentative experiments, it is fascinating listening. I also LOVE that corny late 60s sound...
From Niccolò Rodeghiero:I've received few days ago the "Bleak House" Cd reissue from Bare Jazz.What a pleasure to ear this lost debut of our best!I think you can feel that Terje at this time was only 21 years old, but the result, with his eclecticism, already announces the originality of guitarist's work on the 70s.The pop harmonies of some songs are surprising: "Dead Mans Tale" is a sort of blues in Traffic's style with many melodic cues and a flute solo who reminds me the first Ian Anderson.The final "A Feeling Of Harmony" is a bizarre, dreamy bossa nova where the voice recalls me even some lunatic Robert Wyatt's vocalization!Elsewhere we can feel a disposition for more subtle musical constructions, with convincing orchestral accompaniments - a vigorous Jan Garbarek on tenor saxophone! - and uncommon harmonic dilatations.In the sound of guitar is more evident the Hank Marvin's influence, wich is however only a point of departure; I don't like "Wes" because it's an homage too didactic.In my opinion the best tracks of this album are they where are more evident the seems of Rypdal's future compositional research, like "Winter Serenade" and especially "Sonority", which is surely my favourite.
~Jeff Gower
get it here


Anonymous said...

this link doesn't work

Anonymous said...

please, can you reupload??

p.s. Do you have Terje Rypdahls band, the dream?

mrsblucher said...

it would be great to hear this:
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Terje Rypdal - Bleak House, LP, 1968, Norway

the link does work.

Anonymous said...

the link doesn't work for me either. is there a trick?

Anonymous said...

Please, can this be reupped? The link does not work. Been looking for this for years. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You can find the album at