Terje Rypdal has enjoyed a very long and varied career with ECM Records. His guitar style is an in-your-face mixture of Hank Marvin-influenced wang-bar melodicism and jagged, dramatic lines that would seem more likely to come from a cello or violin.
And whilst probably too much of a mysterious presence to be described as a guitarists’ guitarist, his influence can certainly be detected in players as varied as Andy Summers, Allan Holdsworth and David Torn.
On Waves, he’s joined by a fantastic band featuring Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet and keyboards and Jon Christensen on drums. It was recorded in 1977 – seemingly a boom year for ECM as Kenny Wheeler (Deer Wan), Ralph Towner (Solstice/Sound And Shadows), Jan Garbarek (Places) and others produced some of their finest work for the label.
Rypdal here brings along some sounds and textures associated with ‘fusion’ – analogue synths, electric bass, ring modulators – but integrates them seamlessly into the compositions. Consequently the material hasn’t really dated. The fantastic, eerie opener ‘Per Ulv’ even sets out its stall with the use of a very primitive rhythm box that could have been used by Sly Stone circa 1971 before the track takes various thrilling twists and turns, Mikkelborg’s synth and trumpet playing particularly shining through.
Mikkelborg also brings his sense of space and natural lyricism – with unusual keyboard voicings and spare, elegant trumpet – to ‘Karusell’ and the dreamy title track which may bring to mind the ambience of Miles Davis’ Aura (which Mikkelborg of course arranged and composed). In general, Miles’s influence towers over Waves. ‘The Dain Curse’ layers heavy rock guitar and dense chordal information over a funky, revolving bass figure in a fascinating reimagining of Davis’s music circa Live Evil.
All in all, Waves is a daring and atmospheric album that is well worth checking out. Any fans of John McLaughlin and Miles’s ’70s and ’80s music will probably love it. (My other website movingtheriver.com recently focused on a fine ’80s Rypdal album The Singles Collection – read about it here.)