Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, David Torn, and others

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Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, David Torn, and others
Hedvig Mollestad with her modded ’80s ES-335.
Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, David Torn, and others
Sky Music: A Tribute to Terje Rypdal

You may have heard the name Terje Rypdal, but not really know the six-string legend or his music. For close to 50 years, Rypdal was a major force in Europe, pushing the lines between rock improv, jazz-rock, ambient, and experimental styles – even mixing in prog and psychedelia.

This two-CD/LP tribute set was conceived by avant guitarist Henry Kaiser as a 70th birthday present for Rypdal, and deploys no fewer than 10 American and Scandinavian guitarists to honor the Norwegian master.

Bill Frisell’s opener, “Ørnen,” is a solo electric piece with arpeggios, a fat tone, and tremolo effects. Next is the ensemble jam “Over Birkerot”/“Silver Bird Heads For The Sun,” a serious prog-fusion jam that lets a number of Nordic monsters loose, including Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen, Reine Fiske, and Raoul Björkenheim. They’re all tremendous players and this 14-minute track is barnburnin’ proof.

“Chaser” is a butt-kicking rock instrumental featuring the three plus Kaiser. There are multiple solos, from raging echo-fueled bends to pitch-shifted shred. “What Comes After” brings aboard one of Rypdal’s best-known adherents, Nels Cline, who adds guitar, bass, loops, and updates the original 1973 into a modern classical masterpiece.

Another disciple, David Torn, takes on “Avskjed,” using his guitar to sound like a demented musical box before weaving in haunting chordal work.

“Warning: Electric Guitars” is a swinging freakout with psycho whammy bends and modal runs from the four-guitar army of Kaiser, Fiske, Thomassen, and Björkenheim. It’s wild and chaotic, but always musical, which speaks to Rypdal’s genius for melody and feel.

“Sunrise” introduces Jim O’Rourke and his array of pedal steel, guitar synth, and acoustic parts, along with Thomassen’s electric. This track captures Terje’s atmospheric magic, as the composition doesn’t sit squarely in any single musical style. It embraces them all – and at once. 

Surely, Sky Music will make you want to dig into Rypdal’s catalog, but it’s also a powerhouse recording in its own right. The musicians brought their A-game and the result is a grand guitarfest. If you like exploratory playing that’s still musical and moving, grab this tribute with confidence.

This article originally appeared in VG December 2017 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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