Album review: Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas – Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas (Smalltown Supersound)

Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas - Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas (Smalltown Supersound)

Aural wallpaper

If Bugge Wesseltoft is anything to go by, the spice of life lies in collaborations. The Norwegian keyboard player started off with his group the New Concept of Jazz in the late nineties but has subsequently played with a wide range of musicians including German DJ/producer Henrick Schwarz, singer Sidsel Endresen and a host of people on the OK World project a few years back. He does occasionally release solo works but they are (sadly) pretty scarce. Here Wesseltoft has teamed up with fellow countryman Prins Thomas, another DJ/producer who introduced the category of space disco to the world and has made several collaborative albums himself. Thomas has undoubtedly followed in Wesseltoft’s footsteps, the latter was the first to break the Norwegian cool jazz mould by adding beats to his groove based playing and attracted a worldwide audience in the process. The third player on this album is from an earlier generation, drummer Jon Christensen has played with many of the greats including Jan Garbarek and is a staple on the ECM label, the home of cool jazz.

The opener Furuberget (pine hill) sees Thomas building up his typically rich and diverse beats with a variety of instruments both electronic, electric and acoustic albeit synths are a mainstay. Wesseltoft noodles over the top on piano and other keyboards and the whole thing meanders along in a pleasant if not diverting fashion until about 10 or so minutes in when the electronica fades away to leave piano and drums too explore some much darker territory, Christensen’s chimaeric drums providing a subtle backdrop as the pair start to delve deep, they’re reined in by a nicely put together rhythm line but this is only a foretaste of what’s to follow.

Norte do Brasil is based on the rhythms of that land and played on a synth with an organ like character, probably one for the latin enthusiast. The follow up Sin Tempo is where Wesseltoft and Christensen continue their journey, the grand piano and drums were recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio a place with beautiful natural reverb, so this pairing sounds particularly good. The piano starts out with some slow chords but soon gets freeform in a calm fashion while the drums weave their own spell, this is your actual jazz so not for all but when the piece resolves it does so sublimely, making it the album highlight IMHO. Bar Asfalt is similar to Furuberget but shorter and more engaging, especially the last few minutes when the piano becomes mesmerising before Thomas joins in with his fruity sounding electric bass. The appropriately titled Epilog finds Wesseltoft playing long chords on a spacey sounding synth as the drums create a spare but always interesting acoustic field. When Thomas joins the fray with a big chewy synth sound it gives the piece a pulse that’s irresistible if no more up tempo than the rest of the album.

This is an open and 3D sounding album that works on many levels, all but the cerebral Sin Tempo are calm enough to be perfect aural wallpaper but turn them up and there’s a lot of variety to engage with, especially when Bugge is tinkling the ivories.

Jason Kennedy

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