Terje Rypdal: In A Miles Mood
It was around this time he decided to forgo going to school for electrical engineering and plunge into music. "When this happened, Rypdal explains, "my father was a military musician conductor and he said, 'Please don't do this. It's a hard living.' But then everything happened quite fast, after the Dream period. At the end, even Jan Garbarek was part of the band. Then they asked me to join his [Jan's] quartet and at the same time George was living in Oslo, so I took a Lydian concept course from him, desperately trying to find out what we should do. Then I played in George's sextet, which had never been recorded before, and I got the trombone part. I think somebody had played valve trombone, [Bob] Brookmeyer or someone. These parts were extremely difficult, so I spent two or three months just trying to learn. That worked out OK. Not only from his teaching, but his music was very important.
Rypdal appears on Russell's Essence of George Russell (Soul Note, 1966) and Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved By Nature (Soul Note, 1969).
Rypdal was more immersed in rock and pop, and had classical influences as well from his childhood. The idea of playing jazz was at first a bit puzzling. "I would have liked to play more standards and things, says Rypdal, "but had too much respect for it [to emulate it]. Here at home, from time to time, I play it. If I started to play jazz three or four years earlier, it might have happened. What happened was I used what I learned from Jeff Beck and the Hendrix thing.
The first ECM album Rypdal appears on is Garbarek's Afric Pepperbird (ECM, 1970), though he had played on Garbarek's The Esoteric Circle (Freedom, 1969) before that and recorded one album of his own, Bleak House (Polydor/Universal Norway, 1968).
"When we started with Jan [Garbarek], I didn't know what to do, he recalls. "So I started to play like McCoy Tyner. The first album, I'm trying to be one of McCoy's hands. I'm thinking about chords that I knew and experiment with them. And then later, when we started at ECM, whenever we started to sound too much like somebody else, Manfred [Eicher, ECM founder/producer] would say, 'Find your own voice.' Without Manfred it might have gone another direction.
He admits that at one point in the early '70s, "I didn't want to play guitar. I played flute and soprano saxophone, because I didn't get the sound I wanted. But something happened, and I said 'OK. Now it's here.' But it took a couple years to really search for it and get the quality. He says he played longer melodic lines, and gradually learned to control speed and incorporate that into his playing, as needed. A style that he found comfortable emerged, and it's one that has, in turn, influenced others.
"I have another guitar friend, the guitarist from TNT [a Norwegian band], and he always says, "It not about the music. It's in your fingers.' Probably, that's part of it, combined with a good guitar and pedals that you like, and so on. Once we tried to use the same equipment, didn't touch anything, and changed guitar players, and it sounded very different. So that's a phenomenon.
Rypdal was recording Garbarek's second album, Sart (ECM, 1971) and wrote a song for the recording. "There is something on the [original] Bitches Brew album, you can hear Miles whispering [affects gravel voice]: 'Keep it like that. Tight.' So I made a tune called that, in '71 I would guess. It was decided that it should not be on the album. I was very happy with it and probably showed some disappointment. So Manfred said, 'Don't worry. Don't worry. You can finish your own album.' That was how he started me as a leader.
"Keep It Like That - Tight, can be found on Rypdal's debut as a leader on ECM, Terje Rypdal (ECM, 1971).
The guitarist says the long ECM association has been a boon to his career. "If I'd only been an artist in Norway [without ECM] it would be completely different. I was very lucky. We've [Rypdal and Eicher] spent so much time together that we are friends. It has meant a lot. It has been a living. I made a living off it, but it is very much due to Manfred. And other things.
So Rypdal, a much-decorated musician in Europe for his playing and composing, including 1985's Buddy Prize, the highest honor granted by the Norwegian Jazz Musicians Association, has continued on a career that has been fruitful and allowed him to make a good living. Today, he lives in a rural area outside Molde, Norway, surrounded by the beauty of mountains. "I'm in the country. It's a place that has been in my family for a long time. I moved in first just for a summer place, and now it's regular. It's not too far to the airport from here, so that's OK. Molde has a nice festival. Miles played here a few years before he died. I've seen him live and also passed him once, but I didn't talk to him. But Palle really got to be friends with him. I know a lot about those meetings.