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Life in Leipzig by Ketil Bjornstad & Terje Rypdal

The legacy of these two Norwegian musicians’ affiliation reverts back to 1994 when "The Sea" quartet was inaugurated and issued by this estimable record label. But due to logistics and timing, progressive-rock guitarist Terje Rypdal and classically-trained pianist Ketil Bjornstad branched off into a duo format amid their respective projects.

Recorded at a Leipzig Germany opera house, the program offers innumerable contrasts. Take for example, Bjornstad’s largely gentle voicings coupled with Rypdal’s razor sharp lines that generate hauntingly beautiful and somewhat ethereal musical environs. The guitarist’s touch of echo is a staple of his highly individualistic sound, which is funneled through an ancient Vox AC30-amp. With a Fender solid-body guitar, Rypdal often counters the pianist’s cascading chord clusters and lyrically-resplendent themes. A study in contrasts indeed, yet it all works remarkably well despite the oil and water connotations that might arise, given the respective musicians’ disparate resumes.

The artists shine as sound-sculptors of a supreme order. They slice and dice but also pursue lush phrasings and a soaring approach. Almost if they’re possessed by a perpetually optimistic spiritual entity. Sure, Rypdal periodically launches into scathing upper-register attacks via his climactically devised single note riffs. However, the duo strikes a chord, evidenced on "Easy Now," which is a piece that surfaces as a European art-blues vamp. Then on "The Sea IX," originally recorded on the 1995 ECM release The Sea, they execute a dainty lullaby type vibe.

One of my longtime Rypdal favorites titled "The Return of Per Ulv," is culled from his 1995 outing titled If Mountains Could Sing. Here, Rypdal’s scorching licks rides above Bjornstad’s rollicking progressions, where a memorable melody is integrated into a quasi, blues/prog-rock undercurrent. Hence, the overall program instills an aura that is befitting of soft lights and a warm gentle breeze to complement a few turbulent gusts of wind along the way. Artistic imagery plays an important role throughout.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ketil Bjornstad & Terje Rypdal
  • CD Title: Life in Leipzig
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: ECM Records
  • Musicians: Ketil Bjornstad (piano), Terje Rypdal (guitar)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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