Very Much Alive by Paolo Vinaccia: Terje Rypdal’s rock side on #neuguitars #blog
What do you expect when you buy a record by a guitarist, a musician you know well? I guess you are expecting something that maybe you could give a name to, or maybe it will be difficult or impossible to express exactly what you expect. When you listen to music or buy a record from an author you know well, perhaps you will expect to receive the same impressions that you have received before from this artist, and often this will be true even if sometimes your reactions can be very different, because those impressions depend not only on the transmitter, the music, but also on the receiver, the listener. However, knowing your reactions broadly, you will hope to be touched in one of the ways that correspond to your previous personal experiences. For example, you will expect to taste beautiful things, fascinating sounds, enchanting melodies, exciting rhythms, attractive atmospheres, and perhaps you will hope to find enthusiasm, pleasure, or even just to have fun, to find distraction and relief, and sometimes strong sensations, excitement, exaltation….
Why am I asking you this? Because I bought this box of six CDs, that’s right, six CDs, based on an expectation, a desire. Some time I re-read these phrases, on Luca Vitali’s beautiful book “The sound of the North”, dedicated to Terje Rypdal, I quote them verbatim: “He is an agitator who, faced with the impossibility of publishing projects that are too rock for ECM, to whom he has granted the exclusive of his own productions, generously passes the baton to his friend and fellow drummer Paolo Vinaccia. A gesture of generosity that allows the latter, returning from a bad period due to serious health problems, to publish in his own name a box set with the eloquent title ‘Very Much Alive’. A rich box set, which immortalizes the Skywards band in a state of particular grace in its original form, not the sweetened ECM record, and with Danish trumpeter Pàlle Mikkelborg as a guest. ” What could I and could I expect from this box? I had high expectations. What kind of music will it be? Will I like it? Will it turn me on? Will it bother me? Will it leave me completely indifferent or will it just bore me? Actually Luca Vitali had already provided me with very precise coordinates on which to orient me, heralding the impression that he could have made on me. What had he written? “..Too much rock for ECM …” and then an adjective “… sweetened ..” Few words, but precise. I didn’t waste time trying to listen it on Youtube or other channels. I bought the box by impulse and kept myself ready to listen to what it had to say to me. After all, you only live twice Mr. Bond. Isn’t it the duty of every artist to tell me what I don’t know, what I have never heard before, what I have never been able to identify or discover or express directly? And isn’t it a listener’s job to be available to what the artist has to say, and not be annoyed by expecting things the artist doesn’t intend to say? No one can imagine a music that he has not heard before, and therefore no one can expect anything precise before listening to it.
So for a whole week I literally shot this box in my ears on my stereo. It is fantastic, exhilarating, wonderful. Six CDs, one better than the other, all live, with music performed by a first class. Of course, you will say with musicians like the late Paolo Vinaccia (drums), Terje Rypdal (guitar), Ståle Storløkken (keyboards) and the occasional presence of Pàlle Mikkelborg (trumpet) what could you expect if not excellence? True, I expected to listen to something interesting, but I did not imagine this. Let’s go back to Luca Vitali’s words: “..too rock for ECM …” and “… sweetened ..”, you see I love Terje Rypdal’s guitar, but what sometimes puzzles me in his records is a certain prolixity and an excess of reverberation that stimulate those visions of wide Nordic landscapes, but at the same time … it is a bit “patinated”. Excessively chiseled. At the base of all this there is a debate among music lovers that has been dragging on for almost fifty years, whose object is the “ECM Sound”. An almost exotic sound, characterized by ample reverberations and an almost crystalline, smooth tone. A trademark that has so characterized the Nordic music scene that it has become a cliché. But Terje Rypdal is a musician with deep rock roots and I wanted to find that sound, to feel that energy, that warmth, that desire that has always distinguished him. And in this box, I found it. Here Rydal seems to explode, the solos lengthen, the fingers run fast on the keyboard of his instrument, the band lives a perfect symbiosis, the sound is intense, generous, powerful. It’s rock! You feel an incredible energy and it doesn’t matter if this box was produced 10 years ago. ECM has been able to capture emotions and transmit them with a unique and immediately recognizable sound, in fact generating a real musical aesthetic, but it also has risked excluding anything that did not fall within the canons defined by Manfred Eicher. I don’t think ECM would ever have released six CDs like this, with this free, almost wild sound. I am happy to have also been able to appreciate this rock side of Terje Rypdal and his associates. I believe that a musician, an interpreter, a composer, an improviser not only has the privilege of expressing what he wants to express and what his talent and his imagination force him to achieve, but also the duty to create unexpected things, to surprise with the novelty and originality of his arguments and the way he treats them. Artists like these must be able to witness their intense musical richness and “Very Much Alive” is a perfect example of all this. Thanks again. After all, you only live twice Mr. Bond