6 CD SET! Paolo Vinaccia is perhaps one of the most ubiquitous drummers in European jazz, with a 100+ album corpus. A singular talent, Vinaccia regularly demonstrates an acute understanding of the music in which he plays, whether playing with Oystein Sevag, Terje Rypdal, Bugge Wesseltoft or Morten Harket. A master percussionist in every sense, his ability to express emotional content as well as rhythmic energy is unparalleled.
Stale Storløkken, a regular member of such projects as Supersilent, Humcrush, and the more recent and critically acclaimed Elephant9, as well as Terje Rypdal's Skywards Trio, is a recognized maestro of the keyboards, whether traditional organ or synthesiser. His ability to multitask, effortlessly switching between instrumental voices and styles according to the underlying vibe is something to marvel at. Where Storløkken contributes, the overall sound becomes richer, fuller, and despite the seeming contradiction when referring to a synth maestro, more organic (pun intended if you like!)
Terje Rypdal is a legend of Norwegian, and indeed, European music. While jazz is the idiom he is most associated with, he has ventured into orchestral music with tremendous success, while also producing some of the finest jazz-rock crossover albums ever recorded. His guitar style is instantly recognisable, an often dazzling combination of soulful cries and frenetic runs with a startling use of controlled overtones and tremolo. He has been one of the key contributors to Manfred Eicher's legendary ECM label, and as such, has contributed greatly to the tremendous and highly deserved reputation it enjoys.
With Very Much Alive, we are given a rare and beautiful presentation of the combination of these three incredible talents, collectively known most often as Terje Rypdal's Skywards Trio. Each brings their own unique voice to proceedings with an eloquence and panache that rings out with a genuine passion and dedication to the moment - that magical place where everything comes together and the interaction between musicians transcends mere musical mechanics to become something much, much more, infused with an essential and inescapable feeling that this just might be the sound of life itself.
Very Much Alive seems the perfect title for this epic 6-CD set, as it runs the gamut from the near-chaotic to moments of serene beauty. Vinaccia's unfaltering knack for making drums seem like they speak a language we were all born to comprehend is pervasive, bringing a sense of unity to the whole without clouding the definition of each separate piece. Storløkken's ability to create variable soundscapes dotted with landmarks both subtle and dramatic nests itself easily within Vinaccia's superb playing, allowing Rypdal to show that his skills in weaving above, beneath and through the sonic tapestry are still second to none. There are moments of golden warmth, with lush guitar, expansive keyboard and sparkling percussive highlights, and these in turn are offset by moments of stark near-minimal clarity, and moments of extreme convolution where an explosion seems almost inevitable. Yet nothing spills into excess everything is as it should be, no more, no less.
A key feature of the whole set is the obvious enjoyment of playing that the trio stamps upon each performance. The dedication to each individual's craft, and the mutual respect each has for the other, is given a refinement that only a true love of the music can provide. For many, the concept of a 6-CD set might seem like something monumental, almost intimidating; but here, generosity at the heart of all. What could be intimidating is softened by a feeling of sharing, intimate moments, both tranquil and dynamic. The result is a 6 CD set that magically transcends its scale, and manages that party trick that all musicians hope to achieve with their performances, whether live or in the studio: it leaves you wanting more.