Songs - Bugge Wesseltoft


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The third solo album from Bugge, a superb meditation on music that inspires him.

I love jazz! Growing up, listening to my father's records I have,  since the age of 8, been playing and trying to learn this music. Firstly, on our old home piano; later, pretending to be Jimmy Smith on my Yamaha Electone Organ (including the most silly electronic rhythmbox ever created). Later, using Fender Rhodes and Synth, and, finally, in my daily rehearsals on the piano I was able to buy at the age of 22.

 

So why did I never perform this music in concert?
 

Well... There have been so many interpretations of these beautiful songs. Fantastic versions by fantastic performers. Bill Evans, Errol Garner, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ray Charles, Keith Jarrett - to just name a genius or two. Likewise, there have been some horrible destructive versions, showing off skills in a meaningless, obscure, imaginary competition.

 

After all those years spending daily hours playing with and around this fantastic song material, I finally felt my versions were personal enough to be recorded, with respect, appreciation and gratitude for those wonderfully beautiful songs!


Bugge Wesseltoft



Bugge Wesseltoft, never still, always moving. His music, since the release of New Conceptions of Jazz 15 years ago, has continuously crossed musical frontiers, and always questioned the need for these frontiers to exist at all. Yet what remains certain is the fact that Bugge is a Jazz man - through and through. Whether incorporating electronics or elements of world music, the heart of Bugge's output is - and has always been - jazz. Where other explorers from the jazz realm hybridize further and further away from jazz, Bugge instead has brought new energy and perspectives into his jazz.

Now, on his third solo album, he takes a fresh look at the music that made him what he is, the songs and compositions that have informed this jazz sensibility throughout his career. No electronic sleight of hand or post-production: this is pure musicianship.


Covering standards from the 1930s onwards, Bugge's meditation on music that has inspired many before him (and will continue to inspire musicians of the future) is deeply contemplative, and is often both evocative of the spirit of the originals, while venturing into spontaneous arrangements both unexpected and truly satisfying.

Beginning with "Darn That Dream", a 1930s classic that has been performed by artists as diverse as Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis and Doris Day(!), Bugge's declaration of intent is clear. This is late night music: dark, smoky interpretations that smolder with artful intensity.

"My Foolish Heart", another classic, this time from the late 1950s, maintains the tranquil approach, with no notes wasted, no needless chatter coming exclusively from the fingers rather than the head or heart.


"How High The Moon", a 1940s classic, perhaps most famously performed by Ella Fitzgerald is given sensitive handling by Bugge, again creating a sense of importance for every space between notes as much as the notes themselves.

From one piece inspired by the moon to another, "Moon River", an immediately recognizable piece from the 1960s by Henry Mancini. Bugge's meditative style captures qualities hidden within it often overlooked by arrangers and interpreters, giving a beautiful performance that manages to give the inevitable feeling of familiarity new layers of surprise, and is done so without any compromising of the song's integrity.

"Chicken Feathers", a 70s classic by Steve Kuhn, takes on a new sensibility in Bugge's hands, with sparkling soloing and deft melodic variations.


"Lament", the J.J. Johnson piece, and a standard since the 1950s, has a suitable serenity about it, once more demonstrating that Bugge's understanding of music economy is not just an enviable thing, but capable of presenting a familiar piece in a whole new light, somewhat like noticing a beautiful garden you have walked past for years without really looking at it.

"We'll Be Together Again", a 40s piece that has generally been perceived as a vocalist's song (covered by the likes of Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong) is treated with a rich arrangement, with little unexpected turns of phrase and accentuation that a vocal arrangement can never capture.

"Like someone in love", another 40s standard, is here given a radical, almost minimalist spin - but minimal in the sense that it is spare, almost desolate in places, lending a new interpretive angle for the song as a whole. To be "like someone in love" is not always as joyful as it might appear, nor, equally, as tragic: Bugge's interpretation suggests a weaving path between the two extremes.


"Giant Steps", the John Coltrane masterpiece from 1960, rounds off proceedings, taking a journey through one of the most influential pieces of music from the 20th century (not just in jazz). The "giant steps" of the chordal roots are present, but not the main focus, instead playing the part of support to some playing by Bugge that manages to be both adventurous and placid at the same time.

 

With "Songs" Bugge Wesseltoft has reminded us that although we know him as an innovator in the crossfertilization of musical genres, he is first and foremost a pianist who can take a piece of music and make it his own. The album reinvigorates the notion that a lone figure seated at a piano still has a lot to say in our techno-gadgetry world.

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