Ingebrigt Håker Flaten
Within the past decade, pianist, composer, producer and performing
artist Bugge Wesseltoft has firmly established himself as a prime
motivating force for an entire following of jazz musicians - not only
in his home country of Norway, but in the international arena as well.
Growing out of the post-modern sounds of ECM-style Nordic jazz
traditions, he has performed with such notable artists as Jan Garbarek,
Terje Rypdal and Billy Cobham, and has made the transition into his
own, uniquely fresh vision of what jazz can be. Additionally, he even
started his own successful record label to promote it - Jazzland
In something of a turning point for his career, in 1995 he formed
his own group, calling it the New Conception of Jazz – soon to become almost a
definition of a sound itself. Setting up his own label to spread his vision of
music as well as other like-minded artists, Jazzland Recordings was born, and
the first CD release on the label was awarded the Norwegian "Grammy"
(Spellemannprisen) for 1996, for the aptly titled New Conception of Jazz. The
album has become a classic for modern contemporary jazz, combining a fresh blend
of genres that would not seem too unfamiliar to listeners of deep house, techno,
ambient, as well as traditional and experimental forms of jazz. Together with
this group, he has toured with several different configurations across
Scandinavia, Europe, Asia and the USA.
Increasingly, Bugge found himself becoming more and more integrated with
Norway's deep-house/techno/ambient music scene, finding inspiration from such
DJs and artists as Strangefruit, Abstract, and Mental Overdrive. Certainly,
this was reflected in his second effort for New Conception of Jazz, entitled
Sharing. A pioneering work, critically acclaimed by the international media,
the success of the album resulted in two years of international touring,
performing at most of the world’s major jazz festivals. Critics have compared
him to Miles Davis, Chick Corea, and even Erik Satie. Even the DJ glitterati
stood up and took notice, as Gilles Peterson, José Padilla, Mixmaster Morris,
and New York's cult Body and Soul collective became outspoken supporters of
With the international launch of Sharing, 1999 saw
him extensively touring under the "New Conception of Jazz" banner. The CD is
built upon the same concept as his first album, combining acoustic jazz with
even more techno-overtones. The goal with this album was to combine two
seemingly opposite genres and create a warm, beautiful album with diverse moods.
Judging by the critical acclaim in which the album was received, by all accounts
the merging of forms was successful. The remix of Existence (Chilluminati)
from the album became a worldwide deep-house/chill anthem, licensed to the
highly successful Café del Mar. Remixes of You Might Say (Andreas Dorau)
topped the German Dance charts, and Bugge's original Feel Good also received
heavy airplay by Gilles Peterson on the BBC.
Bugge Wesseltoft's Moving (Jazzland) was New
Conception of Jazz's release for 2001, also issued worldwide. Recorded at his
downtown Oslo studio, Wesseltoft was joined by an all-star cast of Norway's most
eminent purveyors of fine outer-limits jazz. Performed by the band live in the
studio, it was recorded after two years of touring across Europe, and brings out
the natural empathy that had developed in the band. "All the music is of the
moment," Bugge explains, "Maybe that's why it has that edge, from music that's
developed on the spot. Change and Yellow is the Color have simple melodic
forms, while Gare du Nord, Lone, Moving and Heim are just moods we
created on the spot. All of us together in the same room, playing live, gave us
that direct communication we have on stage, so we could develop and improvise
forms on the spot. Jazz music, if you ask me!"
Mixmag UK wrote in their
review of it:
"A full, epic scale jazz assault with a stringent left
field house attitude, stunning to the verge of addiction, drifting along like
tranquility given wings. Lovers of music, not scenes, need this".
Moving continued to combine Bugge's unique melodic grooves into a
soundscape where one is never quite sure where the next turn might come, but
since the journey is so delicious, you don't mind being compelled further and
deeper into the heartland of his galaxy.
New Conception of Jazz Live (2003, Jazzland) was a
compilation of some of Wesseltoft's best live recordings, exemplifying the sound
of "future jazz." Performed in a completely free style, fusing the best of
improvisation and electronica, the album truly is a phenomenon. Free style, no
boundaries, and the reaction of the ecstatic audiences provide the listener with
an experience one might call interstellar.
Bugge Wesseltoft's final New Conception of Jazz album was Film Ing. As
Bugge states about the album: "I'm very happy with it and to me it feels like a
mixture of pretty much all of the five New Conception albums. Perhaps it even
takes all those experiences into an ultimate new conception album. I feel it
reveals a deeper knowledge and understanding of the mixture of electronic and
acoustic jazz music, drawing on my experience from '96 and up until today." The
album, yet to be titled, will be released in 2004, followed by touring and
performing the world over.