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 Records!
Joining Arild Andersen's band in 1990, his entry into the jazz scene heralded a formable talent when he participated in that artist's commissioned work for the Vossajazz Festival, entitled Sagn. That year also found him taking part in Jan Garbarek's festival-commissioned work for The Molde Jazz Festival, in a composition called Molde Canticle. With these artists, he also made his recording debut for the ECM label.
In 1991 he joined the Terje Rypdal Quintet, joining Jon Eberson's Jazzpunkensemble the following year. Returning again to the Vossajazz Festival in 1993, his own commissioned work A Little War Story was performed for that festival. He also found time to participate in Sidsel Endresen's commissioned work for The Molde Jazz Festival, as well as record this for ECM. Continuing work with Endresen, he recorded Nightsong with her in 1994, as well as on Arv by Arild Andersen - both for ECM.
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.
In 1996, he was involved in a collaboration of touring and recording with Billy Cobham, and followed this in 1998 with recorded Duplex Ride (Jazzland) with Sidsel Endresen. He also recorded with Jan Garbarek for that artist's critically acclaimed Rites album (ECM). Increasingly, Bugge found himself becoming more and more integrated with "I think Bugge and I are working in parallel courses. It's very hard to find people who are playing electric jazz with integrity. When I heard Bugge's recordings I knew I found a like-minded musical partner. I love playing with him and his music. He's one heck of a fun guy too. "
John Scofield 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 Wesseltoft's work.
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.
Jazzland Remixed - Various Artists
Remixes from the Jazzland Catalogue. Chilluminati (Per Martinsen & Nick Sillitoe), Sternklang, Motion Control, Miss Cattac, Les Gammas, Oliver Holtzer and R. Gscheidle, Bugge Wesseltoft, Andreas Dorau...
Jazzland Remixed (2000, Jazzland) also was released to critical & club acclaim. Wesseltoft toured extensively worldwide, notably performing at The Montreux Jazz Festival, London & Drum Rhythm Festival (Holland) with Gilles Peterson, with several TV and club appearances.
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.
Out Here. In There (Jazzland, 2002), recorded as a duo with Sidsel Endresen, is the culmination of a close, ten-year shared musical relationship that has continued to evolve year after year. Mutual understanding and an almost intuitive musical language is revealed on the album, and shows how much the two artists have broadened and grown. "Both of us have our solo-projects outside of the duo so we naturally bring with us our 'points of interest' and different angles into the duo," says Sidsel, "This might be the reason the duo is still developing." The album reveals music-making truly innovative in its creative delivery, showing that Sidsel and Bugge are truly a strong, artistically contemporary duo with continued evolvement for the future.
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.
(Courtesy of Jazzland Recordings)