In the 25 years since Bugge Wesseltoft founded Jazzland Recordings, he has engaged in numerous group projects and collaborations such as New Conception of Jazz, duos with the likes of Sidsel Endresen, Henning Kraggerud and Henrik Schwarz, one-off projects such as Trialogue, Bugge and Friends, and OKWorld! And of course, the super-trio RYMDEN.
In the 25 years since Bugge Wesseltoft founded Jazzland Recordings, he has engaged in numerous group projects and collaborations such as New Conception of Jazz, duos with the likes of Sidsel Endresen, Henning Kraggerud and Henrik Schwarz, one-off projects such as Trialogue, Bugge and Friends, and OKWorld! And of course, the super-trio RYMDEN. However, it is in his solo material that we can glimpse the true soul behind the effervescent and mercurial mind of one of the most influential and important Norwegian musicians of an entire generation.
On "Be Am", his latest solo album, Wesseltoft has allowed his creative impulses to wander where they may - no preset rules to govern the composition and production, no obligations to (not) use electronics, not even a will to be totally alone. This is pure playing and composition, where the music speaks freely by whatever means it will.
In the more meditative pieces, there is a sense of both natural calm and imposed calm, the difference between which should be apparent to anyone who has suffered the changes of the COVID lockdown periods - there are times when we naturally experience a mental peace, while there are others when we have to bring ourselves, often with great strength of will, to something approximating it.
Many of the pieces here have the feeling of being wordless songs - indeed, no words are needed when the notes convey all that is needed on tracks like "Tide" or "State". The arrival of Håkon Kornstad on the track pairing of "Emergence" and "Roads" shifts the mood from one of peace within solitude to peace within company, the latter track being an understated dialogue, a musical soundtrack for watching the world hustling and bustling, or sleeping its way towards a new day. Tracks such as "Messenger", "Green" and "Be Am" throw more angular shapes, musical shadow-play where unexpected progressions shift to moments of gospel uplift before taking unanticipated shifts towards unexpected harmony. With "Life", kalimba accompanied by birdsong loops, carrying us into a piece that takes tentative but exact steps between positions, like tai chi in musical form. "Gonna Be OK", returns to the moods established at the beginning of the album in more optimistic colouring, while "Deeper" transports us across a unusual exploration of the lower reaches of the piano, uncertain, yet familiar, transforming itself with each new chord. "Sunbeams through leaves softly rustling" closes the album with that beautiful Satie-like melodic simplicity that Bugge has made his own.
The music of "Be Am" carries ghosts of uncertainty, whispers of resignation, and faint echoes of frustration. But throughout there are rays of hope, a warm clear light of peace and tranquility, and growing flames of an unquenchable fire of determination. It is music of, and for, the human soul.