Live reviews

RYMDEN at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (2022 EFG LJF)


(Queen Elizabeth Hall, EFG London Jazz Festival, 12 November 2022. Live Review by Patrick Hadfield)

RYMDEN. Photo credit Tatiana Gorilovsky / Serious

RYMDEN are Bugge Wesseltoft (piano), Dan Berglund (bass) and Magnus Öström (drums); it’s twenty-five years since Wesseltoft made his name with his “New Conception of Jazz” album, and nearly thirty since Berglund and Öström, together with Esbjörn Svensson, released their first record as the Esbjörn Svensson Trio. After Svensson’s tragic death in 2008, Berglund and Öström went their separate ways, following very different creative paths.

Wesseltoft, Berglund and Öström have been playing as a trio since 2019: a Scandinavian supergroup – although being Scandinavian, they seem modest and self-effacing, and would quite possibly blanch at such a description. Despite the array of electronics which all three have at their disposal, and into which they occasionally delve, their sound is at heart acoustic. On a darkened stage, Wesseltoft sits at a grand piano; Berglund stands in the centre, cradling his upright bass; and Öström is surrounded by his drum kit and an extensive assortment of percussion. Between them is a depth of meditative concentration.

Rymden means “space” in Swedish, and from the start of the show their music has a lot of space: it is thoughtful and unhurried. Nearly all of the music they played came from their second album, “Space Sailors”, but they performed with little or no break between the pieces, and hardly any talk. There was much improvisation and experimentation, the band seemingly surprised where they get to: during Terminal 1 they set up a reggae rhythm, venturing into dub, and at the end of the piece Öström exclaimed, “Where did that come from? We’ve never done that before!”

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Their pieces morph from one section to another, as the focus switches between piano, bass and drums. Each musician seems to build the music from simple segments: a gentle piano figure becomes a forceful, monumental piano solo; a simple repetitive drum pattern becomes increasingly complex as more and more is added; one of Öström’s solos consisted a series of rolls on the hi-hat that seemed to defy time.

The music is full of soul, too. Berglund’s bass-playing has warmth, and in several passages Öström used just his hands on his drums and cymbals, providing a different, even quieter, mood. Much of Wesseltoft’s piano playing was gently reflective, though the two electric keyboards he had, together with a variety of effects, added a rougher edge at times. Berglund accompanied himself by whistling and at one point it seemed all three were singing, which, helped by gadgetry, sounded like an astral choir.

It was a powerful, emotional performance. They finished with a lively, upbeat number which earned a standing ovation, returning to the stage for a more contemplative encore, “Homegrown”. A remarkable performance: they might not like being referred to as a supergroup, but super they were.

RYMDEN. Photo credit: Tatiana Gorilovsky/ Serious

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield

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