Terje Gewelt, prolific bandleader (12 albums thus far) and sideman (countless!) has assembled a quality quartet for his latest album, "Wow and Flutter" (released on his own label, Resonant Music). Featuring the guitar work of Bjorn Klakegg (Needlepoint, Vidar Johanssen Quartet), the keys of Erlend Slettevoll (The Core, Steinar Raknes Quartet), and the drums and electronics of Terje Evensen (Spin Marvel, Eyes of a Blue Dog), and the results are absolutely as good as you'd expect.
Kicking off with "Time Travels", Gewelt takes us into a post-Miles trip, chittering drums, bass that moves from a walk to run, and overall acts as a kind of statement of intent: the album is certainly a journey through time, evocative of different eras and areas of music.
"Ups and Downs" enters a more tender sound, where Gewelt's bass and Klakegg's guitar alternate in lead roles. It's a beautiful piece. Perfect music for sitting by a window on a white-sky day, watching the world go by.
"Leaving Town" resumes with a kind of high-speed train rhythm, a more terrestrial journey than the preceding "Time Travels", yet no less energetic or inventive. It's like a high-speed trip through the 1970s, a little decadent, a little bit camp, but absolutely certain of what it's doing.
"Iskanten" is an atmospheric trip that gradually builds into a stumbling jazz reverie, embellished with glitchy electronics. It's a direct leap into this millennium, and following "Leaving Town", gives the listener a kind of futureshock.
"Crosstalk" enters an entirely different atmospheric soundworld, not exactly menacing, but certainly tense and expressionistic. Despite the Pastorius-like bass, it's very much a 21st century take on jazz fusion, drenched in an atmosphere that positively crackles with electrical energy.
"Seafarer", evokes a maritime vibe through sounds like a rocking boat, music that seems to move in waves, and features some fine guitar work by Klakegg. It drifts along, coasting, melodic yet loose.
The title track, "Wow and Flutter", with its effects-laden percussion rattling rhythmically, and bowed and scraped electric guitars, is the most abstract piece on the album. It's like a high speed film of life in a jungle clearing (urban jungle or equatorial jungle - take your pick). The term "sound painting" could be applied here without much dissent.
"Melancholy Blue" initially wanders through a fog before emerging like a drunken French jazzman who has wound up in New Orleans without a clue as to how he got there. It's a marvellous composition.
"Raw Air" is the most sonically aggressive track on the album, channelling Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner into a piece that would sit nicely as part of a soundtrack to a cop show. It takes a very satisfying trip indeed.
By contrast, "Gone Sailing" flirts with easy-listening Latin jazz, mellow, and is like the 50s French Riviera sunshine filtered through an 80s smooth jazz lens to burn the edges of a millennial dream of how life should be.
"Wow and Flutter" is a solid album, although one that lacks a solid stand-out track - it's simply too diverse, following too many paths (successfully), and will leave each listener with a different experience. And this is not a complaint, by any means: the fact that you will come away with your own favourites from this album, while other tracks will take time to grow on you, and meanwhile everyone else talks about it as though they listened to a different record - that's actually a very good thing indeed. Personally, I was a sucker for "Time Travels", "Crosstalk" and "Melancholy Blue". What might your choices be? If I was to level any criticism, it's one that might be down to the technicalities of my listening gear, although I listened in three different places - my computer, my car and my living room stereo (it's just a middle of the road Sony system) - and came away with the same niggle ... the bass is a bit high in the mix at times. Considering Gewelt is a bassist, I guess it's to be expected, but, occasionally ("Crosstalk" in particular) it was just a touch too prominent.
I would love to be able to write a pithy line that sums up the album's diverse experiences, but this sentence is as close as I can get, given the quality craftsmanship in diverse forms. However, it's a recommended listen to just about everyone, as there's something there will work wonders for you!