Late last year, Norwegian keyboard player Bugge Wesseltoft released Trialogue, an album he made with laptop beat-meister Henrik Schwarze and former est (Esbjorn Svensson Trio) bass player Dan Berglund. Wesseltoft made his name as the leader of the New Concept of Jazz who made five albums between 1996 and 2004 but he has worked with Jan Garbarek, Billy Cobham and Nils Petter Molvaer among many other musicians. In many respects he paved the way for the explosion of experimental beat driven music that has been coming over from Scandinavia in recent times. His talent lies in bring jazz ideas into the electronic and dance music field by making accessible yet interesting instrumental music. He is also very keen on experimentation and collaboration, last year saw the release of OK World on Wesseltoft’s Jazzland label, it finds him with in cahoots with musicians from Egypt, Spain, India and all points between and beyond. Wesseltoft may have a tongue twister of a name but it’s one worth remembering if musical adventure is your bag. In January I caught up with him in a rare break from a hectic work schedule and asked about his hair.
JK: Trialogue is one of the sweetest albums you’ve made to date, is this because of the recent reappearance of your hair or the presence of Dan Berglund?
BW: (Laughs) I don’t know really. It’s a mix with the three of us. Henrik and I we did the Duo album and I think with Dan playing bass it becomes even more organic and jazzy somehow, I really like that combination of the laptop, the bass and the piano. It’s a good sound.
When did you start playing with Dan?
We started two years ago now, we had our first gig in January 2013, there was four of us, we did our first gig with a wonderful percussion player called Manu Delago. The way we saw it we wanted the laptop to do the percussive stuff, to make the sound somehow clear. We played quite a lot and worked quite a lot before starting this album, it was a good experience because we were all really into it.
Might there ever be a Duo album with just you and Dan?
Ummm, no, but there’s this wonderful Swedish pianist called Jan Johansson, he died in the sixties but he did some fantastic music, a kind of Swedish folk/jazz, that was the beginning of the Nordic jazz sound. His album [Jazz på Svenska] has a 50th anniversary this year so Dan and I are going to do this music as a duo, as a kind of tribute to Johansson.
As an album?
Just concerts, we’re doing a tour in Sweden. Maybe something more will come out of it, but you should really listen to it, you can easily hear how everyone from Bobo Stenson to Tord Gustavsen has been inspired by it.
What inspired you to use strings on Trialogue, is this the first time you’ve used strings on an album?
No it’s not, we’ve being doing this up and down, I’ve written stuff for quartets over the years. But the two tunes with the strings are Henrik and my tunes, we did new music for an old German silent movie last year in Luxembourg and we were commissioned to work with the Luxembourg Philharmonic orchestra and we arranged it for strings, trombone and stuff and they turned out quite well so we wanted to use those to tracks on the album and Dan added the bass.
I really like the track This is My Day with the, was this influenced by Herbie Hancock?
(Laughs) Herbie who? I love Herbie Hancock, everything I did with New Conception of Jazz started from the Sextant album by Herbie in ’73, it’s an incredible album and of course his Rhodes sound is a huge inspiration.
I was intrigued to see what you were doing to the Fender Rhodes when you played at the Barbican last year [ hitting bits under the lid ]. You were treating it quite savagely!
(Laughs) It looks harsher than it actually is. I bought my first Fender Rhodes in 1981, I’ve been playing it since then and I love it. I think that using it like a vibraphone is quite interesting. It has metal pieces in the top that are attached to the keys and it sounds great if you hit it like that.
I’ve noticed you’ve been collaborating with more and more musicians, is that what you find interesting, what excites you?
It’s always been like that, that’s how you really move on. You play with and meet other people and get inspired, but also when you work with your own band you have a chance to develop your own ideas. But I spent ten years with the New Conception of Jazz, building it up and only really working with that group and now I really love to play with different people. It takes so much time and energy to build up one particular group, it’s more fruitful for me to play with various musicians.