Since the early 1990s, Norwegian pianist and composer Bugge Wesseltoft has been a fervent innovator, always keen to experiment with a new and contemporary jazz sound – either as a collaborator with Jan Garbarek, Sidsel Endresel or Arild Andersen, as a solo performer, as a leader with his groundbreaking New Conception of Jazz or as the owner of his record label.

Constantly looking for a sonic equilibrium between acoustic and electronic instruments and trying to complement the analogue with a digital sound has always been central to Wesseltoft’s approach. The gradual introduction of the laptop as a jazz instrument seems therefore a natural progression for the musician who released Duo in 2011, a first collaboration with German former DJ and laptop artist Henrik Schwarz.

Wesseltoft Schwarz & Berglund - Trialogue (2014)
Wesseltoft Schwarz & Berglund – Trialogue (2014)

Released in October 2014 on the Jazzland record label and introducing a subtle hybrid of jazz and electronic music, Trialogue sees Wesseltoft and Schwarz joined by Dan Berglund – former EST bass player and now leader of Tonbrucket – in a quasi-traditional jazz trio formation performing in small clubs or classical music concert halls but where the laptop replaces the drum kit.

Recording all their live performances, the three musicians tend to derive new songs and rhythms from snippets of existing songs which are then sampled, reworked and improvised over. “What we do on this album is not really compositions”, says Wesseltoft “it’s more like a flow”.

I sample what they play, you drop it into the sequencer at a random speed in a way and then you listen – And there might be a line coming up by shifting it to another place or by overlapping tempi – Somehow you create a line that no one would have ever player because [it] doesn’t come from a human brain […] So when you find a line, I find it very joyful to see these musicians struggle to play that line. And then suddenly they have it, and it’s an explosion of energy. Henrik Schwarz

And in an effort to follow in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors, Trialogue concludes with the trio’s take on Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight”, one of the most popular and widely performed jazz standards.

A constant balancing act, the trio strive to marry the sound of the Fender Rhodes or minimoog with the double bass or the orchestral sound of the grand piano with electronic beats. On “Movement Eleven” and “Movement Seventeen”, the trio also invited four musicians from the Orchestre Philarmonique du Luxembourg (violin, viola, violoncello and trombone) while live percussion on the Fender Rhodes, the double bass and … pizza box in one instance complete the sonic palette.

Beautifully captured live for a Resident Advisor session, Wesseltoft, Schwarz and Berglund exquisitely elaborate on “Movement Eleven” and the unreleased “Mozart Balls” over 20 mesmerising minutes – A brilliant collaboration.