Odyssey is the main musical vehicle of Norwegian pianist-composer Leon Røsten and «Dystode» is its fourth album, each one with a different line-up of musicians, as Røsten himself has lived a wandering life in several of the largest cities in Europe. The current line up of Odyssey was hand-picked by Røsten from musicians he met in Trondheim’s «Jazzlinja» program (affiliated with the Department of Music at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology – NTNU – and the Trondheim Jazz Festival ) in 2018 – Norwegian tenor sax player Ask Morris Rasmussen, trumpeter Oscar Andreas Haug and double bass player Alf Høines and Swedish drummer Wilhelm Hestermann.
«Dystode» means a song or ode to dystopia and Røsten wanted to express in this album his resentment from the forest of meaningless and unsatisfying impressions that embrace our daily life, never allowing peace of mind. Røsten seeks to draw our attention to the human pursuit of the polemical, the contradictory and the self-glorifying, where we may find some meaning, but it is also where we find sorrow, pain and darkness. Therefore, «Dystode» is an exploration of darkness – and light – and the world around it, where «moods alternate between open gentle slopes and intense and swarming trains of thought. From heavy sounds to light lyrical melodies».
«Dystode» was recorded at Øra Studio in Trondheim in January 2020. The new line-up of Odyssey already sounds like a mature, working band, with a strong, cohesive sound of its own. Røsten’s piano playing owes much to Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau, but as a composer and bandleader, he knows how to employ cleverly the frontline of trumpeter Andreas Haug, who is responsible for some of the most beautiful, lyrical solos on «Dystode», and tenor sax Morris Rasmussen.
Røsten is a also generous bandleader and he knows when to take the leading role and articulate the intense drama and when to stress the driving-playful pulse, as he does on the opening piece, «Skummelsang 2». The title piece, written when Røsten lived in Amsterdam, suggests the more introspective and emotional side of Odyssey and highlights the great affinity of Røsten, Andreas Haug and Morris Rasmussen, all singing together the touching theme. The swinging «Ambigram» is rooted deep inside the American post-bop legacy. The ballads «Riddle Stay Riddle» and «The Place That We’re Supposed To Be» highlight again the strong individual voices of double bass player Høines, Morris Rasmussen, Andreas Haug, drummer Hestermann, and, obviously, Røsten himself. Odyssey concludes this impressive album with the uplifting and driving «Something, Something», «because it’s better to end at the top than to end at the bottom – because life is not so bad».
Leon Røsten (p), Ask Morris Rasmussen (ts), Oscar Andreas Haug (tp), Alf Høines (b), Wilhelm Hestermann (dr)