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Jakob Baekgaard's Best Danish Releases of 2010

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The Danish jazz scene has evolved tremendously during recent years. The recurring Copenhagen Jazz Festival is a testament to the strength of the Danish jazz scene and its ability to soak up influences from outside. Openness towards musical influences is also reflected in this year's harvest of the best Danish records, which often bring in American collaborators to create an amalgam of transnational beauty. While the following picks only cover the tip of the iceberg, they nevertheless represent the diversity and quality of music currently found on the Danish scene, covering everything from avant-garde to big band and electronica. The records listed are in no particular order.

Søren Kjærgaard/Ben Street
Ben Street
Ben Street

bass
/Andrew Cyrille
Andrew Cyrille
Andrew Cyrille
b.1939
drums


Open Opus

ILK Music

Spacious improvisation from Kjærgaard's sublime trio, merging elements of classical music and lyrical free jazz into a highly personal expression. In a long row of outstanding releases, this is at once Kjærgaard's most subdued and forceful work. There's a haiku-like simplicity to his compositions that reveal the profound poetry of sound.




Richard Andersson Sustainable Quartet

Richard Andersson Sustainable Quartet

Blackout Music

Denmark has a proud tradition of fostering bassists and Richard Andersson is the latest in the lineage. His debut sees him introducing his New York Quartet with saxophonist Tony Malaby
Tony Malaby
Tony Malaby

sax, tenor
as a special guest. The music is a mix of standards, originals and free jazz. Music that is both timeless, tuneful and challenging.





August Rosenbaum

Beholder

Gateway Music

Another talent in collaboration with American musicians, pianist August Rosenbaum
August Rosenbaum
August Rosenbaum
b.1987
piano
's debut is an exceptionally mature artistic statement. Rosenbaum redefines the role of the piano, creating open structures that allow the players to shape the music in the moment. Drummer Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss

drums
and bassist Thomas Morgan add a fluid intensity to the melodic fragility of Rosenbaum's playing, and Danish guitarist Jakob Bro
Jakob Bro
Jakob Bro
b.1978
guitar
adds his signature sound.




Jakob Buchanan Kvartet

I Land in The Green Land

Long Life Records

Jakob Bro also turns up as sideman on trumpeter Jakob Buchanan's peculiarly titled i Land in The Green Land. Creating a mixture between Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
' electric period and the Nordic aesthetics of the ECM-sound, the record showcases Buchanan's talent as a composer and instrumentalist with a warm sound that wraps itself like a shroud of fog over a deserted landscape.



Hans Ulrik
Hans Ulrik
Hans Ulrik
b.1965
saxophone
/Benjamin Koppel
Benjamin Koppel
Benjamin Koppel
b.1974
sax, alto
/Jon Balke
Jon Balke
Jon Balke
b.1955
piano
/Palle Danielsson
Palle Danielsson
Palle Danielsson
b.1946
bass, acoustic
/Alex Riel
Alex Riel
Alex Riel
b.1940
drums


The Adventures of a Polar Expedition

Cowbell Music

The Adventures of a Polar Expedition is a bold adventure in sound. Saxophonist Benjamin Koppel translates the expeditions of famous polar explorers into ambitious suites that cover an emotional spectrum from ecstasy to fear, adding a touch of humanity to the endless icy horizons of the landscape.






Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard

The Scale of Grey. The Tone of Black

Gateway Music

Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard is another saxophonist who paints landscapes in sound. The Scale of Black. The Tone of Grey is minimalistic in approach, often eschewing the solid beat of the drums in favor of fluent saxophone lines merged with wordless singing, creating beautiful tone poems with a Nordic air.





Karen Bach

Secret Rooms

Blue Kite Productions

Pianist Karen Bach
Karen Bach
Karen Bach

piano
's trio also explores the area of Nordic melancholy, but merges it with the dynamics of post-rock. Bach's compositions morph into several interesting sound patterns while never losing track of a good melody and groove. Secret Rooms is the best release so far from this compelling trio.





Girls in Airports

Girls in Airports

Gateway Music

Considering the young age of the band and the fact that this is its debut, the achievement of Girls in Airports becomes all the more remarkable. This is an album that can not only be rated among some of the finest new releases in Danish jazz, it is also a work that introduces a whole new sound, where mellow Nordic lyricism is combined with sounds from Africa and the East.



Indra

Indra

Gateway Music

Here is a singer who has an immense knowledge of American tradition and translates it into lived life. Indra could easily approach the league of the great jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
1917 - 1996
vocalist
and Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
vocalist
and it is, indeed, a musical fairytale that she has chosen to grace the small country of Denmark with her exceptional voice.




Lars Winther Big band

Lars Winther Big Band

Your Favourite Jazz

Besides running his own label, Your Favourite Jazz, pianist Lars Winther also has a busy career as a musician and now also as a leader of his own big band. The deadpan title of the album doesn't say much about the sparkling content. Bringing in everything from electronica to oriental scales and hip-hop, Winther's big band is a unique take on an often conservative musical form.




Emil de Waal

Elguitar & saxofon

Your Favourite Records

Drummer and multi-instrumentalist Emil de Waal has created a playful and enchanting hybrid of electronica and jazz on Elguitar & saxofon. Electronic beats, Afrobeat and moaning saxophones unite on "Birba," a brilliant example of the album's inventive sound.






Jesper Zeuthen Trio

Jesper Zeuthen Trio

Blackout Music

Saxophonist Jesper Zeuthen is a musician's musician and something of an unsung legend on the Danish scene. His influence reaches across generations with a special brand of Scandinavian lyricism which merges elements of free jazz and Eastern influences into a singular sound. There have been few albums in his career, but Jesper Zeuthen Trio is a proof of Zeuthen's continuing strength as an improviser and composer.



Nicolai Munch-Hansen

Chronicles

Stunt Records

Bassist Nicolai Munch-Hansen's second album is blue chamber jazz at its finest, with some of the most prominent players on the Danish scene participating, including guitarist Jakob Bro and pianist Søren Kjærgaard. Munch-Hansen creates understated hymns of great beauty that sometimes break out in moments of chaos, as when saxophonist Ned Ferm wails deep into the night on the smoking "The Rise of Sheriff Leroy."

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