Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2006
Clausen's solo piano recital of classical-inspired jazz originals at Mogens Dahl Koncertsal (a Venice, California-like gallery space once a stable and then car garage) included striking and gripping renditions of "'Round Midnight" and "Body & Soul". As the Copenhagen Jazz Festival has an extensive history, so too does the city's and its musicians' connection to the jazz tradition (Clausen is one of many Danes to have performed and recorded with Miles Davis); you can't ignore how many American musicians traveled to and wound up staying in the fare Scandinavian city, including a massive influx of American expats particularly in the '60s. Hence they have a high appreciation for the jazz standard repertoire stemming from decades-past collaborations with American expats such as Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Horace Parlan and the still very active mid-70 year old drummer Ed Thigpen.
Thigpen's Scantet features two young promising Danes in pianist Kasper Villaume and bassist Jesper Bodilsen along with a veteran tenor-trumpet frontline (Thomas Franck and Jens Winther respectively) in the tradition of Horace Silver and Art Blakey quintets. Documented on over 300 recordings and mentored by a legend in jazz brushes - Papa Jo Jones - Thigpen is one of the living masters of the brushes himself as evidenced on a breathtaking "In a Sentimental Mood", a sole horn feature for Winther's warm and mute- like sensitivity.
Jens Winther with Ed Thigpen
The leader's accompaniment was nothing short of brilliant. Being that the drummer's last NYC visit was around 10 years ago (to Bradley's) and the fact that he's looking to bring this group to the States, there would be good reason for serious celebration amongst American jazz fans if plans for such a trip came to fruition since it's obviously been a long time coming for one of the living drumming legends of this music. The packed house that began lining up two hours (!) before showtime at Copenhagen's renowned Jazzcup CD store certainly knew what a treat they were in for and were happily and musically rewarded.
Tenor saxophonist Bob Rockwell is yet another in the long line of American ex-pats, one of two major reasons that makes such a jazz epicenter as Copenhagen so very unique. The other of course being the city's time-tested homegrown musicians such as the aforementioned Riel, Rasmussen, etc. who are steeped in the history of having played with many visiting jazz greats from America, most of whom are now no longer with us, a fact sorely reminded with the recent passing of altoist Jackie McLean. And a third reason that makes Copenhagen such an internationally desired jazz stop are the next generation of players, a new crop who contribute new music and youth into the music such as pianists Villaume and Jacob Anderskov. Rockwell, performing too at Jazzcup, also shared Thigpen's pianist Villaume whose fleet-fingered Bud Powell tradition of playing was beautifully featured on Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" as well as his subtler but no less virtuosic display on the ballad "God Bless the Child". The group revealed once again that the jazz tradition is kept very much alive in Copenhagen with straight-ahead improvisationally based structured bebop along with a deep appreciation and understanding for its standard repertoire.
Like Villaume, many Danish up and comers were busy every day, perhaps none more than drummer Kresten Osgood.
Of his festival collaborations, two stood out: one with underrated and undervalued American saxophonist Charles Davis (in a preview of a CD tribute to late Danish sax legend Bent Jædig) and another with Danish-born septuagenarian multi-instrumentalist John Tchicai (who also was a regular performer throughout the festival, likewise in various contexts). At Studenterhuset with Osgood, trumpeter Jonas Müller and bassist Nicolai Munk, Tchicai's intense tenor, soprano and chanting vocals on Müller's Don Cherry tribute "Dashiki Man" and Sun Ra's "Carefree" proved a so-called 'avant gardist' can still be melodic.
Tchicai celebrated Osgood's flexibility by relentlessly chanting "Kres-ten Os-good!" towards the end of the set against the drummer's inventive rhythmic licks.