Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2006
The lively mix of guitar, bass clarinet, trombone, saxophones, trumpet, percussion, deep acoustic bass, keyboards, occasional vocals by special guest Aida Nadeem, etc. lends itself to such outdoor presentation (though strangely only a few in sight were up and dancing with most others intently listening and taking in the view and sounds). This veteran Danish ensemble is similar to what Boston's Either/Orchestra (E/O) musically stands for: continuous rhythmic shifts, endless colors provided by all members and off the wall improvs over and under an established groove (from trumpet splatters to high pitched Klezmer-influenced clarinet cries to mouthpiece duck calls). As a matter of fact the two bands would make a great double bill.
Bassists Bo Stief, Mads Vinding and Hugo Rasmussen showcased their diverse takes on the well-documented Danish bass tradition (made known internationally by the late Niels- Henning Orsted Pedersen).
Stief played with fellow Dane trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg as well as with his One Song III group (a trio with pianist/accordionist Paolo Russo and accordionist Lelo Nika - one of several accordion-heavy featured groups at this year's Festival). Rasmussen's Allstarz performed rollicking and packed sets at the Knitting Factory-like multi-floored Huset as well as at Kulturhuset's waterfront Island Brygge. His musically and visually memorable duo with tenor man Jakob Dinesen (who played the night previous with one time Fela Kuti drummer/musical director Tony Allen) at the latter venue's "Jazz for Kids" morning series had several hundred kids and parents dancing, a few dozen joining the musicians onstage. One little girl led others into a strutting walk- like-an-Egyptian dance for the near 10-minute duration of "Caravan", a promising sight to behold for the country's next generation! It's no wonder where the saying "childlike abandon" comes from.
Jacob Dinesen, Hugo Rasmussen
Similarly, Vinding performed in duo with accordionist Oyvind Ougard in a morning outdoors concert for kids adjacent to the city's zoo. Again, to witness a packed crowd dominated by youngsters age 2-7 was nothing short of extraordinary, as many if not most were dancing, playing, and soaking in the jokes and children's music mixed with folk songs and some jazz that had many singing along. Vinding's assured and fine tuned basswork subtlety however may have been these kids' first exposure to true jazz bass and unknowingly these young ears were being directly exposed to legends since passed such as pianist Kenny Drew, trumpeter Howard McGhee, and so many other jazz greats Vinding has been associated with in his many decades as a professional musician. And what a great thing to expose kids at such an impressionable age to music that has become as much part of their culture as ours, and - dare I say - even more appreciated.
Contemporaries of the aforementioned bassists came in performances by pianist Thomas Clausen and drummer Alex Riel.
Alex Riel with Jesper Lundgaard
The latter performed frequently, including at Borups Koncertsal where he showed why he has been such a valued accompanist to visiting and transplanted Americans for five decades. His classic hornless jazz piano trio - Jesper Lundgaard (bass) and the young and noticeably Bill Evans-influenced pianist Heine Hansen - allowed Riel to evenly mix tasteful brush work ("I Can't Get Started") in an even treatment of his kit that spread continuous colorful accents aplenty including some especially fine cymbal work (sometimes a sorely neglected part of the kit or conversely sorely abused). "Emily" evenly featured the trio, Lundgaard's bass noticeably upfront. Due to the instrument's worthy and extensive history and tradition in Denmark, the bass always seems to get special treatment in Danish jazz, as opposed to their unfortunately undermic'd (or sometimes overmic'd) and mistreated counterparts here in the US.
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.