Contemporary Jazz in Denmark: Different Sounds, Different Scenes
Swinging 'round The Montmartre
When did it all begin? Arguably, Danish jazz reached its first phase of fruition from the beginning of the 60s until the middle of the 70s. Of course, the origin of Danish jazz goes further back. In the thirties, a writer like Tom Kristensen connected the wreckage of modernity with the new sounds of jazz coming from the nightclubs, but the 60s was the time when Danish jazz started to get an international reputation. This was mostly due to a special club that to this day still brings back tears of joy when its name is mentioned: "Montmartre."
Jazzhus Montmartre (Jazzhouse Montmartre) was opened by Herluf Kamp Larsen in 1961 and became the prime venue for jazz not only in Denmark but also in Europe. This was the place where Danish players like Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen (bass), Alex Riel (drums), Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet) and Jesper Thilo (tenor saxophone) developed their chops and reached the high level of musicianship that would inspire further generations and it was the venue where stars like Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster, Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Kenny Drew, Stan Getz and several others found a second home. At that time so much was happening and it all evolved around this particular place. However, all good things come to an end and in the 80s the impact of Montmartre started to diminish and after changing its location it was closed definitively in 1995. An era in Danish jazz was over.
From place to outer space: and Sunship
What has happened recently is that danish jazz has spread itself all over the map: geographically as well as stylistically. It's no longer concentrated around a particular place but rather develops in a sonic space where associations of enthusiasts and young musicians arrange concerts in different contexts and situations. The boundary between a jazz and a pop/rock venue has deliberately been blurred. Two associations deserve a special mention when it comes to the propagation of Danish jazz: Jazz Club Loco in Copenhagen and Sunship in Aarhus.
In recent years, Jazz Club Loco has been an important player in the development of the new Danish avant-garde that has also been propelled by the label ILK. Loco has become famous for its adventurous concerts held at different venues and its series of superb records. Thus, Loco is both arranging concerts and releasing records that avoids the well-trodden road of the mainstream. Among the essential names promoted by Loco are Yak, Bugpowder, Moskus and the surrealistic musical collective yoyo oyoy whose activities include the bands Slütspürt, Kirsten Ketsjer og Fjernsyn Fjernsyn. What unites all these different names is a will to experiment with genres and create new improvised music. Rock musicians meet up with jazzers, concept artists, composers and electronic wizards to make music filled with energy and passion. It is a spirit of looseness, seriousness and anarchistic madness that makes Loco compelling. For a taste of the unique improvisational spirit that pervades Loco see the attached video clip where young Danish drummer Stefan Pasborg, who released his acclaimed album, Triplepoint in 2007, meets up with French free-jazz guitarist Marc Ducret in an intense duo concert that throws away all niceties in favor of a wild spirit and raw energy. It might be said that to Loco jazz is the new punk.