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Contemporary Jazz in Denmark: Different Sounds, Different Scenes

By Published: January 6, 2009
Like Loco in Copenhagen, Sunship in Aarhus is a association that tries to bridge the gap between mainstream and the avant-garde. They have had a huge share in promoting the work of the extremely talented guitarist and composer Jakob Bro
Jakob Bro
Jakob Bro
b.1978
guitar
, who has gained recognition by the likes of Paul Motian
Paul Motian
Paul Motian
1931 - 2011
drums
in whose band he is currently a member. Bro's compositions unfold like melodic explorations of texture and sound, emphasizing the organic growth of musical structures that takes in various genres while remaining firmly planted in the idiom of jazz. In 2006 he received a Danish Music Award for his album Sidetracked. To see Bro performing his composition, “Chinatown,” live at this event, take a look at the embedded video clip.



Besides putting the spotlight on Bro, Sunship has also promoted the works of several other talented artists including trumpeter Jakob Buchanan, drummer Jeppe Gram, pianists Søren Kjærgaard and Jacob Anderskov and the young avant-garde trio Saft. Like Loco, Sunship favors the young, genre-bending artists, who continues to expand the language of jazz. Going to a concert arranged by Sunship one is both able to experience the ethereal bliss of chamber jazz and the sonic explosions of avant-rock.

Overall, an association like Sunship proves that jazz in Denmark successfully has been spread out geographically. Aarhus, who is the second greatest city of the country, has become the second jazz capital with its own jazz festival, Aarhus International Jazz Festival, to rival the big brother, Copenhagen Jazz Festival. It is a joy to hear the many curious sounds that comes from the city.

Traveling Spirits and World Citizens

It would be wrong to assume that the country's jazz scene is strictly a national phenomenon. Part of the fertility of the danish jazz scene is its ability to work outside the national borders. Danish jazz has lost its air of provincialism. To have a capacity like the English composer and singer Django Bates
Django Bates
Django Bates
b.1960
piano
teaching at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory (RMC) in Copenhagen obviously has meant a lot. It is in the creative milieu around RMC that many young jazz musicians have expanded their activities—one of them being the formation of the label ILK, who has brought a new generation of jazz musicians to public attention.



The drummer Kresten Osgood is one of the persons, who has a connection to the milieu around RMC and ILK. In many ways, Osgood could be said to be the embodiment of new Danish jazz. He is a traveling spirit and world citizen, who is at home both in New York, Copenhagen and Berlin and he doesn't care about genres—it's all about the music. Osgood is equally at home backing a mainstream jazz singer like Caroline Henderson and creating his own playful avant-garde pop in Hvad Er Klokken as well as doing free form improvisation and playing boiling post-bop. Osgood plays with everyone—legends and unknown people. To name a list of his credentials is indeed awe-inspiring: Sam Rivers
Sam Rivers
Sam Rivers
1923 - 2011
sax, tenor
, Derek Bailey
Derek Bailey
Derek Bailey
1932 - 2005
guitar
, Paul Bley
Paul Bley
Paul Bley
b.1932
piano
, John Tchicai
John Tchicai
John Tchicai
1936 - 2012
saxophone
—just to name a few. What it comes down to in the in the end, though, is the goal of making the audience participate. Sometimes this is achieved by inviting the audience on stage and sometimes it is done simply by promoting an intense joy of playing that spreads around the room where he is playing. It is a friendly avant-garde that Osgood and his peers are promoting.

A Sound of Joy: Beyond the Nordic Sound

Joy and the curiosity is the key to understanding what is going right now on the Danish jazz scene. For a long time, critics have been raving about the ”Nordic sound”, a cool, melancholic aesthetic associated primarily with Norwegian artists recording on ECM like Jan Garbarek
Jan Garbarek
Jan Garbarek
b.1947
sax, tenor
, Jacob Young
Jacob Young
Jacob Young
b.1970
guitar
, Tord Gustavsen
Tord Gustavsen
Tord Gustavsen
b.1970
piano
and lately Mathias Eick
Mathias Eick
Mathias Eick
b.1979
trumpet
. Danish jazz never really fitted the bill of this aesthetic and that is probably why so few danish artists have recorded for ECM and when they did, like percussion-genius Marilyn Mazur
Marilyn Mazur
Marilyn Mazur
b.1955
percussion
, they presented something entirely different than the main roster, something more pulsating, something more joyous but still with hints of melancholy.


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