Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2009
At Vandkunsten, Ploug was premiering all new material and the songs augur well for his next album. Among the highlights were the Spanish-tinged "Villa" and "The Loop," making fine use, as the title suggests, of patterns of repetition. As time has passed, Ploug's melodic gift has become clearer and this was evident in the new material. Badenhorst plays wonderfully with the same detached warmth and cool nonchalance of a young Lee Konitz. The rhythm section is one of the best that the Danish scene has to offer right now, with the upcoming Brow, whose melodic gift on the kit is outstanding, and the groovy bassist Skovbakke. It will be exhilarating to follow this quartet in the future.
Mikkel Ploug playing at Vandkunsten. From left to right: Ploug, Badenhorst, Brow, Skovbakke.
A Danish Diva
One of the most fascinating things about the Copenhagen Jazz Festival is that an open venue not only signifies cobblestone and cosy cafés but also large green areas with live music. At Kongens Have (The King's Garden) and Det Kongelige Danske Haveselskab (The Royal Danish Garden Society), one had the possibility to get acquainted with many of the new talents such as emerging pianist August Rosenbaum as well as the established names like Danish tenor giant Jesper Thilo.
With Sinne Eegs concert at Det Kongelige Danske Haveselskab, connoisseurs of vocal jazz were given a special treat. The later years have witnessed a veritable boom in the rise of talented female Danish jazz singers. Names such as Sidsel Storm, Katrine Madsen, Malene Mortensen and Cæcillie Norby, who has released a string of albums on Blue Note, testify to the strength of Danish vocal jazz, but right now there seems to be a singer that towers above the rest: Sinne Eeg.
Vocal supreme. Sinne Eeg at Det Kongelige Danske Haveselskab with bassist Mads Vinding.
Eeg's breakthrough came with the masterpiece, Waiting For Dawn (Calibrated, 2007), where she brought together an A-list of Scandinavian jazz musicians to interpret a program consisting mainly of her own compositions. It was this quartet of Swedish pianist Lars Jansson, Danish bass-giant Mads Vinding and young drum-star Morten Lund, who visited the venue. Naturally, the program thrived on their collaboration on that particular album, bringing in such heartbreakers as the title track with a masterful vocal performance ranging from a sensual whisper to a soaring cry. There was also a good deal of relaxed swing in numbers like "Let's Stay Awake" and "Sudden Change of Weather." The mood of the band was jovial, with especially Jansson being a prankster, making imitated percussion-sounds with a bottle of water. The concert proved that it's possible to combine tight interplay, humor, seriousness and showmanship.
Nights at The Black Diamond
Whereas the open venues were able to provide a relaxed, informal atmosphere, there was a much more serious air around the concerts held at the Royal Libraryalso known as "Den Sorte Diamant" (The Black Diamond). The concerts shared a similar Nordic sound and all the acts had or could have recorded for the German label ECM.
The Royal Library or "The Black Diamond" as it is also called due to its color and shape.
Pianist, Enrico Pieranunzi played with his Danish trio and especially drummer Jonas Johanssen adds a wildness and rhythmic punch that is different compared to the more ethereal elegance of Joey Baron, one of Pieranunzi's preferred drummers. The program was varied with both original compositions and standards, up-tempo and lyrical moments and the trio played convincingly. It would be thrilling to hear this constellation, which also sports the fine bassist Jesper Lundgaard, on record.
Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen has already recorded with his new trio, who released the acclaimed Live at Belleville (ECM, 2008) and it was the repertoire from this album that formed the core of his concert with a spirited interpretation of "The Independence Suite." Added to the trio of Andersen, saxophonist Tommy Smith and drummer Paolo Vinaccia was the excellent Danish pianist Carsten Dahl, who recorded with Andersen on the highly recommended albums Sign (Stunt, 2002) and Moon Water (Stunt, 2004). The quartet played intuitively together with just a few mishaps and the music struck a perfect balance between the wild passion of Smith and Venaccia and the more cool impressionism of Andersen and Dahl.