Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2009
Drummer Stefan Pasborg played a smoking concert with his Odessa 5 orchestra at the old meatpacking district where Råhuset is located. In front of a packed venue with many young people attending, he explored original material and reworked the music of Igor Stravinsky and Charles Mingus. It was a wildly eclectic and yet coherent concert experience.
The absolute revelation, though, in terms of drummers, was the solo concert by the living free jazz legend Andrew Cyrille, who started his concert at Råhuset by playing on everything at hand: the floor, the stairs and an old piano, before he entered the room where his drum set was placed. Starting out by saying that drummers normally are perceived as noisemakers when they are, in fact, melody-makers, Cyrille proved his point by playing a continually engaging concert where he referenced the whole jazz tradition from early blues to Art Blakey. All the time making the rhythms sing, he created a freedom and beauty that planted itself into the audience where many of the young Danish jazz musicians, such as pianists Simon Toldam and Søren Kjærgaard, were present.
Andrew Cyrille at Råhuset.
The Art of Solo Piano
As usual Søren Kjærgaard was extremely busy during the festival, playing in everything from the mainstream ensemble of saxophonist Niels Lyhne to the free-form post-rock improvisations of the group White trash. However, there was a chance to see Kjærgaard alone as he played a solo concert at Københavns Hovedbibliotek (Copenhagen's Library). It was a gig that emphasized his knowledge of jazz tradition, bringing in the repertoire of Duke Ellington with the classic "Mood Indigo" suddenly arising out of the blue, but the concert also showed Kjærgaard's use of humor as one unlucky member of the audience coughed. Kjærgaard cleverly used the sound of the cough as a jumping off point for an improvisation where the sound was layered electronically and echoed in the playing. Thus, there was both room for beauty and humor at Kjærgaard's solo recitation.
The same could be said about Chick Corea's solo concert at the impressive Det Kongelige Teater (The Royal Theatre). While still undeniably a virtuoso on the keyboard, Corea's versions of songs by Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and Bill Evans came across as a bit uninspired in terms of improvisational zest. Still, there's no doubt that Corea can make the piano sing, and he laid the audience down and even arranged for everyone to participate as choir in a classical piece. A smile was undeniably put on everyone's face, and a great feeling of togetherness arose, which gave the concert its own beauty. It was a beauty, which wasn't about reaching into the higher emotional or intellectual realms, but rather about enjoying the basic process of making music. That way it really was, as Corea said, a peak into his practice room. Not the atelier of the struggling artist finishing his masterpiece, but the unspoiled joy of a painter still enjoying the different shades of color on the canvas.
The strength of Corea was that he reached out, very verbally, towards the audience. At LitteraturHaus, Jacob Anderskov did the exact opposite: in order to speak, he turned inside to create the music, letting the notes do all the communication. It was a recitation of great beauty and concentration that underlined why Anderskov is the most interesting pianist in the country right now. His musical knowledge comes out unforced and quite naturally. He has an intuitive feeling for the ebb and flow, crescendo and diminuendo of his instrument, mastering both percussive tactility and light melodies that seem to flow out of the air. Never was there a time where the music lost momentum, and when Anderskov said that he thought that it was time to stop, a feeling of closure was achieved outside the conventional formalities of sets and encores.
Old Masters Revisited
Jacob Anderskov is just at the beginning of his career but this year's festival witnessed what might be one of the last performances of a living legend: Yusef Lateef. Lateef performed with the quartet of drummer Kresten Osgood, trumpeter Kasper Tranberg and percussionist Adam Rudolph. Together they recently recorded a self-titled album under the name of The Universal Quartet, released on the Danish label Blackout Music, and it was material from this album that was performed live at Tivolis Koncertsal (The Tivoli Concert hall).