2008 Copenhagen Jazz Festival

AAJ Staff By

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Back at Trinitatis Kirkeplads, a new revelation of other more welcomed sorts in shorts—Simon Toldam exuded resonating chords and dark clusters for his solo concert. Boisterous staccato configurations one moment, impressionistic and more gentle lines the next, Toldam proved to be a patient player allowing the music to naturally come to him with at times lengthy but intentional and ever-musical pauses. A member of Dutch drumming legend Han Bennink's newly formed trio, he surely won't be an unknown on the international jazz landscape for much longer.

Jacob Anderskov's solo concert, as was the case with Toldam's, endured threatening sprinkles, but the potential rainstorm fortunately gave way to hazy sunshine. These two extremes of Mother Nature conveniently, perhaps even intentionally, entered Anderskov's improvisations. Able to maintain a line, thought and thread for prolonged periods, the pianist subtly though strategically developed his compositional-like improvisation. The pianist often left firefly-like trails that served as aids, notes lingering long enough to serve as a lifeline for even the least adventurous listeners in attendance. Wayne Shorter once said, "Composition is improvisation in slow motion; improvisation is composition in fast motion." An apt description that sums up Anderskov's musicianship, nearly to tee.

The pianist's larger ensemble—The Anderskov Accident—performed at Pumpehuset, another in the plethora of free outdoor concerts, and featured many mainstays from the Danish jazz scene including Kasper Tranberg (trumpet), Laura Toxvaard and Ned Ferm (saxophones). The powerful and effective 5- person horn section of the group provided an ideal canvas for Anderskov to orchestrate his masterful multi- textural voicings in slow moving layers for individual or collective soloing that ranged from two to all five simultaneously harmonically or atonally blowing. The pianist's acoustic trio concert (with bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Peter Nilsson) at Christianshavns Beboerhus marked at least his third gig that day. A few hours earlier, he had engaged in a one-on-one interview with pianist Paul Bley at the Politikens Hus, explaining his spontaneous decision to perform several Bley-associated compositions (Paul Bley of course has history with Ornette well before The Shape of Jazz to Come): a mesmerizing rendition of Carla Bley's "Ida Lupino" and Ornette Coleman's "Turnaround." In all cases, the musicians were empathetic, working as one and exploratory in every sense. Anderskov would commonly initiate momentum surges with working simultaneous alternating lines, with full comfort in knowing his bandmates were right with him and ready for any sudden changes of direction.

And speaking of Paul Bley, he with drummer Kresten Osgood performed in a highly anticipated concert of solos and duos at Skuespilhuset (The Royal Danish Playhouse), a stunning new waterfront venue that is host to three concert halls (for this concert, the largest of the three which holds approximately 650 capacity was utilized). It was unclear going into the concert how the solos and duos would be programmed, as originally it was rumored that two sets would be performed, one with Bley solo and the other duo. But at showtime Bley evidently and spontaneously decided to do a single long duo set and mix things up without any formal separation of the solo and duo portions. What can commonly become a downfall in these types of concerts is the impression that there are two distinct performances taking place that never run parallel, let alone intersect. Though this was not the case here, as Osgood was basically fixated on Bley's every move, it was still hard to call this event an actual collaboration.

Perched high on a piano stool which itself was on a platform, Bley sat well over the level of the keys, making him look like the giant he is musically. His melodic approach never goes quite where you expect it to, making him an unpredictable and intriguing listen on any occasion. Bley may at first be very lyrical, almost overly so—as on the concert's opening improvisation—but one immediately got the feeling that he might as well have been playing solo once the concert started.

Osgood consistently played off of what Bley offered him, which was little at best. The drummer did try to instigate some interaction as hard as it may have been since his partner wasn't throwing out too many rhythmic bones per se for him to bounce his ideas off of. At just over half an hour into the set, however, Bley left melody and any steady rhythm altogether out of his playing and atonally attacked the keys, something that was long overdue or at least what listeners had been salivating for. Unfortunately it ended almost as soon as it began, lasting but a minute. Osgood responded by taking the palm of his hand and subtly squeaked a solo over his snare, abruptly pouncing a final beat with such volume that he noticeably startled several listening neighbors who had since been lulled. Osgood, a master of coordinating such collaborations with legendary jazz musicians (e.g. Dr. Lonnie Smith, Oliver Lake, John Tchicai, Sam Rivers; his recent CD release with Bley is entitled Florida on the Danish Ilk Music label by the way) was noticeably not in his customary jovial mood.

It wasn't until the very end of the first hour, as a matter of fact, that either even cracked a smile. Though stripped down instrumentations of playing unaccompanied and in duo are nothing new for the veteran pianist (a prolific solo artist, he has also collaborated with bassists Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen and Gary Peacock amongst others), piano/drum duos are not as common for Bley as they are say for drummer Paul Motian, a well documented veteran of this format. And so it seemed each time the two linked rhythmically, Bley simply removed his hands from the keys as if to say "This is just too comfortable" and pulled out of some potentially intense duo moments, leaving Osgood solo and listeners hungry, a common and frustrating occurrence.


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