2008 Copenhagen Jazz Festival

AAJ Staff By

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Valerie Coleman (flute), who sat directly next to Shorter in the collaborative context, perhaps was the most adept (and certainly most excited) at playing jazz with one of the music's living legends. However Imani left listeners with questions abound—Were they really an appropriate opening band? And of the collaboration, didn't it sound rather forced? Most listeners at concert's end were in agreement that the odd pairing was unsuccessful. The Imani Winds opened the second set by themselves and then again remained onstage in collaboration with Shorter & Co., but in retrospect, a better programming concept may have been for Shorter's group to follow Imani Winds who, if anything, should have been the concert opener with or without the collaborative pieces. As it was, plenty of momentum was lost or, rather, displaced; the Imani Winds seemed to reign in any raw excitement. One problem seemed to be the fact that the voicings weren't textured or layered enough, possibly due to a poor housemix, the group coming off as a new unwieldy, unfocused conglomerate instrument.

Another issue was that they inevitably drowned out Perez' piano contributions, who plays an essential element that Shorter has come to rely on. Perez suddenly took a back seat when the wind quintet performed, as if he were even off-mic. Unlike with the Bley-Osgood concert, this one had some serious peaks but similarly had its fair share of some deep troublesome valleys as well.

A musician who certainly qualifies as a giant of jazz, though not publicized as such under the festival's "Giant Jazz" series banner, is legendary drummer Ed Thigpen. An American expatriate who has recorded over 300 sessions—with a vast array of names ranging from pianist Oscar Peterson (in whose trio he played from '59-'65) and vocalist Dinah Washington to such pioneers as multi-instrumentalist and composer Gil Melle and trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff—Thigpen has resided in Copenhagen since the early '70s and has developed some very musical relationships since. Included would be violinist Svend Asmussen and the late bassist Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen, not to mention fellow American expatriates like tenor saxophonists Johnny Griffin and Dexter Gordon, and pianists Horace Parlan and Duke Jordan. More recently, however, he has developed some close ties with younger Danish musicians like pianists Carsten Dahl and Kasper Villaume as well as with bassist Jesper Bodilsen, though perhaps none as special as with drummer and former student Osgood.

The two joined forces at Borups Hojskole under the billing "Og hvad er Klokken" (translated: "And What Time Is It"), featuring regulars Osgood, Jesper Lovdal (tenor saxophone/bass clarinet) and Thomas Vang (bass), plus special guest Kasper Tranberg (trumpet) and respected Japanese percussionist Yasuhiro Yoshigaki joining on the evening's pre-encore piece. There are not too many (if any) bands that have 3 or 4 tunes in their repertoire composed by the great but obscure Charles Brackeen, the near-70 year old "New Thing" tenor saxophonist—but this band does and flaunted two of them, opening their two set program with "Worshippers Come Nigh" and closing with "Attainment."

Lovdal, sporting a distinguishing Vietnamese-like straw hat, played with an authoritative tone throughout, from the Brackeen numbers to the humorous take on the Danish evergreen, "Lille Sommerfugl" (Little Butterfly) which had many audience members singing along. There was an ever-present element of fun from the start, and certainly without any musical sacrifice throughout both sets, including renditions of Pharoah Sanders' "Farah" (featuring a bottom-end, deep and breath-heavy tone from Lovdal on tenor), trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah's up-tempo "Mayabuye," and an exquisite rendition of "Good Morning Heartache'' featuring trumpeter Tranberg, Lovdal on bass clarinet and both Thigpen and Osgood playing brushes. Yoshigaki joined in from the audience on Osgood's spur of the moment invitation for "Attainment" and quickly put together a makeshift percussion set up by turning over Lovdal's set of copper bowls, thus creating a seemingly as-planned gamelan effect (he also started ripping a spare roll of duct tape for a percussive aesthetic). For their encore, Thigpen and Osgood performed a magical duo that could have gone on for hours; both are obvious masters, not only as timekeepers but as syncopating percussionists with telepathic give-and-take. And as usual, Osgood wins the prize for most active Dane at this year's Festival, his performances tallying in the dozens!

Other heralded yet under-acknowledged giants, certainly jazz veterans, performing at this year's festival included tenormen Bernt Rosengren (though from Sweden he's made Copenhagen his second home performing almost as frequently in the Danish capital as in his home country) and Bob Rockwell (an American expatriate who for the past 25 years has called Copenhagen home). Each played on different days at one of Copenhagen's number one destinations for the last decade for live and recorded jazz music, the street level Jazzcup record store directly across from the King's Gardens and right down the street from the Botanical Gardens. As a special guest of alto saxophonist Christina Von Bulow's Quartet (with pianist Ben Besiakov, bassist Daniel Franck and drummer Frands Rifbjerg), Rosengren—without taking even a single warm up note—took the first solo on the afternoon opener "It Could Happen To You," quickly revealing his confident, expressive tone marked by well-placed but not over-utilized vibrato-heavy punctuations to each line. The self-taught Rosengren is a big believer in the advantages of no rehearsals, whether before recordings or live dates, and with his ability to be immediately "on"—who's to question the septuagenarian's tactic. A hoard of listeners who weren't able to get into the packed space, peered in through the window to catch a visual glimpse of one of Scandinavia's most respected tenor saxophonists since the '50s who was formerly more a multi-instrumentalist, occasionally playing flute, clarinet, taragot, soprano and alto saxophones as well as piano. Since focusing on tenor, this set covered a host of jazz standards, one appropriately by fellow tenor man Hank Mobley whose "Workout" proved that even such breakneck tempos weren't too much for his seventy years. It also ideally showcased the special musical connection he has with altoist and leader Von Bulow, whose admiration for Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt is proudly worn on her sleeve, while Rosengren has obviously absorbed the work not only of Mobley, but Don Byas, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and undoubtedly Sonny Rollins. The group also played Charlie Parker's "Billie's Blues," "I'm In The Mood for Love" and "Once I Loved," the latter ballad given a bossa nova treatment.


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