2008 Copenhagen Jazz Festival

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2008 Copenhagen Jazz Festival
Copenhagen, Denmark
July 4th-13th, 2008
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Copenhagen Jazz Festival is a model of excellence for jazz festivals worldwide. From July 4th-13th, the Danish capital was the scene of 900+ music events at over 100 venues, from countless outdoor concerts in public squares, parks and along the waterfront to a vast array of bars, clubs and concert halls across the city. And though quantity doesn't always necessarily mean quality, Scandinavia—and particularly Denmark—has some of the strongest jazz musicians in the world today, a fact the festival exploited in addition to spotlighting a countless number of musicians from countries close by like Sweden, Finland and Norway.

Copenhagen, like New York, is a very easy city to navigate and come jazz festival season it's particularly advantageous to join the locals on pedals. Bicycles seem to be the preferred mode of transportation especially if one is to take full advantage of the festival. Being able to catch over seven sets of jazz music each day is a phenomena typically associated with New York City, and downtown Copenhagen is eerily West Village-like during Festival season with clubs like La Fontaine, Huset (with its Knitting Factory- like layout of multiple performance spaces under the same roof) and ten other venues in such close proximity to one another.

A particularly strong showing of young Danish pianists appeared with frequency this year including Jacob Anderskov (who played in almost 20 different contexts, over half of them as leader), Simon Toldam and Soren Kjaergaard. All three performed at the Trinitatis Kirkeplads free outdoors afternoon solo piano series, and though each brought their distinct and dynamic approaches to their respective performances which may have been better suited to a concert hall setting, the music translated surprisingly well in the long rectangular outside space. Kjaergaard (who only had previously done two or three prior solo concerts) played primarily in stream of consciousness mode, connecting themes and becoming more introspective than demonstrative as his set progressed, playing Randy Weston-like left-hand bass rumblings.

Without relying on the predominant African rhythmic bass figures, he rather used them as a springboard into his extended performance that became soothing, beautiful, hypnotic, meditative, flowing, transporting and demanding as much on musician as listener. The 40+ minute first portion of the set came off as complex intimate piano exercises as if he had invited the audience into his living room. For his second near 10-minute piece, he played more staccato in comparison, his humming lending an emotional and extra musical weight, subtle enough without becoming a distraction. His closing improvisation turned into one of the most memorable of this year's festival as he suddenly was accompanied by and battled with the minutes-long 5 o'clock church tower bells just above him, which he turned the tables on at a point by accompanying the bells' tones! Without pause it was seemingly Kjaergaard who instigated the interaction, as if he knew exactly what time it was seconds before the clock struck five.

The loud resonating chimes of the church bell became a living, breathing musician and of course the timekeeper of the two. It was a fabulous musical discussion and added a nice interactive element from the otherwise solid solo set. And as Kjaergaard was running off to two more gigs that evening (typical), he humored to me—"(I was) saved by the bell!"

Kjaergaard also played as a member of saxophonist Michael Blake's Blake Tartare, a Danish group excepting its saxophone-playing Canadian-born leader and longtime New York resident. Along with the ever-busy bassist and drummer, Jonas Westergaard and Kresten Osgood, Blake Tartare for its first of two sets at the outdoor Frue Plads also invited Kasper Tranberg (trumpet), Peter Fulsang (clarinet/bass clarinet), and two string players: Kristian Jorgensen (violin) and Henrik Dam Thomsen (cello).

The outdoor venue had most folks sitting rather uncomfortably on the cobblestone street, but the music more than made up for the rear discomfort. Kjaergaard switched between acoustic piano to electric keyboards comfortably, while Blake played both tenor and soprano saxophones separately and together ala Rahsaan Roland Kirk. However, it was another tenor/soprano saxophonist Lucky Thompson that Blake took inspiration from in an ongoing project of his which has recently materialized into a new recording—The World Awakes: A Tribute to Lucky Thompson (Stunt). From perhaps one of Thompson's better-known and classic albums, Lucky Strikes (Prestige, 1964), Blake re-arranged two Lucky originals included in his group's repertoire, breathing new life into each "Reminiscent" and "Mumba Neua." And his incorporation of the classical element with violin and cello came off as much more successful than the high-profile billing of Wayne Shorter and Imani Winds who had played the day previous. Blake's arrangements and incorporation of strings never compromised the music's intensity, but rather added onto it as the timing and placing in his arrangements and incorporation of the strings wasn't simply a matter of finding a comfortable middle ground. In addition to Thompson's "To You Dear One," the group played "Lucky Charms" with the full ensemble, the strings given appropriate complementing voicing on this slower tempo Thompson tune.

It must be mentioned that the Danes have a well-documented tradition of appreciating a good tenor when they hear one, whether it's from an American expatriate like Dexter Gordon from decades past, or local legends like the late Bent Jaedig. This said, it hasn't taken too much convincing for them to have accepted Blake as one of their own; Copenhagen has in essence become a home away from home for him. His highly personable approach to the instrument, at times breath-heavy and always warm with a bop- rooted swing and swagger, is something you just can't help but to connect to. He is also a master of tongueing multi-tones and is an expert of his horn's altissimo range.

For the band's second set, they stripped the extra parts down to their quartet foundation, which to quote the leader, features "music from Blake Tartare's most recent world tour... of Rochester and Vancouver. It's a small world!'' Things loosened mightily, culminating in a group and audience chant of "I'm A Fool for You" that seemed to last well over ten minutes and caught Osgood almost losing his untied shorts on stage while swaying and singing!

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.

The concert ended rather abruptly, and unfortunately at a time when both were musically playing off each other, an unfortunate rarity for this concert. Bley reached inside the piano to pluck at its strings, but in doing so pushed the piano forward. Evidently the tuner, or whoever was last to touch the piano before Bley, neglected to lock its wheels! The pianist exclaimed something to the effect of: ''The piano is f*cking moving! Tuner—next time you f*cking tune a piano, don't forget to f*cking lock the wheels!!!'' And with this came the end of the concert, one that proved to have few high points. Before the pianist left, though, he slowly made his way centerstage and proceeded to share a rather humorous Mingus story (his one-time boss) which culminated in Mingus pushing the Village Vanguard's piano down the club's stairs. Bley said proudly— "Legend has it, it made a GRRR-GREAT sound." Fortunately he decided not to demonstrate, and instead walked offstage.

Other top billings were publicized as "Giant Jazz," taking place at the Royal Danish Theatre on Kongens Nytorv (Cassandra Wilson, Jimmy Scott, Ornette Coleman), Copenhagen Opera (Wayne Shorter's Quartet & Imani Winds) and Glassalen in historic Tivoli (Saxophone Summit, Charles Lloyd, David Murray's Black Saint Quartet, Brad Mehldau's Trio). At the Old Stage of the Royal Danish Theatre, Ornette Coleman brought a slight variation of the group with which he's been performing (though not the variation strangely and inaccurately publicized and advertised featuring bassists Greg Cohen and Tony Falanga). Having recently dropped electric bassist Charnett Moffett from his in-essence one-time three-bass lineup, more space and balance revealed itself in the already dense music, certainly a move in the right direction.

The only minor detail to work on with continuing to fine tune this group would be getting the appropriate mic-ing for the pulsating drumming of Denardo Coleman in the mix, which has characteristically been sub-par in most every venue I've heard him play with Ornette. One can definitely get a good sense of his beat and time, but there's a lack of dynamics and depth to his playing and certainly to no fault of his own. Compass-like on stage with two candelabras on white clothed tables bookending Falanga who was flanked stage right, bass piccolo guitarist Al McDowell stage left, Denardo up on a high platform—with the leader front and center— Coleman's blues came across unobstructed and pristine.

Falanga obviously carries on a tradition that former Ornette bassist David Izenson provided in the '60s, bringing those classic At the Golden Circle volumes full circle so to speak. The arco master's classical background is evident and has been exploited by the bandleader who still manages to maintain breakneck tempos even at age 78. With Falanga and McDowell, Ornette and son performed a lengthy set, including music from his most recent release, the highly acclaimed Sound Grammar ("Jordan" and "Sleep Talking" and two of his classics "Song X" and "Turnaround," the former also from Coleman's 1985 collaboration with guitarist Pat Metheny, the latter first recorded on Coleman's quintessential Tomorrow is the Question from nearly 50 years ago). Falanga and McDowell empathetically alternated echoing lines off the leader's (McDowell eyeing Ornette like a hawk throughout), and the foursome were perhaps heard no better than during the shortest but perhaps most succinct performance that evening—the ever- satisfying and expected encore of "Lonely Woman."

Wayne Shorter's Quartet, with and without the wind quintet Imani Winds (consisting of flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn and bassoon), played the ultra-modern Copenhagen Opera. Danilo Perez (piano), John Patitucci (bass) and Brian Blade (drums) round out arguably the greatest small group playing today, while the curious collaboration with the New York-based classical group brought the heights of Shorter's music down to earth. Imani Winds opened the concert, performing a few selections including Shorter's chamber piece "Terra Incognita" and Astor Piazolla's "Libre Tango." At times Monica Ellis (bassoon) would carry the tuba role, the forerunner of the acoustic bass in early jazz bands of course, while Toyin Spellman-Diaz (oboe) supplied a second clarinet part in the more "jazzier" parts of their repertoire.

However, when Shorter's group took to the stage and Imani Winds (temporarily) departed, what ensued was an improv-heavy set (featuring the extensive "Zero Gravity" that took up the bulk of the quartet's performance and the Celtic ballad "She Moves Through the Fair" from his Alegria) that left most listeners silent in absolute astonishment, save for the ending uproar of applause and shouts for more. Shorter, so much caught up in the moment during his quartet's set, would noticeably and momentarily pick up either his tenor or soprano, then switch back as if the moment had passed. Now if that isn't being and playing in the moment, I'm not sure what is! There seemed to be no specific direction but every direction the band could and did go. The group was and continues to be so in tune with one another, it's on par with what is commonly associated—if I may make a perhaps not so outlandish comparison—with the classic John Coltrane Quartet. Perez in particular continues to prove an ideal foil for Shorter (as such was Tyner for Coltrane), providing rhythmic sparks at every given corner and Patitucci and Blade additionally never rested on their laurels. It was musical creation of the highest order.

What makes Shorter's group and its concept so unique, though, is the function and significance of how they individually—and more importantly as a unit—manipulate space, which became ever more the precious commodity in the collaborative context with Imani Winds. The aspect of spontaneity, another key element to Shorter's quartet, needed a shot in the arm with Imani, as composition overtook and to a large extent replaced improvisation. Shorter actually had a seat as if a sixth member of the Imani Winds and read sheet music of the pieces which included his own "Pegasus" and "Prometheus Unbound," playing rather tamely in comparison to his performance at the helm of his own small ensemble.

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.

Three guitarists who impressed at this year's fest were Danes Mark Solborg and Jakob Bro (the latter whose name might ring a bell for some as one of the recent guitarists in drummer Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band), and NYC-based Ryan Blotnick who curated a 3-night multi-ensemble series at the Literaturhaus at which he also performed. In a CD release performance, Bro's trio of Anders Christensen (bass) and Jakob Hoeyer (drums) performed an early afternoon concert at the upstairs space of the KafCafeen. Bro's new CD (Who Said Gay Paree?) may be a sleeper in the best sense, as its primary mode from beginning to end is a masterful subtlety of jazz ballad performances that could easily go ignored or underappreciated by any cursory listen.

Intent listening, however, proves rewarding for those who take the time and effort to appreciate the album's focus, as keen listeners did for the Jakob Bro Trio's live performance. From Harold Arlen and Gershwin to Cole Porter (the CD title track's composer), Bro proved to be a masterful interpreter of standard repertoire without having to resort to the pyrotechnic virtuosity of which he most certainly has at his fingertips. The leader's gentile and lyrical touch on his strings washed over listeners with a hushed intensity while drummer Hoeyer took obvious preference to brushes and mallets lightly bouncing off drums and cymbals so as not to interfere with but rather to complement the relaxing and transfixing mood set by the trio.

Solborg was another local kept busy by countless performances throughout the festival, though it may have been his concert with the group Ventilator featuring Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love at Borups Hojskole that marked a memorable apex of his festival activities. With multi-reed specialist Lovdal again and bassist Mats Eilertsen, the group—equal parts four—performed new original music which Nilssen-Love added a certain looseness, not to mention glue to, particularly after the complex heads and intros to all the intricately composed music. Solborg's raw style of playing served as the antithesis to Bro's approach. Not methodical in exacting fashion, Solborg played charged lines with rough edges that would bend, twang, resonate, distort and certainly engage, as such was the case in the guitarist's original "The Red Bike" (also featuring an excellent Lovdal tenor solo). And his Derek Bailey influence marked "Other Roots," in which the guitarist created sounds as if he were Ikue Mori on laptop before his effects-ridden playing morphed decidedly un-Bailey-esque with atmospherics. Nilssen-Love played sometimes swirling, other times pounding figures and always with a freshness that never resorted to monotony. Solborg's highly structured originals, based around introductory themes, were performed overall with a vitality and urgency that unquestionably made for a memorable set of music.

R> Lotte Anker (alto/tenor/soprano), with a masterful Dopler-like approach on every instrument she performs, played paced long tones that patiently approach as they do soften in volume without a loss of playing and listening intensity. This correspondent was able to catch her live on two of the several more occasions she played during the festival. With Herb Robertson at Literaturhaus in a group called Mokuto, the two horn players revealed to be ideal collaborators; Robertson a hyper-speed player counterbalanced Anker's long paced tones. The other concert was a trio very much in the mold of her keyboards/drums trio with Craig Taborn and Gerald Cleaver, at the Zum Biergarten. With Rasmus Riis (keyboards) and Brian Agha (drums) instead, the group was additionally supplemented by Kasper Lysemose (bass). Agha rubbed tin can halves while Lysemose incessantly stepped on and played with a plastic wrapper. The ensemble's performances found the leader in an absolutely still playing pose (similar to how saxophonist Fred Anderson miraculously remains motionless while blowing momentous line after line) with a swirling inventive musical landscape created by her and her cohorts.

Other highlights from the near 40 sets of music caught in 5 days time by this correspondent included tenor saxophonist Hans Ulrik who performed a chitlin' circuit-like groovy set with Kjeld Lauritsen's organ trio at La Fontaine (a club much like New York City's own 55Bar in vibe and history). Bassist Eivind Opsvik's first solo bass concert ever, which took place at Literaturhaus, the bassist sounding more like he'd been honing in on this setting for many years. Finish multi-reedman (alto, soprano, baritone, tenor saxophones and flute) and bandleader Mikko Innanen melded Dolphy, Jackie Mac and Ornette into a lively musical stew at Frue Plads. Also at Frue Plads, drummer, multi-percussionist and Miles Davis alum Marilyn Mazur showed off her extravagant set up of various chimes, bells, percussion and drum kit. Mazur also brought to the Huset Salon her United Notions Sax Quartet (Simon Spang-Hanssen on alto and soprano; Anders T. Andersen on soprano and tenor; Emil Hess on soprano, tenor and bass clarinet; Pernille Bevort on baritone, tenor and clarinet), recalling such similar percussion/horns collaborations as the World Sax Quartet with Kahil El'Zabar and Jack DeJohnette. Belgian harmonica virtuoso and pioneer (and living legend) Toots Thielemans played at the outdoor venue Det Kongelige Danske Haveselskab, covering a host of standards ("I Loves You Porgy," "Days of Wine and Roses," etc.) with his quartet.

Italian pianist Stefano Bollani's trio (with Danes in bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund) invited trumpeter and one-time boss Enrico Rava at Copenhagen's Jazzhouse, and staged as much intense improvisation as—of course—comedy and showmanship (Bollani is certainly one of jazz' great entertainers in every sense). Joking aside or at least as introduction, the pianist and trumpeter progressed rather than digressed more often than not and revealed a distinguished musical relationship and chemistry in their creative duo interpretation of "Estate" utilizing a particularly effective ultra slow tempo. Bollani can breathe new life into a melody you may have heard hundreds of times previous, a knack for interpretation over regurgitation.

Perhaps this best sums up the Copenhagen Jazz Festival—with its programming that acknowledges this music's history, but showcases it in its glory with interpretation presiding over regurgitation. If you missed out this year, there's always next, and a trip to Copenhagen during festival season can't come more highly recommended.

Photo Credit
All by Laurence Donohue-Greene except:
Wayne Shorter/Danilo Perez by Jan Persson
Ed Thigpen/Kresten Osgood by Jan Persson


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