Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2010

Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2010
Jakob Baekgaard By

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Copenhagen Jazz Festival
Various Venues
Copenhagen, Denmark
July 2-11, 2010

With the current crisis of the major record labels and the folding of venues all over the world, it could be argued that jazz, as an art form, has entered the age of survival where it is simply a basic matter of keeping the music alive, rather than trying to let it flourish and expand. However, there are also signs that the so-called crisis of the music business is the fuel that has fed the fire of a whole new wave of musicians and entrepreneurs who are re- thinking how jazz should be communicated and distributed to an audience. What drives them is their passion. They're not in it for the money, but for the love of the music.

The new entrepreneurial spirit of jazz was strongly felt at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2010 where a host of groundbreaking initiatives showed that jazz is not only able to survive, but also has the potential to regain its position as the popular music of our times, and this is no coincidence: It is hard to find a musical genre that is more balanced when it comes to giving a proper reflection of society. No other genre is able to reference and embrace its own historicity in the same way, while still being open to the post-modern permutations of genres. While classical music is about the past and pop music about the present, jazz music is about both: It is the music of then and now. Thus, the whole continuum of music history was reflected and transgressed at the festival, where everything from traditional Dixieland and mainstream swing to fiery avant-garde and genre-bending grooves echoed throughout the city.

The Music of the City and the City of Music
It must be emphasized that attending Copenhagen Jazz Festival isn't just a matter of hearing music, but also, in a way, a state of mind. Much has been said about the fairytale-like nature of the city where bicycles, rather than cars, are preferred, and green areas provide welcome hideouts for star-crossed lovers. However, what is most fascinating about the city is that, like New York, it has its own rhythm and its own beat, pulsating throughout the city.

The rhythm of Copenhagen isn't the hectic sounds of modernity or the nostalgic musings of yesteryear. Like jazz itself, it is something in-between. It is a sensual kind of swing that oozes out of every pore of its body. Jazz is literally everywhere: From remixing-sessions done at the top of the buildings to the soft hum of an old Chet Baker-record, heard late night at the harbor, and the joyful licks of skilled amateurs on the street corners, music isn't only played in venues, it embodies the city. Copenhagen is one big scene where one is just as likely to experience jazz in the zoo or the local mall as in the historical and beautiful surroundings of venues like the recently resurrected Jazzhus Montmartre.

As usual with the festival, the abundance of offers is a positive problem. To choose one good gig at any given day of the festival is the same as missing minimum five. However, staying for a long period in the city allows for a rich sample of the festival's luxurious program and it was also the case this time where the ticket included legends like singer/songwriter Caetano Veloso, pianists Herbie Hancock, Martial Solal and Kenny Barron, but, perhaps more interestingly, also modern groundbreakers like saxophonists Mark Turner and Joshua Redman, pianists Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer and avant-garde icons like pianist Marilyn Crispell, and saxophonist John Tchicai, not to mention a talented pool of Danish jazz musicians in trans-national collaborations, including the young pianist Rasmus Ehlers playing with saxophonist George Garzone, French guitarist Marc Ducret's new ensemble featuring drummer Peter Bruun and trumpeter Kasper Tranberg and last, but not least, the massive undertaking of saxophonist Benjamin Koppel who, together with pianist Kenny Werner hosted a star-studded mini-festival in the suburb of Valby, bringing in such heavyweights as drummer Al Foster, saxophonists Chris Potter and Bobby Watson, guitarist John Abercrombie and bassist Scott Colley.

The Shape of Jazz to Come
While the festival featured many established names, part of the fascination of attending a musical event like the one in Copenhagen is that it offers a singular opportunity to access the future voices of jazz, especially the many talented musicians emerging from the reputable Rhythmic Music Conservatory of Copenhagen (RMC). This year, a lot of the musical talent gathered around the venue Huset i Magstræde where it was possible to experience the lyrical post-bop musings of Lars Fiil Quartet, the bouncing world-rhythms of Girls in Airports and the wild punk-jazz of Magnus Fra Gaarden (Magnus from the Farm) who thrilled their audience by dressing up as animals and delivering a stellar stage-performance.

Two of the most pacesetting Danish jazz-labels, ILK and Barefoot Records, were also highly profiled at the festival. Barefoot Records held a series of concerts at the intimate music store Jazzkælderen. Here, the pianist Karen Bach and her trio premiered promising material from her self-published album Secret Rooms, a fine example of the new Danish melancholy. A more violent take on the piano was given by Morten Pedersen whose trio, The Mighty Mouse, gave an intense concert where explosions of chords gave way to atmospheric explorations of texture, with Norwegian drummer Håkon Berre making all sorts of sounds emerge from his kit. While the wild music of The Mighty Mouse might by perceived as difficult and hard to understand, it was intuitively appreciated by two kids who marvelled at the music, taking it in while lying on floor. The older audience was also open to the sounds, and a distinguished gentleman spontaneously bought the band a beer after a highlight of tight musical improvisation.

The special atmosphere at Jazzkælderen isn't a new invention. Last year, Barefoot Records also hosted a series of concerts at the store, but unfortunately this year's event will be the last as the store is now closing down. However, the musicians are taking matters into their own hands and are opening stores themselves. At Krystalgade, the label-collective ILK presented a series of intimate living room concerts where the audience literally was able to breathe musicians like drummer Kresten Osgood and bassist Thomas Morgan in the neck. The concerts were held as showcases with free admission and the possibility to buy records at special price.


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