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Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2013

Henning Bolte By

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Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2013
Copenhagen, Denmark
July 12-14, 2013
The annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival, with more than a thousand concerts during ten days—spread over more than hundred places and stages across the city—is a special, unique affair. Like other big jazz festivals, it also has its headliners—big names, mostly American, like Terence Blanchard, Richard Bona, Chick Corea, Bill Frisell, Charles Lloyd, Marcus Miller and David Murray—but the main thing is the numerous concerts at smaller or bigger places inside or outside, all over the city.

It's up to the visitor to make more or less sharp choices, restrict him/herself or just roaming the city and attending performance at random. Visiting performances at favorite areas or places is also a possibility, or following favorite, interesting musicians' performances at different places in different groups. This last variant is a specialty of the Copenhagen festival. Anyway, it's important to come prepared; some topographical study of the city might be useful in order to get an idea how to get to different places (in time). A thorough study is even advisable and the well-designed festival app—downloadable through the festival website—is an extremely useful tool to do so.

2013 was my second visit to the festival. Last year I restricted myself to just two performances by Jakob Bro, Thomas Morgan, Jon Christensen and chef Jakob Mielcke. Mielcke did his special musiculinary session this year, again together with Bro and Morgan, but this time with Chris Speed.

This year, however, I moved in wider circles during three days, with the ILK Collective and the ILK venue as focal point. Friday, July 12 (the first day) offered 137 concerts, Saturday 130, and Sunday—also the last day of the festival—76. There will be much left to explore in coming years, but during this year's three days I not only attended concerts, but had talks with a couple of musicians.

Day 1: Saturday, July 12

The first stop: Kødbyen, the old meatpacking district behind Copenhagen's Central Station. There are three places with concerts, among them the venue of the ILK Collective. The district is a vast area with low-rise functional buildings, some of which are still functioning in their original form. Others have been transformed into restaurants, galleries and studios, or function as offices for creative business companies. There is a section with white buildings, another with grey buildings and yet another with brown buildings. It is now a popular place to go out and a place for trendy nightlife.

The three music venues are situated in the brown area, closest to the Central Station. It is the oldest area and dates back to 1883. Here the DGI-byen can be found—a sports, swimming and conference complex—and the exhibition hall Øksnehallen, originally a stable for 1,600 cattle prior to being slaughtered. The newer white area still serves its original purpose, housing businesses related to the meat industry. The grey part is a smaller area, with cultural activities, offices and meat industries.

The first concert attended was at the Ph-Cafee, where Italian pianist Emanuele Maniscalco, and trumpeter Ivar Hedén and drummer Måns Wikemo (both from Sweden)—all studying in Copenhagen—were playing. They performed soft, vulnerable music. None of the three musicians served the standard tone of his instrument but instead expressed themselves through a diversity of soft tones and special timbres produced by extended techniques. Maniscalco is on a new ECM release as part of the trio Third Reel, where he plays the drums. He moved to Copenhagen in 2012 to deepen his piano studies. The two Swedes, especially drummer Wikemo, already have distinct voices.

Later, the evening continued outside on a small open-air stage in the backyard of the café, where young Danish pianist Soren Gemmer performed in a more straightforward way with a group consisting of bassist Tapani Toivanen, drummer Andreas Fryland and trumpeter Mads la Cour. Gemmer, a gentle, refined melodist, has just released at first (2013), on the Danish ILK label. Two young but excellent groups to start with.

Not only does the audience move criss-cross throughout the city; the musicians do also, very often playing several concerts at different places on different days. Logistics and transportation are mostly self-organized, and frequently visible.


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