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Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2014

Henning Bolte By

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The night before, together with fellow American Thomas Morgan, Sorey played in Aaron Parks' trio in a different area of Copenhagen. That appearance was a horse of a different color. Parks had just finished playing at Kulturhuset Islands Brygge with Joshua Redman's quartet, and had to hurry to the nearby Amagerbro neighborhood to play with his own trio for a program of mainly American standards and pieces by American trio masters like Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. Flying changes like that are typical of the Copenhagen festival, though Parks was an especially busy man during the festival's ten days due to his ten-week Danish DIVA (Danish International Visiting Artists program) residency.

The DIVA program, administered by the country's National Arts Council, is an artist-in-residence program used to develop various Danish art scenes through dialog and collaboration between foreign and Danish artists. The program enables art and cultural institutions, municipalities and other professionals in the field to invite foreign artists and groups to reside in Denmark for a longer period—typically between one and three months. Over the last four years, Jazz Danmark has invited Andrew D'Angelo, Bill McHenry, Rakalam Bob Moses and Tyshawn Sorey for residencies, followed up by Parks this year. There are various negotiable possibilities for Danish musicians—from workshops to recordings—to collaborate with the artist-in-residence. Normally a musician is chosen who already has strong ties with the Danish scene, as is the case with Parks.

Sticking more or less to canonical pieces of the American piano trio legacy, the pianist added new, enriching colors to them, performing with an attitude quite different from his famous predecessors—quite talkative and constantly seeking eye contact with his audience. Parks and Morgan complemented each other in subtle, shinning ways, whereas Sorey was the loosening man, lifting the music out of its holder at times. It was a nice game to watch, with airy results. Altogether, it made for a highly pleasurable concert.

Haveselskabets Have, Frederiksberg

Frisk Frugt (Fresh Fruit) is multi-instrumentalist Anders Lauge Meldgaards, on this occasion "assisted" by a ten-piece ensemble that, a special affair, constantly disturbed and delighted its audience. Meldgaars seems to be the very much-loved naughty boy of Danish musical life, playing acoustic guitar and soprano saxophone, but also using toy instruments, typewriters, homemade flute organ, and a diversity of utensils and plants with contact microphones; one of the four main forces in the benchmark Copenhagen music collective Yoyooyoy, his Danish Top Meetings Burkina Faso In The Sky Room Where the Sun Lives Suite (2011) was nominated for the Nordic Music Prize.

Meldgaards started with some kind of seemingly naïve Danish singing, accompanying himself on a tattered acoustic guitar and producing music from somewhere at the crossroad of Tom Zé and Tiny Tim. It all sounded very Danish, but in an estranged way. When the ensemble entered, it became clearer yet, at the same time, it was blurred again: Steve Reichian minimalism that sounded like oompah music, with other hybrids and syncretisms of highly disparate elements occurring. It was an approach that made it difficult to discern between intended infelicities and failures, the performance leaving the impression that there was a lot of potential, but that the ensemble was not yet fully on-track.

Conclusion

This year's Copenhagen festival route started and finished in Frederiksberg, strictly speaking outside the city—a (too) short trip with lots of promising things that had to be missed. Again, it became clear that it was a real city life thing. Not only with concerts, moving between different parts of town and enjoying some of the outstanding Copenhagen cuisine, but further enriched by lots of meetings, intended and unintended, with people from the field: colleagues, musicians, friends and other Copenhagen residents. A lot happened that is not reported here in detail, but will certainly have longer term impact. There are enough still unknown and worthwhile places to discover and sort out in Copenhagen in the coming years,

Photo Credit: Kristoffer Juel Poulsen, Jazz.dk

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