To paraphrase Shakespeare, there is something rockin' in the state of Denmark. It's the Danish Radio Big Band, best of its kind in Europe, indeeddepending on who is conducting and the mood of the playerson occasion best in the world. Against all the odds in these cash-strapped times, the DRBB, as it is universally known, is celebrating its 50th birthday.
This six-CD box set commemorates the event, tracing the band's story from its rather shy birth in 1964 as Det Ny Radio Danseorkester, The New Radio Dance Orchestra, right up to the present (a concert in January with Dominican pianist Michel Camilo), marking the start of a new era under the leadership of Norwegian Birger Carlsen.
The set starts though with remembrance of times past: four numbers recorded by the DRBB in 1988 under its first conductor, Ib Glindemann. These recreate the sound of the New Radio Dance Orchestra and are notable for some fine, tight work by Jens Winther (trumpet) on "Ray's Idea" and confidently relaxed tenor from Jesper Thilo on a Marty Paich arrangement of "My Old Flame" and "Zoot," Bill Holman's tribute to Mr. Sims.
These are followed by the "real thing," a track by the original New Radio Dance Orchestra, recorded in 1966, with Lise Reinau, doyenne of Danish popular song, and Otto Brandenburg singing Glindemann's own composition, "To Og To Er Fem," Two And Two Are Five. It's dated, but fun.
The next three numbers feature the first of many DRBB guest conductors, none other than Stan Kenton. The Man puts his pretentious but unmistakeable stamp on three charts from a 1966 Copenhagen concert, with Rolf Billberg playing fine alto on "Stella By Starlight."
Ben Websternewly arrived to take up residence in Copenhagen blows as only he could on six numbers, including lovely, relaxed but muscular versions of "Cry Me A River" and "Old Folks." This was Webster before he sank comfortably into the breathy ballad rut of his twilight years.
Birgit Bruel, a Danish singer who invested everything she did with a calm dignity, wends her way effortlessly through Gershwin's "But Not For Me" and Tom Jobim's "Once I Loved."
Six tracks on CD2, recorded live at Copenhagen's Montmartre jazz club, recall 1977-78, the DRBB's greatest, most creative period, when the mighty Thad Jones was in command (see attached video).
There are four numbers from the band's first British tour in 1987. Pianist Ole Kock Hansen was wielding the baton and the fire lit by Jones was now an ember, albeit one that still glowed brightly.
CD3 features two numbers from another UK tour four years later, with the band under the leadership of American arranger Ernie Wilkins, best known for his work with Count Basie. Wilkins spent his final years in Copenhagen, where a street is named after him.
Georgie Fame joins the band for two numbers from 1993, a sedately swinging arrangement of Screaming Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You" by Robben Ford and Steve Gray, followed by his own "City Life."
Sweden's Marie Bergman, precursor to Lisa Ekdahl with her rather icky "little girl" vocal inflections, sings three songs, including a pretty good stab at "You Don't Know What Love Is." Then Tony Coe and Bob Brookmeyer get down to some serious jazz business on "Fools Rush In" and the self-consciously experimental "Capt. Coe's Famous Racearound."
Art Farmer plays superbly understated flugelhorn as only he knew how on a live performance at Copenhagen Jazz House in 1996 of "Was It You?"
After this, the DRBB experimented with various conductors and guest artists, arguably losing its way a little. CD4 opens with Britain's Django Bates conducting performances of three of his own idiosyncratic compositions, including the rollicking "Nights At The Circus."
Bob Brookmeyer returns to conduct Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias and the DRBB through three of his elegant arrangements of her songs, coming in now and again on valve trombone, with which he first made his mark in the 1950s in small groups fronted by Jimmy Giuffre and Gerry Mulligan.
CD5 features the DRBB conducted by Jim McNeely playing his own composition, "Triple Metamorphosis," featuring Phil Woods on alto, and three others with French pianist Martial Solal.
CD6 wraps it all up in fine style. "Show Type Tune" is a track from a fine album made for Stunt Records in 2000 of songs written by Bill Evans. And there are two tracks commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Louis Armstrong, Lil Hardin's "Hotter Than That" and a Jim McNeely original "The Power And The Glory," that features quotes from five classic Armstrong numbers, including the landmark "West End Blues."
CD1: It’s The Talk Of The Town; Ray’s Idea; My Old Flame; Zoot;
To Og To Er Fem (Two And Two Are Five); Malaguena; Stella
By Starlight; Yesterdays; Things Ain’t What They Used To Be, Cry
Me A River; Stompy Jones; Did You Call Her Tonight; Old Folks;
Tempus Incertum Remanet Part One; Bojangles; But Not For Me; Once
CD2: The Farewell; Kids Are Pretty People; I Got Rhythm; Ebbe
Skammelsen; Dancing Girls; A Good Time Was Had By All; Say It;
Malus Scorpio Ritus; Crackdown; Vismanden.
CD3: Nervous Charlie; Day Dream; Dedicacion a Santo
Domingo; I Put A Spell On You; City Life; Right On – Off; You
Don’t Know What Love Is; All Of Me; But Beautiful; Capt. Coe’s
Famous Racearound; Fools Rush In; Was It you?
CD4: Once A Penguin, Always A Penguin; The Strange Voyage Of
Donald Crowhurst; Just Kiddin’; So In Love; One Side Of You; The
Pathfinder; Dear Lord; Wild Bill.
CD5: Triple Metamorphosis; Suingando; In A Mellotone; Second Line;
The Governor; DRJO No. 1; Monster Piece; En Coulisse.
CD6: Time Remembered; Oktober Nat; Show Type Tune; The Forest;
Those Who Build; Joy; Hotter Than That; The Power And The Glory;
Lars Lindgren, Benny Rosenfeld, Jesper Riis, Henrik Bolberg,
Anders Gustafsson, Thomas Fryland, Palle Bolvig, Jens Winther,
Lars Togeby, Perry Knudsen, Palle Mikkelborg, Alan Botschinsky,
Idrees Sulieman, Svend Lundvig,
Henry Henkel, Arne Lamberth, Vagn Elsberg, Henrik Bolberg, Jan
Kohlin, Art Farmer, Thomas Kjaergaard, Christer Gustafsson, Mads
la Cour, Gerard Presencer, Leroy Jones: trumpet; Vincent Nilsson,
Ture Larsen, Steen Hansen, Axel Windfeld, James Engell, Torolf
Mølgaard, John Lind, Paul Kjeldgaard, Olle Kurt Jensen, Steen
Engelholt, Helmuth Hansen, Per Espersen, Poul Jørgensen,
Erling Kroner, Richard Boone, Lars Hougaard, Kjeld Ipsen, Giordano
Bellincampi, Bob Brookmeyer, Klaus Löhrer, Peter Jensen, Alf
Vestergaard, Annette Saxe, Jakob Munch Mortensen: trombone; Jesper
Thilo, Jan zum Vohrde, Bent Jaedig, Uffe Karshov, Flemming Madsen,
Preben Garnov, David Sternbach, Knud Sørensen, Per Larsen,
Rolf Bilberg, Erling Christensen, Bent Jaedig, Uffe Karskov, Bent
Nielsen, Ben Webster, Per Carsten, Michael Hove, Thomas Franck,
Uffe Markussen, Bob Rockwell, Tony Coe, Christina von Bulow,
Nicolai Schultz, Peter Fugelsang, Michael Bladt, Ksrl-Martin
Almqvist, Anders Gaardmsnd, Filt Kristensen: saxophones; Olle Kock
Hansen, Stsn Kenton, Nicolai Bentzon, Martial Solsl, Thomas
Clausen, Michel Camilo: piano; Bjarne Roupc, Ole Molin, Bo
Sylvøn, Anders Chico Lindvall, Per Gade: guitar; Jens
Melgaard, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Hugo Rasmussen, Mads
Vinding, Jesper Lundgaard, Thomas Ovesen, Torben Westergaard,
Kaspar Vadsholt: bass; Lennart Gruvstedt, Bjarne Rostvold, William
Schiøppfe, Jonas Johansen, Søren Frost: drums; Ethan
Weisgaard, John Steffensen, Per Nielsen, Kasper Winding, Peter
Reim, Morten Grønvad: percussion; Ib Glindemann, Stan Kenton,
Niels Jørgen Steen,
Ray Pitts, Thad Jones, Ernie Wilkins, Olle Kock Hansen, Django
Bates, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely, Steve Sacks, Helge Albin,
Palle Mikkelborg: conductors; Lise Reinau, Birgit Bruel, Richard
Boone, Marie Bergman, Silvana Malta, Mona Larsen: vocals.