Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Michael Blicher: Groove is in the Heart

Mark Youll By

Sign in to view read count
The way Gadd makes the song and all the other musicians around him sound so amazing is a huge inspiration. His gift for playing is so clear and musical that it communicates to so many people all over the world, and that’s an amazing gift.
Trading under the bold, equal-bill banner Blicher Hemmer Gadd, saxophonist Michael Blicher, organist Dan Hemmer and veteran session drummer Steve Gadd have been making music together now for over five years. During this time this extraordinary trio have just about managed to co-ordinate enough space in their individual work schedules to tour extensively, work up fresh material, and record two live albums together, all of which is no easy mission given both Blicher and Hemmer still reside in their native Denmark, and Gadd in the U.S.

The band formed after a chance encounter Blicher had with Gadd at a masterclass in Denmark in 2012, and the style the three have since refined is hung around a mutual love of strong groove, the music of New Orleans and all the classic organ groups led by the likes of Larry Young, Jimmy Smith, Ramsey Lewis and Jack McDuff. "I took some of my music along with me and Steve really liked it..." Blicher remembers of that first meeting. "I also gave him a CD that I had just released with my band, Astro Buddha Agogo, which also featured Dan on Hammond, and he loved that too. From there we started talking about possibly doing a Scandinavian tour together and our debut as a trio happened in 2014 when we toured Denmark, Sweden and Norway..."

Selecting tracks from sold-out shows recorded in Denmark, Germany, and London in 2017, the trio's latest disc, Omara, is a melodic, groovy and, at times, sassy set wet with warm, sludgy Hammond, mellow tenor and soprano sax and some slick stick and brush work from Gadd. Flipping among blues, swing, latin and funk feels, it's a record driven by dazzling interplay and represents the real vibe of the band in a live environment. "I love playing live in front of an audience" Blicher enthuses with a smile. "For me, it's where everything is taken to a higher level, and listening back to these shows we were all happy enough with the recordings that we didn't see any reason for going into the studio..." For a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the band does work in the confines of a small studio space, a short fly-on-the-wall film produced by documentary-maker Anders Jepsen to promote Omara is worth checking out on the band's site. It captures the camaraderie and chemistry of the group as they perform on stage and work on arrangements for some upcoming shows. "We very much share a love for the same kind of music, and we all focus on the same values of listening and playing which makes it really easy to play together" Blicher says. "Our focus when we're in a room together is to make each song sound as great, and as hard-swinging, as possible. I remember Steve once said that one of the reasons the trio also works so well is that there are no egos in the band, and I totally agree with that. We are all bringing something unique and individual to the music. Dan comes from a blues and soul background, and has played behind all the biggest blues, rock and pop artists in Denmark for many years. He is also a master of orchestrating and arranges the music on his organ so that each song get its own unique sound and dynamic arrangement. And you could say the exact same thing about Steve. He is such an amazing producer and orchestrator and has a real talent for making a song sound unique."

As a distinctly lyrical writer and saxophonist, you could say Blicher brings out the soul of the band. He maintains that much of what he writes, or plays, can be traced back to New Orleans, especially within the laid-back grooves and the soulfulness of artists like singer Alvin Robinson and guitarist Snooks Eaglin. "I'm usually inspired to write with a specific drum-groove in mind" he explains. "I record sketches of the songs with me singing, playing the drum-groove or playing the piano or sax melody, and then I bring in a sketch or idea of the arrangement. From this we all work on the song. Sometimes we can end up playing almost what I had originally planned, and other times we work out completely different grooves or arrangements. There's even some songs that seem to keep changing during the whole tour because we'll experiment with both the tempo and feel to get the vibe perfect."

"For me, a lot of what I play also comes from listening to my dad's Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra albums growing up." he adds. "I must have heard "Hit the Road Jack" a thousand times as a kid, and on Ray's stuff there are great sax solos by David "Fathead" Newman whose playing I adore. Michael Brecker too, I think his intro on "Your Latest Trick" by Dire Straits was what first made me want to play the saxophone. I remember buying Brothers in Arms, that was my first cassette!"


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Jay Clayton’s ScatLab—A Vocal Jazz Workout Catching Up With
Jay Clayton’s ScatLab—A Vocal Jazz Workout
by Suzanne Lorge
Published: December 4, 2018
Read Gary Urwin: Inside the Mind of an Arranger Catching Up With
Gary Urwin: Inside the Mind of an Arranger
by Rob Wood
Published: November 18, 2018
Read Devon Allman: Chipotle Blues Catching Up With
Devon Allman: Chipotle Blues
by Scott Mitchell
Published: November 4, 2018
Read Bobby Broom: Classic Compositions from Yesterday to Today Catching Up With
Bobby Broom: Classic Compositions from Yesterday to Today
by Corey Hall
Published: October 26, 2018
Read Stefon Harris: The Tradition of Jazz Catching Up With
Stefon Harris: The Tradition of Jazz
by Kevin Press
Published: October 16, 2018
Read Mike Stern: Living through a Jazz Clinic Catching Up With
Mike Stern: Living through a Jazz Clinic
by Rob Wood
Published: October 5, 2018
Read "Django Bates: Delightful Piano Touch" Catching Up With Django Bates: Delightful Piano Touch
by Enrico Bettinello
Published: January 16, 2018
Read "Stu Mindeman and trio explore a Chick Corea classic at the Chicago Jazz Festival" Catching Up With Stu Mindeman and trio explore a Chick Corea classic at the...
by Corey Hall
Published: August 21, 2018
Read "Zach Brock: Jazz Violin's New Wave" Catching Up With Zach Brock: Jazz Violin's New Wave
by Angelo Leonardi
Published: September 12, 2018
Read "Dave Douglas: From Revolution to Revelation" Catching Up With Dave Douglas: From Revolution to Revelation
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: February 19, 2018
Read "Ellen Doty: Goosebumps All Over" Catching Up With Ellen Doty: Goosebumps All Over
by Kevin Press
Published: March 4, 2018
Read "Adam Nussbaum: Back To Basics" Catching Up With Adam Nussbaum: Back To Basics
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: April 5, 2018