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Oscar Pettiford & Jan Johansson: In Denmark 1959-1960

Chris Mosey By

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Oscar Pettiford was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, in 1922, of a Choctaw Indian mother and a half Cherokee, half African American father. He became one of the most influential bass players in the history of jazz, building on the innovations of Jimmie Blanton to make the bass a genuine solo instrument.

He jammed with the founders of bebop at Minton's Playhouse then followed Blanton by joining the Duke Ellington Orchestra from 1945-48.

In 1958 he moved to Copenhagen where he died on September 8 1960. This album catalogues his time in the Danish capital and in particular his work there with the great Swedish jazz pianist Jan Johansson.

The first five tracks feature Pettiford playing both bass and cello on ballads with local musicians. He'd started played cello professionally a few years earlier with Woody Herman. In a carefully orchestrated practical joke, he would abandon his bass mid-solo, wander offstage and return with a cello to pick up where he'd left off.

Pettiford and Johansson with Joe Harris on drums form a "dream" rhythm section for Stan Getz as he wraps his lyrical tenor round one of the bassist's best known compositions, "La Verne Walk," followed by Benny Golson's evocative "I Remember Clifford" and Coleman Hawkins' more enigmatic "Stuffy."

Harris, an American who had played in Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band, was married to a Swede. He insisted on speaking Swedish when he visited Denmark which confused the locals no end.

Pettiford, Johansson and Harris accompany Lee Gaines, a founding member of The Delta Rhythm Boys, on a great version of Bobby Timmons' "Moanin.'"

Local vibraphonist Louis Hjulmand is featured on the following five numbers which include Pettiford's "Now See How You Are."

The last three tracks provide a fascinating, behind-the-scenes glimpse into musical evolution. Johansson sits at the piano in the legendary Copenhagen jazz club Montmartre after hours, quietly experimenting with Swedish folk songs. He would bring his ideas to fruition a few years later on with his best-selling Jazz På Svenska (Jazz In Swedish) recordings.

By which time the great Oscar Pettiford would be dead (from a virus related to polio) and the Danish jazz scene would have collapsed under the onslaught of rock.

Track Listing: Sonny Boy; Willow Weep for Me; There’ll Never Be Another You; The Nearness of You; Now See How You Are; La Verne Walk; I Remember Clifford; Stuffy; Moanin’; Fru Brüel; I Succumb To Temptations; Dahoud; Oleo; Now See How You Are; Ack Värmeland, Du Sköna; Emigrantvisan; Farfars Sång.

Personnel: Oscar Pettiford: bass, cello; Jan Johansson: piano; Stan Getz: tenor saxophone; Allan Botschinsky: trumpet; Louis Hjulmand: vibraphone; Bent Axen: piano; Erik Moseholm: bass; Finn Frederiksen: drums; William Schiøppfe: drums; Jørn Elniff: drums; Joe Harris: drums; Uffe Karskov: saxophone; Anders Lindskog: tenor saxophone; Bent Nielsen: bass; Lars Blach: guitar; Lee Gaines: vocal.

Title: In Denmark 1959-1960 | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Stunt Records/Sundance Music

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