In the music business, bootlegs are generally considered a bad thing. Often poorly recorded and not sanctioned by the artists. However, while some people with dubious intentions have definitely speculated in earning quick cash, there are also others, who have simply recorded music because they were such big fans that it was a necessity to document everything by a certain artist or group.
One of the most famous examples of this kind of musical passion is the bootleg recordings of pianist Bill Evans
during his residency at The Village Vanguard. They were done by his avid fans, Mike and Evelyn Harris, and later released officially as The Secret Sessions
The great advantage of such "secret" recordings is that they catch the musicians off guard. Especially in jazz, where improvisation plays such an important role, it is difficult to document the spark that suddenly ignites the music and makes it truly special. It is something that is hard to plan. Sometimes it just happens and then it is lucky that someone with a tape recorder is present.
This was the case when the band ZAKS played a highly memorable concert during Copenhagen Jazz Festival, 2014. The band's name is an acronym that hides four notable musicians on the Danish jazz scene: saxophonist Jesper Zeuthen
, pianist Jacob Anderskov
, drummer Rune Kielsgaard and bassist Jeppe Skovbakke. It was the first time they played together as a unit and their inspired meeting was recorded by a member of the audience. The recordings were presented to the band and are now available as an official release on the experimental jazz label, ILK.
The concert was based on improvisations that became instant compositions. There are seven tracks in all, simply named Zaks 1, Zaks 2 etc. Zaks 1-5 constitute a separate, improvised suite. It is an epic journey in five chapters that starts out with Kielsgaard's whispering cymbals and Anderskov's lyrical musings on the piano, balancing a light, singing touch and dark, dense chords. The monumental change happens when five minutes into the music, saxophonist Jesper Zeuthen enters with a fanfare. Zeuthen is one of the most original stylists on the Danish jazz scene and deserves wide recognition. His tone is sometimes compared to Albert Ayler
, but it is more light and closer to the heritage of Scandinavian folk songs than gospel. His deep cry is emotional and cleansing.
Together the four musicians achieve the kind of close communication that underlines everything that is great about jazz. "Zaks 6" is almost as powerful as the previous section, and the ending on "Zaks 7," with Zeuthen's vibrating saxophone lines, and Anderskov's rolling piano waves, is a worthy way to close an outstanding concert. Recording it doesn't deserve to be called a bootleg. It was a beautiful gesture.