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Live At Montmartre Series

Chris Mosey By

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Recordings are now being made in Montmartre, the legendary Copenhagen jazz club, which—thanks largely to the efforts of pianist Niels Lan Doky—reopened in 2010.

The original Montmartre started in 1959 as a venue for trad, which Scandinavians call "happy jazz." Stan Getz, who lived in the Danish capital from 1958-1961, introduced more modern sounds, followed by other expatriate Americans, including Ben Webster and Dexter Gordon.

The club moved to larger premises and from 1976-1989 was a major European jazz venue, hosting many of the music's leading figures, including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins and Oscar Peterson.

Changing musical fashions and the slings and arrows of outrageous financial fortune led to the its demise in 1995 and the focus for jazz shifted to the Copenhagen Jazz House.

Lan Doky to the rescue; Montmartre back in business. Though it has to be admitted that the present premises are more cramped than those it occupied in its heyday, hence the small format of the bands it puts on, like those featured on these Storyville recordings.

Enter the album name hereEddie Gomez & Carsten Dahl
Live at Montmartre
Storyville Records
2014

The great Puerto Rican bassist Eddie Gomez, best known for his work with keyboard giant Bill Evans with whom he visited Montmartre in 1973, returned on November 9 2011 to play a set with Carsten Dahl, one of Denmark's best jazz pianists.

Unhappily, their meeting is reminiscent of that old Calamity Jane showstopper, "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better," with the duo competing with one another to show off their virtuosity rather than serving the music.

Gomez and Dahl pull out all the stops when it comes to tricky runs and unusual chord inversions but play too often as individuals rather than as a unit.

In "I Hear A Rhapsody," Gomez is all over his instrument, Dahl content for the most part to accompany him.

The Dane fights back in "There Is No Greater Love," turning the old ballad into a kind of demented boogie-woogie and triggering a spectacular display of instrumental fireworks from Gomez in response.

"Autumn Leaves" gets unaccustomed dramatic treatment, in keeping with the French original, "Les Feuilles Mortes (The Dead Leaves)." Gomez' bass sounds positively sinister on occasion and Dahl delves under the lid for special effects. The crowd love it, cheering on the home side.

But Gomez grabs back the limelight with his dissonant bowing on "How Deep Is The Ocean" and "All The Things You Are."

The result: a narrow win for Puerto Rico.

The duo's warm-up, titled "First Encounter," is included- -somewhat confusingly—at the end of the disk and—still more confusingly—is listed as track 6 when it should be 7.

Enter the album name hereNikolaj Bentzon Trio
Live at Montmartre
Storyville Records
2014

Pianist Nikolaj Bentzon, enfant terrible of the Danish musical scene, represents—with precocious élan—the ninth generation of one of Scandinavia's most distinguished musical families.

He is son of the late Niels Viggo Bentzon, revered composer of "The Tempered Piano," a work made up of 14 sets of 48 preludes and fugues, written in all 24 major and minor musical keys.

Niels Viggo in turn was descended from the equally revered 18th century classical composer and organist Johan Ernst Hartmann.

It's a lot to live up to. So Nikolaj Bentzon doesn't try. While he does occasionally dabble in classical music, his principal bag is jazz and funk.

For this gig at Montmartre in May 2013 he joins forces with the great American drummer Winard Harper and local bassist Thomas Fonnesbaek, who plays with gifted Swedish pianist Lars Jansson.

The set includes—believe it or not—a couple of numbers penned by Bentzon's illustrious forebear Herr Hartmann.

The proceedings start with a high octane version of Les McCann's "Smile Stacey," with Harper pulling out the stops to the delight of the audience.

The Jay Livingstone ballad "Almost In Your Arms" gradually gains in momentum.

Things slow down with Bentzon's own number, "West Coast Scenario." Another original, "Old-Timers," allows Fonnesbaek to display his considerable talents.

The homage to Hartmann is really quite marvelous; sensitive and thoughtful yet never academic.

And Bentzon's playing on Frederick Loewe's "The Heather On The Hill" is little short of superb.

Quincy Jones' up-tempo, soulful "Lonely Bottles" makes a nice, rocking contrast and Bentzon takes a vocal on "My Blue Heaven," closing a set that the shades of the greats that played the old Montmartre must surely have applauded.


Tracks and Personnel

Live At Montmartre—Eddie Gomez & Carsten Dahl

Tracks: I Hear A Rhapsody; There Is No Greater Love; Autumn Leaves; Body And Soul; How Deep Is The Ocean; All The Things You Are; First Encounter.

Personnel: Eddie Gomez: bass; Carsten Dahl: piano.

Live at Montmartre—Nikolaj Bentzon Trio

Tracks: Smile Stacey; Almost In Your Arms; West Coast Scenario; Old-Timers; Flyv Fugl. Flyv; Cantilena Elegiaca; Svetlana Botswana Rusticana; The Heather On The Hill; Lonely Bottles; My Blue Heaven.

Personnel: Nikolaj Bentzon: piano; Thomas Fonnesbaek: bass; Winard Harper: drums.

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