Danish Radio Big Band: Spirituals

Chris Mosey By

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Danish Radio Big Band: Spirituals
There is a curiously old fashioned feel to this, first album of a new era for the Danish Radio Big Band under its freshly appointed leader, Norwegian Birger Carlsen.

The white folks sit on the veranda of "the big house" sipping their mint juleps as "their" blacks happily pick cotton and sing about dat wonderful day when they gwine to put on their shoes and walk all over God's heaven...sorry, heb'n.

In an age before Civil Rights there wasn't much else they could do really... if they didn't want a bullet in the back of the head one dark night.

All these years on, with a black president in the White House, there's something a little uncomfortable if not downright indecent about a bunch of mainly white middle class musicians in Copenhagen dusting off these sad old songs promising pie in the sky. But conductor Vincent Nilsson finds them of value.

Nilsson—he's played trombone with the DRBB for 40 years—cites two events in 1958 as the inspiration for this collection: the release of the Louis Armstrong album, Louis And The Good Book (Decca); and Mahalia Jackson's appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, documented in the Bert Stern movie, Jazz On A Summer's Day.

Two previous albums of spirituals made with smaller groups have failed to dim his enthusiasm for music that modern American blacks find irrelevant and embarrassing.

He leads the DRBB through one hoary old Christian chestnut after another: "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child," "Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho" and even a—mercifully brief—chorus of the hoariest old Christian chestnut of them all, "When The Saints Go Marching In."

A disciple of Chucho Valdés, Cuban percussionist Eliel Lazo, who now lives in Denmark, adds an incongruous touch by rattling away on his congas now and again and singing... sometimes in Spanish.

But it's left to saxophonist Jakob Munck to save the day vocally with a magnificent cod bass rendition of "Go Down Moses."

Nilsson's arrangements are fine, Anders Gaardmand plays some excellent baritone here and there and Gerard Presencer's clear, crisp flugelhorn solo on "Motherless Child" is worthy of the Archangel Gabriel himself.

Track Listing

Bye and bye; Standing In The Need Of Prayer/Git On Board Little Children; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot/Swing Down, Sweet Chariot; Little David, Play On Your Harp; Were You There; Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child; Go Down Moses; Just A Closer Walk With Thee; Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen; Lord, I Want To Be A Christian; Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho; Going To Shout All Over God’s Heaven; When The Saints Go Marching In.


Vincent Nilsson: conductor and trombone; Anders Gustafsson, Michael Møhede, Thomas Kjaergaard, Mads la Cour, Gerard Presencer: trumpet; Steen Hansen, Peter Jensen, Annette Huseby Saxe, Jakob Munck, Kim Aagaard: trombone; Nicolai Schultz, Peter Fuglsang, Hans Ulrik, Claus Waidtløw, Anders Gaardmand: reeds; Per Gade: guitar and banjo; Henrik Gunde: piano; Kaspar Vadsholt: bass; Eliel Lazo: congas and percussion; Søren Frost: drums.

Album information

Title: Spirituals | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Storyville Records

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