THE DOZENS: NIELS-HENNING ÖRSTED PEDERSEN by Frank Bachmann Møller



                  Niels-Henning Örsted Pedersen
                       Photo by Jos L. Knaepen


Although Niels-Henning Örsted Pedersen (or NHÖP as he is sometimes known) died in 2005 one month shy of his 59th birthday, his recording career lasted 45 years. His first recording session took place in 1960 with a local Dixieland band called Don Camilo and His Feetwarmers. He was only 14 years old, but a few months later began his professional career in pianist Bent Axen’s trio.

It wasn’t easy to choose these dozen tracks because NH�P performed on more than 800 albums and recorded worldwide. But these performances give a picture of his artistic diversity, such as his phenomenal timekeeping and technique, his fondness for the repertoire of traditional Danish folk music and songbooks, his ability to carry a melody, his well-deserved reputation as a sideman with some of the biggest ears in the business, and his special way of performing an unaccompanied solo piece.


Bud Powell: Bouncing With Bud

Track

Bouncing With Bud

Artist

Bud Powell (piano)

CD

In Copenhagen (Storyville 1018518)

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Musicians:

Bud Powell (piano), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass),

William Schipffe (drums)

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Composed by Bud Powell

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Recorded: live at the Montmartre Jazzhouse, Copenhagen, Denmark, April 26, 1962

Albumcoverbudpowell-incopenhagen

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

At age 15, bassist Niels-Henning rsted Pedersen was asked to accompany Bud Powell during the bebop legend's first engagement at the Montmartre Jazzhouse in Copenhagen during February and March 1962. For the young Dane, it was a strange experience, as Powell never spoke to him, not even answered when rsted Pedersen asked about the form of a certain song or how the harmonies went. He only got a nod from Powell, so NHP took it from there and listened his way through. All the way through this song, NHP plays with the maturity of a grownup, and his solo is a nice little story in itself. As an accompanist, his lines complement Powell's, and even though Powell never said a word, he must have been satisfied with the upcoming young Dane.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


Kenny Drew: Swingin' Till The Girls Come Home

Track

Swingin' Till The Girls Come Home

Artist

Kenny Drew (piano)

CD

In Copenhagen (Storyville 1018520)

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Musicians:

Kenny Drew (piano), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass).

Composed by Oscar Pettiford

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Recorded: Copenhagen, Denmark, 1966

Albumcoverkennydrew-incopenhagen

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Oscar Pettiford's classic blues original is a true swinger. By this time, Kenny Drew and Niels-Henning rsted Pedersen had been part of the house rhythm section at the Montmartre Jazzhouse in Copenhagen for almost three years, and knew each other in and out. NHP plays the complicated theme in complete unison with the piano not a single note is missing and demonstrates great drive both during the accompaniment and in his eight solo choruses.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


Dexter Gordon: Blues Walk

Track

Blues Walk

Artist

Dexter Gordon (tenor sax)

CD

Body and Soul (Black Lion BLCD 760118)

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Musicians:

Dexter Gordon (tenor sax), Kenny Drew (piano), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Albert "Tootie" Heath (drums).

Recorded: live at the Montmartre Jazzhouse, Copenhagen, July 20, 1967

Albumcoverdextergordon-bodyandsoul

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

Tenor titan Dexter Gordon was a mainstay at the Montmartre during the 1960s, except for '66 when a drug sentence in Paris prevented him from obtaining a work permit in Denmark. But luckily he was back in 1967. That year his playing at the club during the summer was even more majestic and inspired than before, possibly because of the excellent rhythm section. I happened to be at the club this particular evening, and the concert stands out in my memory as one of the best I ever heard with Gordon. The recording doesn't contradict my memory, and this performance is a classic. Gordon plays marvelously through his 30 solo choruses, followed by Kenny Drew, Niels-Henning rsted Pedersen and Albert Heath, respectively. The tempo is fast, and each man is up on his toes, making the music glow. It was certainly a hot night. NHP plays a 6-chorus solo where his articulation is unusually clean and precise, especially considering the tempo.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


Oscar Peterson: Soft Winds

Track

Soft Winds

Artist

Oscar Peterson (piano)

CD

Great Connection (MPS 06024 9827017)

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Musicians:

Oscar Peterson (piano), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Louis Hayes (drums).

Recorded: Villingen, Germany, October 22, 1971

Albumcoveroscarpeterson-greatconnection

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

This is the first recording where Oscar Peterson is paired with Niels-Henning rsted Pedersen, and the backstory involves bassist Ray Brown. At this time, Czech bassist George Mraz was part of the Oscar Peterson Trio, but when an upcoming tour to Europe included Yugoslavia, Mraz told Peterson that he didn't dare go behind the Iron Curtain. Peterson almost panicked at the short notice, and turned to Ray Brown, who recommended the young Dane saying, "He's the only one I know that might keep up with you."

Luckily, NHP was available, and the tour was such a success that Peterson a couple of years later asked him to be a permanent member of his trio. Great Connection is usually not considered among the best of Peterson's trio recordings, but on "Soft Winds" you feel an instant rapport between him and NHP. NHP plays a fine second voice to the theme and admirably answers Peterson's lines in the second chorus. While "Soft Winds" is relaxed, there is nevertheless a perceptible tension throughout, as the trio varies dynamics and achieves an overall great group feeling, making this track the album's finest.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


Kenny Drew & Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: Once a Saturday Night

Track

Once a Saturday Night

Artist

CD

Duo (SteepleChase SCCD 30018/19)

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Musicians:

Kenny Drew (piano), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass).

Recorded: Copenhagen, Denmark

Albumcoverkennydrew-nielshenningorstedpedersen-duo

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

From its release in 1974, Duo became a hit, especially in Japan where it sold thousands. Maybe it was the unique blend of jazz originals, bossa nova, Danish traditional songs and other tunes that appealed to the public. "Once a Saturday Night" (Det var en L�rdag Aften) is one of the most popular Danish folksongs. Originally written in 2/4, it is performed here in 6/8, making it more danceable.

By the way, this tune was the inspiration for Sonny Rollins's "St. Thomas." Rollins's grandmother was from Saint Thomas, the Virgin Islands, which was under the Danish crown until 1917; she learned the song there and sang it often for little Sonny during his childhood. Both the form and harmonies of "St. Thomas" perfectly match "Once a Saturday Night." It is easy to sing either tune against the background of the other.

Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen presents the theme and continues into a very lyric solo. After Kenny Drew's piano solo, the two improvise collectively for a chorus before NHØP takes the song out. A charming track in all its relatively simplicity, with NHØP in command most of the time.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: My Little Anna

Track

My Little Anna

CD

Jaywalkin' (SteepleChase SCCD-31041)

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Musicians:

Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Philip Catherine (guitar), Billy Higgins (drums),

Ole Kock Hansen (keyboards)

.

Recorded: Copenhagen, Denmark, September 9-10 and December 10, 1975

Albumcovernielshenningorstedpedersen-jaywalkin

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Jaywalkin' was Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen's first album as a leader, and this came rather belatedly, considering his enormous talent and the fact that at this point he'd been a professional musician for 14 years. "My Little Anna" is dedicated to NHØP's youngest daughter, and is a lovely samba with a charming melody and catchy harmonies. NHØP carries the theme and continues into a long, virtuosic, lyrical solo that at the same time both breathes and tells a good story. The song form is the familiar A-A-B-A, and as Lester Young so often did, NHØP uses the B-parts as a platform for relaxation, here soloing with less intensity and broader lines that give the listener a chance to breathe too. After his 3-minute solo, there is room for a keyboard solo and a guitar solo - one chorus apiece - after which NHØP takes the tune out. In this song, NHØP's talent fully blossoms, demonstrating his forceful swing, great melodic and harmonic sense and a sure-fingeredness that makes each note ring with his characteristic sonorous and flexible sound.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


Palle Mikkelborg: Imagine

Track

Palle Mikkelborg: Imagine

Artist

Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet)

CD

Heart to Heart (Storyville STCD 5012)

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Musicians:

Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass),

Kenneth Knudsen (keyboards)

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Composed by John Lennon

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Recorded: Copenhagen, Denmark, Autumn 1986

Albumcoverpallemikkelborg-hearttoheart

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

The mood of this album is mostly reflective and meditative, filled with beautiful sounds. John Lennon's song is no exception, performed here with a calmness and tranquility that is pure vitamin for the soul. Trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, playing muted, is true to the song's mood throughout, demonstrating his great lyric sense. The tune is played twice with almost no variations, with Kenneth Knudsen and Niels-Henning rsted Pedersen in supporting roles, but the overall group feeling combined with Mikkelborg's beautiful and sensible interpretation makes this a classic performance. You never get tired of it.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: Natten Er S� Stille

Track

Natten Er S Stille (The Night Is So Quiet)

CD

Uncharted Land (Pladecompagniet PCCD 8045)

Musicians:

Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass),

Ole Kock Hansen (piano)

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Composed by C.E.F. Weyse

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Recorded: Copenhagen, Denmark, October 1991 and March 1992

Albumcovernielshenningrstedpedersen-unchartedland

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Pianist Ole Kock Hansen and bassist Niels-Henning �rsted Pedersen knew each other from childhood, Kock Hansen one year older than NHØP. They were neighbors then, growing up in Osted, a village 30 miles southeast of Copenhagen, and after becoming professional musicians, they became neighbors again when they each moved to Ish�j, a suburb south of Copenhagen, not far from Copenhagen Airport. It was a strange stroke of fate that NHØP should die in his sleep on his couch the very same afternoon of Kock Hansen's 60th birthday, a couple of hours before he was invited to the birthday party next door.

During the years the two performed together hundreds of times, on recordings and at concerts, very often just as a duo. Like NHØP, Kock Hansen was partial to songs from Danish folklore and songbooks. C.E.F. Weyse's beautiful "Natten Er S� Stille" from 1840 is performed as a bass solo throughout, as Hansen accompanies with suitable but not too much reharmonization. NHØP's interpretation continues into a solo that never moves far from the melody. He closes with an ascending 4-note figure � rising from the dominant to the major third � that is repeated three times. The peaceful mood is maintained from start to finish.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: To A Brother

Track

To A Brother

CD

To A Brother (Pladecompagniet 481362-2)

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Musicians:

Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Adam Nussbaum (drums),

Ulf Wakenius (guitar)

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Composed by Niels-Henning rsted Pedersen

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Recorded: Copenhagen, Denmark, June-September 1993

Albumcovernielshenningorstedpedersen-toabrother

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

This track is dedicated to Johannes, the eldest brother of Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, who died earlier that year. NHØP's composition is a theme in 6/8 consisting of quietly moving figures with an interesting bassline, the song beautiful in its simplicity. NHØP carries the melody with a sparse accompaniment by Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius and drummer Adam Nussbaum, after which Wakenius takes over with a great solo that builds in dynamics and intensity. He is succeeded by NHØP, whose own solo is just as fine, an emotional statement blending singable phrases and virtuosic runs. Throughout, Nussbaum is highly attentive, making this track - and the entire album - a complete pleasure.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: I Skovens Dybe Stille Ro

Track

I Skovens Dybe Stille Ro (Tranquility of the Woods)

CD

This is All I Ask (Verve 539695-2)

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Musicians:

Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Oscar Peterson (piano),

Ulf Wakenius (guitar)

.

Recorded: Copenhagen, Denmark, July & September 1997

Albumcovernielshenningorstedpedersen-thisisalliask

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

This track is a Danish traditional song that pianist Kenny Drew and bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen made a hit with their performance on 1974's Duo. In fact, Drew's reharmonization was published in print, so every schoolchild could learn it. But, as expected, Oscar Peterson makes his own statement here, playing fleet, unhampered and with a lyrical touch as if it were his own composition, yet retaining the song's beautiful mood. NHØP supports with masterly contrapuntal basslines, and the two exchange solos while Wakenius plays a sparse and crisp accompaniment. A lovely interpretation, more mature and in tune with the song's intended mood than the earlier duo version.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


Mulgrew Miller: Caravan

Track

Caravan

Artist

Mulgrew Miller (piano)

CD

The Duets

Musicians:

Mulgrew Miller (piano), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass).

Composed by Duke Ellington, Juan Tizol & Irving Mills

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Recorded: Copenhagen, Denmark, January 15, 1999

Albumcovermulgrewmiller-theduets

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

A full 10 years after its recording, The Duets, produced as a promotional CD for Bang & Olufsen, had still not been released commercially. The music salutes Duke Ellington, with 10 of 12 tunes composed by him. "Caravan" is a dazzling performance as Niels-Henning rsted Pedersen supports pianist Mulgrew Miller with an unbelievable virtuosic ostinato bass figure during the A-parts of the theme. The tempo is fast, making it all the more incredible that every note stands distinct in the sound picture. Throughout, NHP plays with infectious drive and swing, both as accompanist and as soloist, which inspires Miller to great heights as well. A classic performance.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: Fantasy In D Minor

Track

Fantasy In D Minor

CD

This is All I Ask (Verve 539695-2)

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Musicians:

Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass).

Composed by Niels-Henning rsted Pedersen; inspired by Bla Bartok

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Recorded: Copenhagen, Denmark, July & September 1997

Albumcovernielshenningorstedpedersen-thisisalliask

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

As far as I know, this is the only recording of Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen playing an unaccompanied bass solo. The tune is a beautiful composition with a reflective mood, inspired by a piece by Bartok. Here, NHØP both carries the melody and improvises while accompanying himself at the same time. There are no flashy runs or dazzling figures. The track is played with a maturity that shows a man in complete command and at peace with himself.

Reviewer: Frank Bachmann Møller


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