Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: Fantasy In D Minor

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.

February 12, 2009 · 0 comments

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Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: I Skovens Dybe Stille Ro

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.

February 12, 2009 · 0 comments

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Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: To A Brother

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.

February 12, 2009 · 0 comments

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Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: Natten Er S� Stille

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.

February 12, 2009 · 0 comments

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Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: My Little Anna

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.

February 12, 2009 · 0 comments

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

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.

February 12, 2009 · 0 comments

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Pierre Drge's New Jungle Orchestra: Hawk Meets Sun Ra

Pierre Drge's New Jungle Orchestra has been Denmark's answer to Austria's Vienna Art Orchestra led by Matthias Regg. Both Drge and Regg are extremely eclectic, each for many years offering music that encompasses all styles of jazz, European classical music, and various World musics.

If the Hawk reference in the title of Drge's composition "Hawk Meets Sun Ra" is Coleman Hawkins, the connection to the tenor great is nowhere evident in the music, solos or arrangement on this track, unless the central repeated riff of the theme harks back to an undetermined Hawkins tune or solo. The Sun Ra influence is primarily found in the African-tinged rhythms that introduce this pianoless piece, setting a stalking, ponderous tempo, as trombones and cornet phrase energetically above it. Trauberg's cornet impresses with both his strikingly rich tone and the boisterous content of his improvisation. The insistent repeated riff appears just prior to a rambunctious trombone solo by either Agerholm or Hyhne, which soon evolves into stabbing contrapuntal jousts with altoist Mygind before the trombonist resumes his journey. The initial rhythmic pulse is reinstated along with tantalizing horn motifs, and the spirited riff quickly follows. A heady group improv is now launched, leading to a decrescendo that ends in a whisper. "Hawk Meets Sun Ra," containing neither a saxophone nor a piano solo, is nonetheless irresistible.

January 10, 2009 · 0 comments

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Torben Waldorff: Heimat

Torben Waldorff is a Danish-born guitarist/composer with an uncluttered, controlled playing style and a keen ear for melody. His songs are accessible and soulful while possessing ample profundity. The slow-paced "Heimat" provides an excellent example of these attributes and the rapport that comes with an efficient, sympathetic group.

The theme, stated by Waldorff and McCaslin, is well constructed and memorable. Yahel reveals a mastery of projecting warmth from a Rhodes, not just through the carefully considered notes in his solo turn, but also as an accompanist. Waldorff's employs a similar strategy from the full-bodied sound of his Gibson ES when his turn comes, modulating his approach from gentle to mid-intensity, but always relaxed. Meanwhile, Wikan sympathetically adds fills to emphasize the leader's evolving mood.

One of several standout tracks on Afterburn, "Heimat" displays Waldorff's ability to craft songs that can engage the listener even when a soft touch is utilized.

October 11, 2008 · 0 comments

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John Tchicai: One Way Ticket

In the 1970s, John Tchicai was still playing the alto sax and living in his native Denmark. Here, with two of his compatriots, he plays a type of jazz that is both very melodic and very free a personal folklore, perhaps, that can hardly be related to anything except Ornette Coleman's melodic conceptions and Don Cherry's approach to interplay. Each instrument plays its own line, melodically and rhythmically, sometimes evolving in parallel, sometimes intertwining in a soft and unpredictable manner. Besides Tchicai's sound, which wasn't heavily documented in those years, the most interesting performance here is that of NHP, who was more often heard with less modern musicians such as Oscar Peterson than with such open improvisers as Tchicai and Drge.

June 30, 2008 · 0 comments

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Torben Waldorff: Squealfish

The young Danish guitarist Torben Waldorff runs this catchy "Squealfish" through some relentless high-octane paces to create a compelling piece of music. The able assistance of drummer Wikan and bassist Clohesy keeps the rhythm of this weaving composition steady and always pushing forward. The singsong melody proceeds in a scalar form with synchronous playing by former Steps Ahead tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin matching the notes of Waldorff's guitar in unison. Pianist Sam Yahel takes a nice solo turn before McCaslin and Waldorff again play a series of complex duet lines that twist and turn along their orchestrated path, all the while backed by the rhythm and Yahel's pleasantly placed climbing chords. This bespeaks an accomplished piece of musicianship and simpatico. McCaslin creates an urgent sound on his horn, and Waldorff plays his guitar with a soft and muted tone so the juxtaposition of sounds works nicely together. When Waldorff solos, his guitar lines undulate smoothly and proficiently, yet his explorations feel like they are circling the music from the outside, probing until he can find the proper entry point within the proceedings, like an airplane waiting to be queued into a landing. When he does reenter the formation with McCaslin, he is immediately able to find his stride and meld beautifully. The song fades away in a final change of time.

June 09, 2008 · 0 comments

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Marilyn Mazur & Jan Garbarek: Dunun Song

Building a recording project around sax and percussion, without bass or chords, is a dicey proposition, but these two artists are sufficient unto themselves. A timeless quality permeates the give-and-take between Garbarek and Mazur. Primal, throbbing, hypnotic . . . this is music more suitable for a ritual than a jazz club. Instead of ordering a drink from the bar, you want to join hands in a circle dance and start chanting. A great performance from two very deep artists.

April 12, 2008 · 0 comments

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Marilyn Mazur & Jan Garbarek: Joy Chant

For this tune, Marilyn Mazur chose a single instrument from her hugely diverse percussion kit. It's called a hang and is not much used yet by jazz musicians. It looks a bit like a small flying saucer and sounds halfway between a steel drum and metallic tablas. On this nice repetitive song Mazur has penned, the hang's sound is a perfect match for Jan Garbarek's soprano sax. The Norwegian reed player often had the Danish percussionist in his bands. Now she enlists him for her first ECM record, and shows that Garbarek fits beautifully into her music, which is much more joyous and lively that his usual fare.

March 21, 2008 · 0 comments

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Carsten Dahl / Arild Andersen / Patrice Hral: Escapes

This European trio joins on equal terms a Danish pianist, Norwegian bassist and French drummer in a musical concept with roots on both sides of the Atlantic as well as in the northern and southern parts of the Old Continent. In what they play, one hears traces of Jarrett, the French Impressionists, and ECM's "Nordic sound," but they blend these influences in such a personal way that their music never seems contrived. Above all, as in the case of this track, it is full of the surprise that one legitimately expects from jazz.

February 18, 2008 · 0 comments

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