It’s the 33rd annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival. MAGNET’s Mitch Myers translates the action.
As I familiarize myself with the city of Copenhagen as well as its expansive jazz festival and all that it provides, I’m overwhelmed and impressed by this rich and varied cultural experience. Besides well-established groups coming in from all over the globe to perform, there’s lots of cross-pollination going on between artists from different countries, some authentic jam sessions and loads of musical surprises. So, for the time being, jazz pervades. On Thursday night, I started out watching the Kenny Werner Quartet with guest trumpeter Dave Douglas. Werner is a Brooklyn-born piano wizard who’s been recording since the early ’80s and apparently is quite at home in both the United States and Europe. Along with bassist Johannes Weidenmueller, drummer Johnathan Blake and Danish jazz saxophonist Benjamin Koppel, Werner and Douglas presented some powerful compositions, both new and old. There were classically influenced passages, thoroughly modern jazz with great soloing and a little bit of old-fashioned hard bop with Douglas playing like Lee Morgan circa 1965. Blake was mighty-mighty, and the whole band seemed energized by Douglas’ presence. Me, too.
From there it was off to see amazing German pianist Michael Wollny play some structured compositions with a band of great Danes including saxophonist Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard and trumpeter James Buchanan. The strangest part of their performance featured three of the musicians playing typewriters in percussive, random fashion. But don’t worry, they weren’t electric typewriters; this was an acoustic group except for the Danish guitarist with a moustache like Freddie Mercury. It was the first time these guys had ever played together, but their collective sound was thoughtful and meditative, and the compositions showed great depth and nuance.
Then, just as we were heading out the door after Wollny’s mesmerizing set, in walked Danish jazz-guitar hero Pierre Dørge, so we had to stay. To my surprise, Dørge, longtime bandmate Irene Becker and a substitute saxophonist were playing alongside a young poet. Listening to this wild Danish dude hollering beat-inspired prose in a language I didn’t understand while Dørge and his group improvised around him was a mirthful treat. Dørge is a very unorthodox player who eschews conventional methods in favor of semi-atonal riffs and percussive, single-line picking. He even had this small electronic box that simulated the droning raga sounds of a tamboura that he played against to remarkable effect. It was a completely spontaneous performance, and it epitomized the strange possibilities of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. To be honest, I think I’m starting to like it here.