Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Day 5

It’s the 33rd annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival. MAGNET’s Mitch Myers translates the action.

The 10-day jazz festival in Copenhagen finally concluded on Sunday, and I’m happy to report that there was no letdown in the quality of music being performed across town on the final night. Occupying a variety of venues throughout the historic city, the fest came in all shapes and sizes—from coffeehouses to street fairs to theaters to, of course, jazz clubs. Speaking of jazz clubs, I made it to a gig at the Jazzhus Montmartre, a legendary Danish hotspot where American expats like Deter Gordon held residencies and other great jazz musicians made historic recordings.

The interesting this about the (Café) Montmartre is that 35 years after being relocated in 1976 (and then ultimately closing in 1995), the club was reopened at its original location in 2010. With so much jazz history contained in this small-yet-important space, it was heartening to watch alto saxophonist Charles McPherson perform with local Danish musicians, especially because he had gigged at the original Montmartre venue decades before. McPherson is a jazz journeyman who played with Charles Mingus in the ’60s and ’70s, and one reason Mingus always loved McPherson was because the altoist played in a tart style heavily influenced by Charlie “Yardbird” Parker. After all these years, McPherson is still a disciple of Bird, and his repertoire at the Montmartre was straight out of this classic jazz vein. Performing vintage tunes like “I’ll Remember April,” “Scrapple From The Apple” and Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are,” McPherson sounded sharp and confident as he jumped from bebop to ballads and blues. As the show progressed, I found myself admiring the dynamic abilities of the drummer and was chagrined to find that it was veteran Alex Riel, a world-class Danish musician who boasts a resume as historic as McPherson’s, if not more so.

Then it was back to the other Jazzhouse, where an auspicious gig was underway featuring Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi with a celebrated Danish rhythm section of drummer Stefan Pasborg and bassist Jesper Lundgaard. Pieranunzi began his recording career with the late Chet Baker back in 1979. He’s a marvelous player whose piano style resides somewhere between those of Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner. A longtime critics’ favorite, Pieranunzi has made historic trio recordings with two Americans: bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron. In any case, their music at the Jazzhouse was stellar, and although the threesome played several standards, the only song I can recall was “Someday My Prince Will Come.” The talented Pasborg and Lundgaard both sounded strong and distinctive without overshadowing the amazing Pieranunzi, and this trio gig was an international piano man’s dream.

So, it was with an uplifted spirit that I left Copenhagen to return to the U.S., learning that the often-formal boundaries of nations, politics and language can do little to keep talented musicians of the world apart.

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