Copenhagen Jazz Festival, 2014


The Copenhagen Jazz Festival is a 10-day summer event that’s especially broad in scope and range. It runs from July 4 through July 13 and has been bringing decidedly idiosyncratic programming to Denmark since 1979. The festival is a humongous behemoth of jazz and beyond, showcasing nearly 1,200 concerts at more than 100 different venues—including indoor, outdoor, large, small, free and ticketed events. From restaurant gigs at places like the Café Sommersko to auditoriums like the Danish Radio Concert Hall, the festival is hosting Danish and Scandinavian talent, cutting-edge European artists and the cream of American musicians trekking across the continent of European summer jazz fests.

Besides local heroes like drummers Alex Riel and Stefan Pasborg and bigger acts like Chick Corea & Stanley Clarke, John Scofield, Josh Redman and Tinarewin (the desert-blues sensation from Mali), the Copenhagen fest puts on a high percentage of avant-garde performances. One such showcase at the venerable Jazzhouse venue was the pairing of Swedish power-saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and avant-rock guitar hero Thurston Moore.

With Gustafsson blowing with gale-force intensity as well as pushing a storming brew of electronic keyboard sounds, Moore was free to scrape, pick and pound away on his guitar, matching Gustafsson in both potency and focus and making their ear-bleeding duet feel like one long improvisational fever dream. Feedback and an array of tonal colors streamed back and forth between the two men, going from soft and contemplative into high, screeching volume. Much of the young audience had filtered over from the nearby Roskilde Festival to see Moore, but even the older, seasoned jazzbos in attendance had to admit that this gig was one breathtaking improvisational experience.

Another unlikely gig of scorching intensity was deranged Japanese vocalist/poet Damo Suzuki—best known for his stint as singer in the German group Can. Suzuki brought his unusual performance narrative to fruition at the stripped-down rock club KB18 in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district. The noise-loving youth of Denmark once again came out for the spectacle, as Suzuki was playing with the reunited Danish outfit White Trash featuring guitarist Jakob Bro and keyboardist Søren Kjærgaard. White Trash provided an appropriately harsh groove while Suzuki ranted, growled, screamed and sang in several languages—none of which I could understand at all. Still the show was downright killer, so there you go.

Let’s just hope for a few more sonic outbursts before the Copenhagen Jazz Festival ends on Sunday.

—Mitch Myers; photo by Kristoffer Juel Poulsen