New York City Jazz Record recommends Copenhagen Jazz Festival

Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2016 is well underway, and it can be quite a daunting task to keep track of all the many and varied concerts and activities taking place. To get a different perspective on things and to help our audience navigate, we asked managing editor of New York City Jazz Record magazine, Laurence Donohue-Greene, to recommend some of his favorite parts of Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2016.


Laurence Donohue-Greene recommends the following at Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2016

I always tell any and all jazz fans I know when asked what my favorite international jazz festival is: Copenhagen Jazz Festival, of course! For the sheer expansiveness – regarding styles of jazz, show selection (customarily near a 1,000 every festival), variety of venues throughout the city and musicianship (much homegrown, Denmark arguably having the second most significant jazz history next to the US) – there’s really no comparison. Copenhagen Jazz Festival is a true treat to attend and absorb as much as you can, from the early afternoon (if not earlier) into the wee hours of the following day every day for almost two weeks straight. Sleep is definitely secondary.

Regarding that homegrown talent, you might want to keep your eyes and ears out for the following Danes whose names you’ll notice are sprinkled throughout this year’s program – from Simon Toldam, Soren Kjærgaard, Jeppe Zeeberg and Jakob Bro of the younger generation to veterans like Jesper Thilo, Lotte Anker and Pierre Dørge. And of legendary jazz figures, this year’s festival is noticeably chock full of posthumous tributes to jazz greats associated with the city, including tributes to two of Denmark’s late great bassists: Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (Posthus Teatret 7/4) and Hugo Rasmussen (Kongens Have 7/2); trombonist Papa Bue (Nyhavns Memorial Anchor 7/1 and Kulturhuset Viften 7/10) and trumpeter Jens Winther (Balders Plads 7/4). American expats who contributed mightily to the Danish jazz scene get acknowledged as well, many at Sankt Hans Torv – including guitarist Doug Raney (7/4), trumpeter/big band leader Thad Jones (7/5) and tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon (7/6), who also gets a tribute featuring his longtime Danish drummer Alex Riel (Cowbell 7/8). Plus there’s a special living tribute to the now 100-year old violinist Svend Asmussen (Kongs Have 7/3)!

Living Scandinavian jazz legends playing at this year’s festival include: one-time Swede Bernt Rosengren, tenor saxophonist who played on Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water, was a member of George Russell’s sextet and now nears octogenarian status (Kayak Bar 7/1 and Bonden og Adelen 7/5); Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson, best known for his ‘70s work in Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet (he plays in duo and trio with Jesper Løvdal, respectively at 5e and Kvarterhuset 7/4); Jesper Zeuthen whose intense tone on alto saxophone will leave a guaranteed lasting impression (LiteraturHaus 7/4, Harbo Bar 7/5, Ama’rdillo Eventabrik 7/7, Mellemrummet 7/9 and 5e in an ILK Music CD release showcase with pianist Jakob Anderskov 7/10).

Of the younger crop of Danish talent and improvisational experimentalists on display, be sure to also check out Anderskov at KoncertKirken with his AntiOxidanterne large ensemble project (7/2) and in quartet with trumpeter Kasper Tranberg (7/3). Saxophonist Laura Toxværd will surely impress (playing solo and in trio at 5e, 7/1 and 7/8 respectively). And two Danish drummers not to miss: Stefan Pasborg and Kasper Tom. The former pairs up with mentor Alex Riel in trio with Polish trumpet legend Tomasz Stanko (at Klampenborg 7/1), another trio with Finnish multi-reeds master Mikko Innanen (Charlie Scott’s 7/2), a unique duo with kora player Dawda Jobarteh playing the music of Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman (Huset 7/5) and a solo drums/percussion set (5e 7/10). And Kasper Tom duels with German bass clarinet specialist Rudi Mahall in a Barefoot Records showcase (Christianshavns 7/6) and in trio with Mahall and Germany’s free jazz founding father Alexander von Schlippenbach (Kvarterhuset 7/8). Tom and Schlippenbach also play in quartet (at Christianshavns Beboerhus 7/9).

Be sure to make the rounds to as many of Copenhagen’s distinct venues, numbering near 130 (!) – from the must-visits like Jazzhus Montmartre to the perhaps more obscure 5e and LiteraturHaus – and set aside some time to explore the neighborhoods around each one. Recommended method of transportation: bicycle.

Have a great festival!

Laurence Donohue-Greene /