Friday, 31 December 2010

Hellbent is selected as Best of 2010!

I am so proud to announce my CD Hellbent was chosen as one of the Best Albums of 2010 by All About Jazz NY. Many thanks to Steven Bernstein, Marcus Rojas and Calvin Weston (who recorded it!) for their brilliant contributions to this live album. Also to Andre Henkin and Laurence Donahue-Greene at AAJNY for their tireless support of our music!

In a week or so I'll update you with news and prophesies. Until then...

Happy New Year! 

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Musketer Festival takes me to Copenhagen and beyond...!

Less than a week ago, while trying to organize next years schedule I sent an email to good friend and long time collaborator Kresten Osgood about playing in 2011. His reply came wrapped in an early christmas gift - an invitation to be the guest artist at his celebrated Musketer Festival and the next day I was on a plane bound for beautiful Kobenhaven! OK, a little background on this...I actually subbed for Chicago tenor legend Kidd Jordan who was subbing for another legend. Alas, I ended up being the 'old jazz' guy. Awesome! This is the 5th Edition and to document the massive and intense event was  another New Yorker - Editor of All About Jazz NY - Laurence Donohue-Greene. So now I had a ton of old Danish friends to see and play with and an English speaking buddy to talk about it all with. Everyone in Denmark and most of Scandinavia speak English but in most cases the announcements, lyrics and poetry were in Danish.

On Thursday, December 16 I arrived blurry eyed at Kastrup and was met by the kind and lovely Kaja who got me to the orientation meeting. Two other organizers, Martin and Morten, helped make this happen with Kresten. I'd estimate there were well over 100 musicians involved, representing the heart of the Danish (and international) scene. For three nights Kresten introduced artists that performed in groups, solo, duos, etc and tutti as well. An amazing array of music unfolded.

After a blast from his horn, Musketer founder and host, Kresten Osgood, kicks off the first night. There was an almost giddy feeling in the Huset where the event is appropriately housed. It's hard to describe the unfolding and capture 24hrs of creative music. So, I'll leave that to Laurence. But let me express how welcoming and warm the scene is here. Slightly lost on my way to the venue (jetlag and the snowfall), US born tenor player Ned Ferm found me drifting among the flakes and led me to the stage. Ned is an incredible musician and one of my favorite people. We played together a lot that night, varying from totally free improvised parts to more swinging jam tunes and everything in between. With Ned it's always about the search and surprise and sound. I was back in Copenhagen among friends, old and new! As it was the first night, I let my guard down and drank a lot of Havana Club and I've forgotten a lot of what happened that night. Man, that is some good rum!  Can't get it in America of course as it's Cuban.

My long time partner in Blake Tartare Soren Kjaergaard was around the first night as well and played some beautiful improvisations. Here he is before a version of Blue n' Boogie that featured three generations of tenor saxophonists. That's drummer Anders Provis (he played ghost percussion on Hammond Rens) smiling behind him.

The second night began with a take on Roland Kirk's "Rip, Rig and Panic!", with Kresten's long standing jazz group featuring multi reedist Jesper Loevdal and Thomas Vang on bass. Jesper owns my old Conn 10M which showed up on the very last piece of the festival in the hands of Kresten, who doesn't exactly play tenor but I was happy to see it again and among friends. Loevdal is an incredible tenor player in his own right and another old friend. I sometimes get the feeling he holds on to that old Conn for me because he knows I'd like to have it back again one day. Regardless, he's another reason why CPH rocks the free world. There was also a terrific band called Girls in Airports doing their take on Fela/Ethiopiques. I really enjoyed these guys and I appreciated hearing music that I was immersed in some years ago presented in a fresh light.

Here's a few the blur I recognize tenors Mette Henriette and Francesco Bigoni. Sorry about the quality...iPhone at night and indoors. This night was really incredible and I especially enjoyed hearing an all woman improv choir called Iki. So much music that night and I was not into the rum. But again, we'll let the real writer recap the details.
I'll discuss the more personal aspects of the evening. The first set lasted for over 4 hrs!!! That  night's music lasted until 5am. Oh, there was a brilliant alto saxophonist who is really unique named Jesper Zeuthen. I have to describe his sound and approach as 'cold' but that's not because it doesn't have soul. He is so personal in his vibrato and presentation and it is very Nordic. So in this case by cold I mean something completely different. I believe this is music resulting from the socialist based infrastructure that Denmark provides its citizens. I wish I could put aside the day to day struggle to survive and put in a few years to nurture only creative music. But that is not where I live and even in Canada I wouldn't be able to survive for long doing this. Regardless, just to be part of that environment inspired me to think about things in a different way. The Musketer Festival gives back a lot!

The snow continued to fall on Saturday and it was absolutely gorgeous. I've been in cph many times and in all seasons but this was really special. I got in a visit with Soren Friis who manages Stunt Records and their outlet Jazzcup Cafe. We exchanged some CD's and a very good cup of traditional Danish Spiced Wine. My last night of Musketeering was more relaxed and very enjoyable. There was another three tenor piece - this time with the incredibly strong Swedish legend Thomas Frank and Ned also got in on this. Thank god I wasn't alone up there! I led a fun segue between Stevie Wonder's " Living for the City" and my folk tune "Lonely Cowboy" and another Tartare, Jonas Westergaard made it up for that. More highlights: jumping in on Morten's funk jam, a poet featuring a double tenor exchange between me and Loevdal and the grand finale was a ball! Kresten deserves serious hugs and kisses for making this happen!