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The Danish Little Brother

AARHUS JAZZ FESTIVAL, 12-14. JULI 2015: After experiencing the massive Copenhagen Jazz Festival for two and a half days, with its impossible, never-ending selection of desired concerts at any given moment, the compact program of the Aarhus Jazz Festival was some kind of a relief. The 10-days, 27th edition of Aarhus Jazz festival offered a modest yet strong variety of concerts, addressing all audiences from children to devout seekers of the artsy, avant-garde edges, spread all around the town center in clubs, coffee houses, museum and ad-hoc open stages, but all in a walking distance. This festival showed that this charming, beautiful city is seriously welcoming its prestigious status as the European Culture Capital of 2017, and as in the much bigger Copenhagen festival reaffirmed that jazz is the music of the people, all kinds of people, that crowded the many events.

The festival featured some of the most impressive young musicians from the vibrant Aarhus scene, all graduates of the local Royal Academy of Music. Trumpeter Jakob Sørensen presented his acclaimed debut solo album «Bagland» (hinterland in Danish) at the Ambassaden club. His strong, lyrical. song-like melodies inspired by the scenery of the northern shores of Jutland peninsula were executed beautifully by the core group that recorded the album, creating a moving, lasting impression. Later on the same place, bass player Jens Mikkel Madsen performed with his «I think You’re Awesome» group, featuring guitarist Alex Jønsson who played before in Sørensen group. The group cinematic, tightly arranged pieces were introduced with humorous stories by Madsen, showing that this working group is ready for recording its sophomore album. A day after, composer-pianist Signe Bisgaard presented her debut solo album, «Meander», at the peaceful, countryside scenery of the Finland Records Studio, with an ensemble of experienced musicians, among them guitarist Mark Solborg, trumpeter Mads La Cour and saxophone and flute player Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard. Her compositions blend magnificently elements from modern jazz,  contemporary music with brief improvisations, creating a delicate, even fragile architecture of sounds.

The Udstillingsstedet Spanien 19C club program featured a more free jazz oriented program. The trio Songbook – Spanish tenor sax player Cesar Joaniquet, French double bass player Brice Soniano and Aarhus-native drummer Kasper Tom Christiansen, celebrated the release of the trio debut self-titled album, an informal, soulful homage to the songs of Billie Holiday. The trio of Swiss trombone player Samuel Blaser with French guitarist Marc Ducret and Danish drummer Peter Bruun concluded its European tour in the same club with an electrifying, strong set, yet to be recorded. The trio charismatic playing, sparked with highly inventive language and poetic ideas, even featured a wild arrangement of Igor Stravinsky fanfare, originally written for two trumpets.

The Copenhagen-based, all-female quartet We like We presented its genre-defying, haunting  music at the Radar club. This classically trained quartet – vocalist Katinka Fogh Vindelev, violinist Katrine Graup Elbo, cellist Josephine Opshal and percussionist Sara Nigard Rosendal – offered an inspiring set that organically blended elements referencing the American urban minimalism of Steve Reich, poetic songs that sound as expanding the ones of Meredith Monk, concise improvisations and highly personal language of the quartet itself, that already released a highly recommended album last year, «A New age of Sensibility».

Guitarist Jakob Bro Tentet (bildet) performed in the packed Atlas club with one of Denmark’s most renowned poets, Aarhus-native Peter Laugesen. Bro played a modest role in his nuanced, rich arrangements of Laugesen poetic texts, already recorded in the vinyl-only release «Hymnotic/Salmodisk». The strong ensemble featured an expressive front-line of American sax players Chris Speed and Andrew D’Angelo together with Danish Jesper Zeuthen, multilayered rhythm section of double bass players Nicholai Munch-Hansen, Anders ‘AC’ Christensen and Thomas Morgan, and drummers Kresten Osgood and Jakob Høyer. Bro thoughtful compositions intensified the suggestive delivery of Laugesen voice and phrasing, often referencing his experiencing listening to jazz. Morgan played before at the same club with the trio of Italian pianist Giovanni Guidi and Portuguese drummer João Lobo who just released its ECM debut album, «This Is The Day». Live on stage the trio offered a more free-improvised, intense form of its music, quite different from the lyrical and introspective spirit of the album.

Sinne Eeg, one of the best jazz vocalists all over Scandinavia, delivered a highly playful set of standard songs together with pianist Nikolaj Hess and double bass player Peter Vuust at the city impressive ARoS museum of modern art. Eeg warm voice, intelligent and emotional interpretation of the classic, clever lyrics won immediately the hearts of the many crowded the museum hall.

Text and photo: Eyal Hareuveni


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