Jazz Guide - All Geared Up & Somewhere To Go
It still catches me by surprise when I find myself saying: ”Over 30 years ago ...” or, ”I’ve been a creative artist for well over half my life.” But back in the early 1980s, at the same time as my underground homies and I were busy with different forms of defiant confrontation that needed both stating and acting out, there was also this great event: the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, to whose venues I was gradually granted admittance and where I have pretty much performed every year since – here, in 2012, as well.
And this is even though I can’t play jazz - if what I do is to be judged by the long-since adopted rules. But the spacious, accommodating improvisational and compositional nature of jazz means someone or some- thing must be constantly nudging whatever has become the prevalent sound, practicing “learning by doing” with new soundscapes both ex- and introverted in nature. This has in fact been the case since long before musical history could even be written down, for just imagine the Stone Age neo-troubadours or hair-raising siren singers who showed up in the local village with their caterwaul- ing. Unfortunately history itself is unable to contain very many of these, so only a few are chosen for posterity, which has a highly distorting effect.
All respect for times past, which I dig out of sheer interest, but we don’t all need to tread the same water, do we? More obstinate talent, even younger than myself, sometimes comes up with: “Now I’ve used so-and-so- many years playing proper old-school, so don’t come around here with any of your plink-plunk.” But this plink-plunk, too, be- comes commonplace, and so it goes. This time around, a form of meta-abstra-futurism, while all the while old-hat is alive and well. Music is not a style, but an expression, nor does music confer power, so leave room for everything and everyone’s platform. Music is also a river where some of its tributaries run dry, but it’s all worth the effort, anything to avoid a drought, so: Yeah, let us flow.
I never caught Duke, Monk or Ayler live, but on the other hand, Benny Carter, Sun Ra, Dizzy, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Miles, Mingus, Ornette Coleman, the Art Ensemble of Chicago - and wasn’t that Lonesome Banjo Grief, sitting there by the trash can, singing under the chestnut tree? I could go on, where a whole lot of experi- ences can be ascribed to the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. What about this year? Once more there are big, expensive concerts with the likes of Wayne Shorter, but this doesn’t divest him of his inimitable playing, com- positional skill and weird unpredictability. A younger tenor titan, Joe Lovano, and trumpet player Dave Douglas are actually interpreting Shorter at the re-opened and renovated Copenhagen Jazz House, struck from the heavens last summer by a deluge. At the same venue singer Neneh Cherry is holding a rip, rig & panic summit with supremo horn-howler Mats Gustafsson’s trio, The Thing.
And two more gigantic veterans, 84-year-old alto master Lee Konitz and 81-year-old guitar godfather Jim Hall, take the lead in the insatiable Benjamin Koppel’s own festival, right on the other side of Valby Bakke. Or what about the “new” guitarist, Mary Halvorson or neo bluesman James Blood Ulmer, at Toldboden? In addition to the record-high 115 promoters’ offerings, a lot of them have also set up camp as independent side-festivals with a number of concerts each day, so there is nothing but possibilities, like a kid with 2 minutes to empty a toy store. Which of course can’t be done, so keep cool while the heart hammers.
Are you going for everything, or just subsets?
“How Jazz Was Born” can be heard, for example, at Kant on Højbro Plads, Nyhavns Mindeanker or M.G. Petersen’s Familiehave; the solid, digestible, and “newer” jazz from the 1950s and on through the last millennium can be dug at places such as Jazz Cup and Huset i Magstræde – which is also featuring ”Jazz po Polsku” – plus cafés like Bartof, Blågårds Apotek, Ingolf, Sofiekælderen and the Churches Blågård & Christian, to and from the Argentine wine bar, Tango y Vinos. Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s old drummer, Tony Allen, and the Ethiopian saxophonist, Getatchew Mekuria, are also in town, and maybe on the street.
We’ve seen it before: At present we’re immersed in a so-called third-world music wave, but that craze often subsides again, while for myself and others it’s Forever. There are also the possibilities where the promoters, performers and public rarely use the word, “jazz”: I’ll be checking out Hofteatret, where the festival itself is presenting forward-looking Danish musicians’ new com- positions, and definitely also ILK’s party at 5e in Copen- hagen’s own Meat District - where a pathfinder gene is necessary to find your way the first time - plus KB 18, in the same neighbourhood; also little Harbo Bar, Stengade 30, Christianshavns Beboerhus, Homemade Records, Literatur Haus and Caféscenen, where the more crass of my favourite fellow Danes and foreigners are perform- ing (like drum wizard Han Bennink).
But I probably won’t get around to all of it unless I prove capable of levitat- ing with a bivouac on my back while others lean toward parasols, plaid blankets and camping stools. And then there’s this talk in the Musicians’ Community about how the f-gender is underrepresented. Where I venture forth, however, there is no lack, so that assertion is groundless. Need I mention the enterprises – the bands Selvhenter and Valby Vokal Gruppe or the collective Eget Værelse - consisting exclusively of females?
If I were to begin naming all my favourite m/f performers from ancient to infant, my introduc- tion here would be so voluminous, a pushcart would have to be handed out along with every festival program. Beware: During all the years’ rumpus, I have found it necessary to seek a momentary jazz-free zone, only to return to the fray, for I am not ill. Jeez, is it ever boring to say this, but: How about spreading some of all this activity around throughout the year? Is this horn of plenty the result of a deeply felt interest, or merely a case of the copious audience’s money flowing a bit looser, cashing in while one can?
What I prefer: Best of all, to stroll around here and there in the vitamin-showering sunshine, checking out the day’s outdoor concerts with everything from the usual Danish suspects to newer undertakings that I’d perhaps be unable to catch in bone-chilling winter darkness. To unexpectedly space out awhile or, after a moment, shuffle on.To run into good company and sud- denly take off somewhere unplanned. The first half of the game in daylight inevitably leads to the second, darker half indoors, where tickets must be purchased, entailing more careful planning. Shall it be the familiar and adored, or something new?
Now it becomes a matter of hopefully scoring a goal. But remember the words of Torben Ulrich: The ticket merely allows you into the room. Whatever happens from then on is the job of the musi- cians. And it’s up to them to do their best, not “the usual”, with half-hearted lyricisms or too much routine. “Up: Yeah, Down: Bah, and to hell with what’s in be- tween,” as one of my mottoes goes. And why always go back to the Theme?
Take me to the fridge:
At one or more points during the festival the nocturnal floodgates swing open with sweaty, late-night jam sessions, bar-hooting and the sense of fleeting eternity where I, right on cue, end up at La Fontaine or the Children’s Hospital (Christiania Jazz Club) with peculiar types of rats, cockroaches and fruit flies, until morning illuminates staggering circus horses on their way home as others head out to attend to what needs attending. So, with a coda, I say: Hail, hail & see you around. A salute from TS Høeg: Saxophonist, bandleader, composer, writer & outertainer. Performing with his new, pop-up band: Dane TS Hawk & the Cop Jazz Festsemble. �