Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2006
At Christianshavns Beboerhus, Tchicai also collaborated with another great young Dane drummer in Stefan Passborg (Jeppe Skovbakke rounded out the horn-bass-drum trio). The unamplified (excepting a needed, but certainly not over-mic'd bass amp) pared down context allowed Tchicai to roam freely on the sole horn he played that evening (tenor sax), and he more than adequately proved he has played with the same if not escalated vigor ever since the New York Art Quartet of the '60s, unlike the momentum casually dropped and sometimes picked back up by comrades like Archie Shepp, or others who of course have either since passed or are no longer playing (e.g. altoist Marion Brown). The youthful propulsiveness from his supporting cast of two most significantly allowed the music to breathe, an essential element to Tchicai's musical message full of dark deep notes and tones and ever-musical, always singing progression of notes all his own. One thing for certain is that cliche is as far from Tchicai as any other element of his musical persona. Never resting on his laurels for a moment, he turns the seemingly most ordinary into the extraordinary. Tchicai's tone screams of "now", always swinging if not singing. And speaking of singing, his bouncy vocal rendition of "Alice in Wonderland" was sung in his own inimitable delivery over inventive rhythmic shifts provided by Passborg and Skovbakke. The sometimes dramatic meter changes proved that Tchicai on tenor can be melodic AND rhythmic, not to mention harmonically in tune. The group's encore, an island-inflected number much like Sonny Rollins' "St.Thomas", presented the leader similarly in a Rollins-esque mode of improvisation, melodically developing theme upon theme in a non-stop burst of progressions, feeding off of his bandmates and trading ideas with Passborg's polyrhythmic playing. Every note breathed by the saxophonist had a personal inflection and bent, never a straight "C" per se, but it's own C-like familiarity.
In a double-bill with Michel Camilo and guitarist Tomatito, Frenchmen Michel Portal and accordionist Richard Galliano's telepathic duet improvisations at the Royal Opera represented Denmark's European neighbor to the southwest (and where Tchicai resides these days).
Portal's bass clarinet buzzed like a purring cat then hit high notes with scientific though personal accuracy. Switching between clarinet, soprano and bandoneon, Portal's greatest contributions to improvisational music arguably are on bass clarinet and with both musicians given an unaccompanied feature towards the concert's conclusion, Portal's extended solo bass clarinet improvisation was one of the Festival's indisputable high points.