2008 Copenhagen Jazz Festival
Three guitarists who impressed at this year's fest were Danes Mark Solborg and Jakob Bro (the latter whose name might ring a bell for some as one of the recent guitarists in drummer Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band), and NYC-based Ryan Blotnick who curated a 3-night multi-ensemble series at the Literaturhaus at which he also performed. In a CD release performance, Bro's trio of Anders Christensen (bass) and Jakob Hoeyer (drums) performed an early afternoon concert at the upstairs space of the KafCafeen. Bro's new CD (Who Said Gay Paree?) may be a sleeper in the best sense, as its primary mode from beginning to end is a masterful subtlety of jazz ballad performances that could easily go ignored or underappreciated by any cursory listen.
Intent listening, however, proves rewarding for those who take the time and effort to appreciate the album's focus, as keen listeners did for the Jakob Bro Trio's live performance. From Harold Arlen and Gershwin to Cole Porter (the CD title track's composer), Bro proved to be a masterful interpreter of standard repertoire without having to resort to the pyrotechnic virtuosity of which he most certainly has at his fingertips. The leader's gentile and lyrical touch on his strings washed over listeners with a hushed intensity while drummer Hoeyer took obvious preference to brushes and mallets lightly bouncing off drums and cymbals so as not to interfere with but rather to complement the relaxing and transfixing mood set by the trio.
Solborg was another local kept busy by countless performances throughout the festival, though it may have been his concert with the group Ventilator featuring Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love at Borups Hojskole that marked a memorable apex of his festival activities. With multi-reed specialist Lovdal again and bassist Mats Eilertsen, the groupequal parts fourperformed new original music which Nilssen-Love added a certain looseness, not to mention glue to, particularly after the complex heads and intros to all the intricately composed music. Solborg's raw style of playing served as the antithesis to Bro's approach. Not methodical in exacting fashion, Solborg played charged lines with rough edges that would bend, twang, resonate, distort and certainly engage, as such was the case in the guitarist's original "The Red Bike" (also featuring an excellent Lovdal tenor solo). And his Derek Bailey influence marked "Other Roots," in which the guitarist created sounds as if he were Ikue Mori on laptop before his effects-ridden playing morphed decidedly un-Bailey-esque with atmospherics. Nilssen-Love played sometimes swirling, other times pounding figures and always with a freshness that never resorted to monotony. Solborg's highly structured originals, based around introductory themes, were performed overall with a vitality and urgency that unquestionably made for a memorable set of music.
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