DR. SCAT (Dr. Mark Weiss) has been using his remarkable voice as an improvising jazz instrument for over thirty years. Most recently, this son of the late Sid Weiss, legendary bassist with Tommy Dorsey’s, Artie Shaw’s and Benny Goodman’s Bands, has taken his bebop scat singing overseas, performing at jazz clubs and festivals in Copenhagen, Paris and the Hague.
Stateside, he has opened for the Jacksonville Symphony and has appeared twice at the Knoxville Museum of Art as a featured vocalist with the Donald Brown Trio. DR. SCAT has also sung informally with Clark Terry in St. Louis and with Doc Cheatham at Sweet Basil’s in New York City. He has appeared nationally on PM Magazine.
When he resided in Atlanta, DR. SCAT was very much a musical presence. For five years, he performed with The Jerry Farber Trio at Mr. Farber’s club and sat in regularly with Ojeeda Penn, Howard Nicholson and other Atlanta music notables. DR. SCAT was also featured at the annual Piedmont Jazz Festival.
For the eighteen years DR. SCAT has lived in Memphis he has been a fixture on the local jazz scene. With his own band, Heaven on Earth, he performed at Mallard’s in the Peabody Hotel, The Marketplace and Palm Court. He has been featured on WUMR jazz radio and on many local television shows. He has hosted live shows featuring the music of many jazz greats and has led many workshops on jazz and the art of vocal improvisation.
Among the Memphis jazz stars that have enjoyed his presence on their bandstands are: the late Phineas Newborn, Jr., his brother Calvin Newborn and Herman Green. In 1993, BEBOP LIVES, the debut album featuring his New York-style vocalizations, premiered at Joyce Cobb’s Club on world-renowned Beale Street And now, Dr. Scat and the incomparable Ms. Cobb perform frequently at Boscos Squared in midtown Memphis.
This is my 17th year at the festival. The weather is beautiful. Copenhagen is beautiful. Caring friends surround me. I just got a paying gig (performance) for Tuesday night with an old and dear friend and guitarist named Tao (pronounced tayo) Hoejgaard. He and I played my first paid performance in Copenhagen seventeen years ago. Even the bass player, Kristor, was there. Here is a poem that captures the feeling of being at the festival:
Air is water, water air
The thick glistening streets
Fly up with tenor saxophones
Reaching for the dreamsound
The one that grabs the heart’s strings
And tugs you to the bliss
Of divine attention
When it’s right, fluid and alive
You stand up on the edge of your hair
For a bright moment, illuminated
Lightened up, enlightened, ensighted
Possessed of powers a thousand engines strong
And you are inside your benediction
Swinging in timeless space
Jazz language groans and sweats
Flights of pansy bright yellow wings
Danish minds tickled until laughter erupts
Knowing smiles that breach the serious within
Clapping in 4/4 delight, audience turning gold
Knowing that without their ears the music is lost
This is the listening we are singing into
Mark Weiss, Ph.D.
July 8, 2003
Friday, July 5, 2013.
Lisbeth and her son Lucas gave me the tour of the southern portion of Copenhagen …lovely, rich green countryside and farmland with a few castles that dot the area.
Lisbeth and Tina and I went to see the Mike Stern, Victor Wooten band. It was like eating the best New York cheesecake. Every sound was rich and filling. They went from the wildest improvisation to the most sublime, sweet heart-touching music and then to light and playful. This was the second time I had seen supreme bass virtuoso Victor Wooten in the last two months. He never ceases to amaze me. I love being in the presence of a musician who is playing at such a high level of musicianship that it literally seems impossible. Guitarist Mike Stern has been around for thirty years. He played with Blood, Sweat and Tears, Miles Davis and many others. The band featured Bob Franceschini on tenor sax and Derico Watson on drums.
Saturday, July 6, 2013 A relaxing day out in the country at Lisbeth’s house. This evening we went into Copenhagen to meet Tina for dinner and to hear Christina Dahl (sax), Marilyn Mazur (percussion) and Band Ane (computer synthesized music). It was a bad trip. Lisbeth thinks it was excessive female hormones, Tina hated the computer and I barely found it tolerable and I’m a tolerant guy. Lisbeth says the bar had a nice ginger ale…ah well. Jazz at its best is experimental and at its most difficult it’s experimental. Christina and Marilyn together make beautiful music. The impression I had was that the synthesized music had difficulty integrating into the rest of the music. The integration is still immature.
Sunday July 7, 2013
It’s a fabulous, mild, sunny day at Kongens Have (king’s garden). Two thousand people are hanging out in the park listening to the A-Team, the cream of the crop of mainstream jazz musicians led by Niels Jorgen Steen. Lot’s of great Basie and Neil Hefti. Arrangements. The singer, Bobo Moreno has a great handle on Sinatra-style phrasing and the solos were smooth and swinging.
My then fiancé Sherry and I had stayed at his apartment ten festivals ago and he and his friend Mette-marie had visited me in Memphis around that time. After the concert, we went to an organic restaurant for dinner and then to a fantastic concert of blues performed by Poul Banks (guitar and vocals), Hugo Rasmussen (bass), Martin Anderson (violin) and Jorgen Lang (vocals and harmonica). These guys have been playing together for over 30 years and they are really tight.
Blend some southern blues, some upcountry blues, a little country and a great mixture of sincere poignancy and humor. I found myself laughing out loud at their subtle musical humor. These guys have lived life deeply and convey it in their tone and the way they communicate with one another and the audience. We left fulfilled.
I am getting very excited. I will be performing six times with great musicians during the festival.
Later that night…I nailed it!!!
I sang ‘Joy Spring’ tonight with the Monday night big band and ‘I killed’it. These musicians are the cream of the crop. I have become a tradition with this talented band.
I love it. Lisbeth’s friend Annette met us at the concert. She teaches Danish to adult students coming to live or work in Denmark.
Tomorrow night I have a full gig with my friend and excellent guitarist Tao Hoejgaard. Seventeen years ago we did our first gig together. In those days his hair was extremely short and on the top of his head was tattooed:
Lisbeth, Tina and I went to the Carlsberg concert area to hear a tribute to Art Blakey, one of the founders of the jazz known as bebop. Almost every great horn player and piano player that became famous in New York played in Blakey’s band, The Jazz Messengers. The band at Carlsberg was led by Krestin Osgood, a wonderful drummer who has played with some of the world’s greatest musicians, the concert was comprised of many obscure recordings of the Art Blakey band, many of them very difficult. We ate from their tasty smorgasbord, sat in the sun and relaxed to the music. One particular tune, ‘contemplation’ written by Wayne Shorter was exquisitely melodic and peaceful.
Tuesday evening: club Bo-Bi…pronounced booby. I thought my friends would think I was pole dancing. It was a full evening of jazz with Tao Hoejgaard on guitar
Kristor and Tao and me
and Kristor Brodgaard on bass.
Over the last seventeen years, I have sung on the
same stage with them. It was a small intimate club with a very attentive audience. Before the gig, I had sent Tao a list of tunes that we could do together. Tao seemed reluctant about some of the
tunes (old jazz standards). I took it to mean that he probably thought I was an old fogey and he wanted to play more avant-garde tunes. Toward the end of the gig he revealed that in such small quarters, he didn’t want to have to read the music. So I’m not a musical dinosaur. Hooray!
Wednesday July 10, 2013
We have been calling today ‘nette’ day because Lisbeth and I are going to have dinner with an old friend who is leaving for Spain tomorrow.
Later that night: dinner with nette was fun at a restaurant with a ‘jump’ band (one that plays lots of upbeat swing and blues tunes. Nette is an old Copenhagen friend who is smart and gentle with a very clear energy.
Nette and me
After dinner we went to the ‘blue dog’, a spacious and well-appointed jazz club to hear a wonderful jazz singer named Katrine Madsen. All I can say is ‘wowie zowie.’ I have seen her a couple of times earlier but never in such fine form. The place was packed and Katrina had the room totally in her hands. Her voice was serene. She showed an incredible range and a knack for the playful. The three of us fell under her spell, as did everyone else.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Today was a big day. Every year I attend the jazz brunch and jam session at the beautiful Kong Arthur hotel. The courtyard was packed with musicians who are honored by the event. Here’s the scene: warm friendly people, blue sky, comfortable chairs, and the smell of genuine jambalaya and h’ordeuvres. Ahhhh, the clinking sound of bottles of wine and beer…all of it free and delicious. There is a great jazz quartet playing.
Mrs. Brochner and her mother, owners of the Kong Arthur hotel warmly welcomed me back.
On the way to the Kong Arthur, I was remembering that last year I was introduced to a wonderful couple, Ellen Bick Assmusen and Svend Assmusen. Sven played jazz violin all over the world and is very popular in Denmark. His wife is a talented and charming writer. As Lisbeth and I drove to the Kong Arthur it came into my mind that we would sit next to the Asmussens and, lo and behold, we arrived and there were empty seats next to the Asmusens and in front of the band. For the rest of the afternoon, in between performances, we engaged in the most uplifting
conversation imaginable. Ellen is a transplant from New York who fell in love with the Scandinavian landscape, language, and ultimately with Svend.
Svend and Ellen Asmussen
They are both discriminating lovers of jazz. Svend is ninety-seven (and a half). He had a stroke a few years ago but maintains a strong memory and his love for and knowledge of music is clearly a tonic for him and for Ellen. Her love for Svend is evident in every move she makes with him. Her message to Lisbeth and me was “it’s never too late. Love has not abandoned you.” She pulled out two copies of her book of poetry with some of Svend’s written music. It is caled Scandinavian Solstice (publisher Lindhardt and Ringhof). I have only just begun to read it and am struck by the lean poetic lines, so much like the Danish landscape and the clarity and loving dedication Ellen and Svend have for each other. What a blessing to meet them and, as it were, to receive their blessing.
The place was crawling with outstanding musicians and singers. When I saw an opening, I sang ‘Stella by Starlight,’ and was enthusiastically received. This place is like home to me. After hours of great music, good food, inspiring conversation and a beautiful day in the sun, we took our leave.
At Lisbeth’s suggestion, we drove back to Koge to a restaurant overlooking the sea with an outstanding seafood buffet, with lobster, oysters, tuna, mussels, etc. It was a two and a half hour feast. Stuffed, full of fabulous memories, food, music and inspirational fellowship, we slept like babies.
Friday, July 12, 2013
What a day! Tina, Lisbeth and I meet at Carlsberg to hear a tribute to Cannonball Adderly, one of the world’s most prodigious and uplifting alto sax players. Years ago I saw him in Fresno, California, with Miles Davis and John Coltrane. It was one of the greatest and most innovative bands ever. The music they wrote and performed is still influential today. I was a little disappointed at this band’s
instrumentation, the Jesper Lundgaard trio. I was expecting a larger group to capture cannonball’s bigger sound. There were some old hits, in particular, Bobby Timmons’ ‘work song.’ I couldn’t help but sing along.
And now, imagine: Tina, Lisbeth and I are walking through Christiania, a free state in the middle of Copenhagen. Approximately forty years ago when the Danish navy was decommissioned, hippies and other free thinkers and stoned heads occupied the empty buildings. To this day Christiania is a community with benefits; that is, if you want to score some marijuana or hashish, or fresh bread, or jewelry or 1960’s style clothes or nice food, this is the place to go.
It is almost 10pm and we are ascending the stairs at the Loppen (which means ‘the flea’) where I am performing. The room is dark, the bathroom is male/female and there is enough power in the speakers and amplifiers to level a small village.
I have been invited by my guitarist friend Tao to perform what he calls DJazz. It is a combination of dj, hip hop music, rap, jazz and a new addition…me doing spoken word. I was coming a long distance from a frankly snobbish, purist, be-bop jazz mindset, where you know your musical parameters and you push them as you get better. This time I have no idea where we are headed, nor does Tao. We know we are going to do it and we know whom the players are. Before we get started, my mind starts to race with clever inner repartee I shared some bright ideas with Tao and he put his hand comfortingly on my shoulder and said ‘let it flow. We’ll make room for you.’ I relaxed immediately. Tao had his guitar running through a complex synthesizer that was part science fiction soundtrack and part rhythm box. The bass player, Kristor, had his own synthesized sound and dj scratch majic played a mix of synthesized sound and extremely sophisticated vinyl record manipulation.
My rules for the gig were for me not to sing or to talk about jazz…just spoken word. I laid back until the music settled in and then I started talking about the mother of rhythm being the heartbeat or our footsteps and from there I have no idea where I headed. But it was good.
We got into a groove and stayed there. The more I relaxed, the more room there was for me. After the first tune (I don’t really think ‘tune’ fits, but I had already run out of descriptive vocabulary) Tao introduced a young rapper named Agami who was startling, smart and creative. Tao encouraged us to have a spontaneous conversation while the band played ‘space music’. I would have to watch the videotape to know what happened, but I do remember ‘tell the truth, tell the truth…”
Sometime toward the end of the first set, the bass player kicked in at a volume level that felt like it was going to turn my ribs to jelly. I expected Tina and Lisbeth to be begging to get out of there and, instead, they were excited and wanted more.
Into the second set we flew. After some more space music, Tao asked me to perform an eco-blues I wrote based on a drone sound. What was usually a five- minute piece turned into at least twenty minutes with Tao doing some incredible improvising. At the end of the set I was really exhilarated. I had expanded my concept of jazz to include elements I never imagined I would. Lisbeth and Tina told me I was moving with the music as if I were dancing in space.
Saturday July 13, 2013
Another gorgeous day. Tina, Lisbeth and I arrived back at Carlsberg to hear a tribute to Oscar Pettiford, a well-known bop bass player who died in Copenhagen a number of years ago. Hugo Rasmussen led the band on bass. He knew Oscar Pettiford (back in the days of Thelonius Monk, Oscar was called O.P.).
In the second set, Hugo asked me to come on stage and perform ‘Stella by Starlight.’ I was feeling very powerful and my voice sounded like it. Toward the end of the tune, I motioned to Hugo for us to trade fours. (improvise alternating four bar passages, like a conversation). I sang a bass part and he played one. What great fun. The audience loved it.
Later that night, Lisbeth and I went back to hear more of Katrine Madsen. Pure inspiring luxury.
Sunday July 14, 2013
Ah! The last day of the festival. Also a day for packing and moving from Lisbeth’s and her son Lucas’ house to Tina’s house. Everything moved smoothly. Lisbeth, Lucas. Tina and Lisbeth’s friend Annette arrived at the scene of the closing concert of the festival. We were at Islands Brygge on the water, looking at the city.
The band was led by Hugo Rasmussen and the all Starz. We had a wonderful buffet and settled in for some great classic swing and be-bop. Hugo asked me onto the stage in the middle of the
Second set. I sang ‘there’ll never be another you.’ and was accompanied by Hugo, Krestin Osgood, a world class drummer and Christina von Bulow, a great talented alto sax player. I had wanted to perform with Christina for years. After I took three choruses, she and a great tenor sax player named Jacob Dineson performed jazz solos simultaneously driving the audience wild. I was in heaven. After another tune, a young bass player from an island near Copenhagen performed with Hugo as a duet and they generated immense intensity. The band and the audience were thrilled. One touching moment occurred when the young bassist soloed and everyone on stage was transfixed,
listening with great care and nodding as his creativity shone through. The night was complete and I could not have been more fulfilled with this magnificent climax to a fabulous, creative, energized Copenhagen Jazz Festival. As Hugo said “same time next year.”
Over the years I have been struck by the outstanding architecture in Copenhagen and on this trip, Malmo, Sweden. Tina and I took a day trip across the bridge to Malmo. We were struck by a building labeled ‘The Turning Torso.’ It is Fifty-five stories and houses businesses and apartment condominiums. We weren’t able to take the tour, but just being close to it was pretty stunning.
Another festival is over – looking forward to the next!
COPENHAGEN JAZZ FESTIVAL 2012 BLOG
Mark Weiss (Dr. Scat)
Here we are once again in the blogosphere, reporting on my adventures at and in the fabulous 2012 Copenhagen Jazz Festival. This is my 15th year attending this intimate, surprising and engaging potpourri of up-close and hugely elegant musical venues. Over ten days I can hear every genre of interesting and well-performed jazz and jazz-related world music. It should be noted that the Copenhagen Jazz Festival (www.jazz.dk) is the largest Jazz Festival in the world and has the bright and musically aware audience to prove it. Shall we start?
Friday July 6 First, a much-needed massage to help recover from an eighteen hour flight. Refreshed and optimistic, I met my Danish friend Tina, whom I befriended last year at the festival, and who came to visit me in Memphis for a few weeks in the interim. We attended the opening concert on Friday at 3pm:
The Vijay Iyer Trio at Statens Museum for Kunst (art). This was a hard start. I had heard Vijay Iyer interviewed on NPR and found him to be humane and interesting. His latest CD was selected number one for the year. After a lengthy intro (in Danish, of course) the trio began to play what seemed to Tina and me to be minimalist, mechanical, harsh, repetitive and percussive. There were moments of intellectual interest, but nothing that allowed me to connect emotionally. [And now, true confessions:] After the second piece, we left. A part of me felt jazz aficionado shame, i.e., I SHOULD have loved it or even liked it. I thought I might be losing ‘hipness’ points or, at least, showing my age, God forbid. At this moment of jazz angst, my friend Lisbeth reminded me of the Emperor’s New Clothes; that is; all that matters is that it wasn’t my cup of tea. The rest of the day and evening are devoted to jet lag recovery.
Saturday July 7
4pm Tina and I go to see three of my favorite Danish musicians: Soren Kjeargaard (piano), Hugo Rassmusen (bass) and Carsten Dahl (playing drums but also a famous and talented pianist). They are performing at an intimate venue; a book store, Tranquebar Rejsboghandel og Verdensmusikcafe. We are immersed in the warmth and attention to detail one would expect from a chamber music concert full of humor and loving awareness. The theme of the program is a send-up of familiar and obscure Ellington and Billy Strayhorn compositions. We are entranced by the almost tactile relationship with the audience and the fluid ease of connection between the musicians. Hugo, in his early seventies can joke with Soren and Carsten and with the audience, conveying ease and sly, subtle jokes. The audience creates an adoring, attentive container. Soren, who was once Carsten’s student, reaches deeply into the bag of signature Ellington piano lines, warm and rich like morning coffee.
After farewells and hugs with the musicians, we float into the cool, sunny Copenhagen afternoon.
6:30 pm Dinner with six long-time Copenhagen friends at Vesuvio, a traditional Italian restaurant right off the town center. Lots of catching up and reminiscing and a short walk to our next performance.
Mark, Tobi, Ejvind, Zaneta and Tina
Mark and Ejvind in Tina’s Garden
8:30 Milton Nascimento; world famous Brazilian singer, songwriter at Pressen, PolitikensHus. I had heard Milton Nascimento in the subdued context of some Brazilian superstar recordings including Toots Thielmans, Antonio Carlos Jobim and others. Tonight’s performance was much louder and not so sweet. The rhythms, as is usual with Brazilian music, were compelling and elevating. Milton is now an elder statesman of the bossa nova genre and has a cool and easy mastery of his band. The intensity and volume of the music tended to blunt the inherent sweetness and subtlety I had expected from the group.
Sunday July 8
4:30 Niels Jorgen Steen’s A-Team at Kongens Have, a giant free concert in a beautiful park near the town center; easily a thousand rapt devotees of jazz standards played by some of the best players in the city. My friend Lisbeth and I relax on a blanket near the stage. Once again in danger of showing my age, I found myself loving this music the way food addicts love comfort food. It was a twelve piece nearly big band that knew how to ‘kick it’ and then settle down with some lush ballads. Their vocalist, Bobo Moreno, improves every year I have attended the festival. He has been increasing his range and power and engages the listeners with a tone that matches their energy. He is clearly having a good time, as is everyone present.
9pm Tao Hojgaard, Thomas Frank,, Kristor Bradsgaard, Avi Solomon at Café Blagards Apotek, a small bar I’ve sung at many times. It’s wonderful to play with my friend Tao (pronounced tāo). I performed my first paying gig (job) with him fourteen years ago. His technical skill and sensitivity to the players in his band are always increasing. He invited me on stage for a couple of tunes.
My father, who had been a well-known jazz bass player with the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw had always talked about the special delight to be found in performing jazz in front of a European audience. They are far more knowledgable about jazz, its performers and its rich history than most Americans. When I perform in Copenhagen, I feel ‘heard’, comprehended in a unique way that is very satisfying. So it was on this Sunday night. Monday July 9
6:00 The Hugo Rassmusen Quartet at Oesterfaelled Torv. When Hugo Rassmusen, master bass player invites you to sit in with him, you drop everything and go. The quartet turned out to be a pickup band; guitar, bass, drums, two saxophones, trombone and me. The band opened with some jazz standards led by two wonderful Sax players and a trombonist. One of the Sax players was introduced as the ‘sax man’, a gentle soul from Thailand with incredible facility and passion in his playing.
I sang Stella by Starlight and Joy Spring. Hugo was a gracious host and a joyful and talented playmate. It’s hard to tell which is more satisfying; the smiling faces of people in the audience or the happily surprised faces of my fellow band members. I’ll take both with gratitude.
9pm The Monday Night Big Band at Huset Magstraede, paradise jazz ToneArt. Led by Niels Jorgen Steen (from the A-Team), this is a full-scale 17-piece big band of master musicians. As an illustration of their mastery, I once brought one of a number of big band arrangements to Niels, the director of the band. The song was Joy Spring, arranged by Carl Wolfe, a wonderful saxophonist and writer from Memphis. It is written in three keys with a surprise four-bar section in the bridge that shifts into three quarter time. As I handed out the parts, I started to explain, “watch out for the time change at number…” Niels put his hand on my arm and stopped me. In a very authoritative voice he said, “These people can read anything in print!” And they did! The great Rahsan Roland Kirk, an incredibly brilliant blind saxophonist wrote a tune called ‘Bright Moments’ in which he described outrageous, often imaginary visions, i.e., ‘making love with Barbara Walters in the snow. I consider myself lucky to have experienced many bright moments. For example, I bumped into Niels Jorgen Steen last year. I told him I had a new chart to perform with the big band. He paused for a moment; put is hand on my arm and said
And they did. “Now you are a tradition…Bright Moment!!!
This Monday night I brought a wonderful arrangement of Stella by Starlight, also by Carl Wolfe. Just as I started the song, Niels realized he was on the wrong side of the stage and as he walked in front of me, he turned to face me and we began to dance. Then he walked off the stage. The whole thing was seamless and utterly charming. The band loved the arrangement, as did the audience. It was midnight and the second performance of the day for me. Back at m friend Ejvind’s house, I slept like a baby.
Tuesday July 10
8pm Concha Buika Kulturhuset Islands Brugge (outdoors) Wow! Neither Lisbeth, Tina nor myself had ever heard of Concha Buika, but it was Tina’s call and we went for it. Born in Africa and raised in Spain, now living in Miami, Concha Buika shot onto the stage, five feet two inches of black, beautiful, long haired volcanic energy. She grabbed the audience from that moment and never let go.
Everything she sang was in Spanish, but she spoke to us in English. She spoke clearly from the heart…”I feel safe here. My innocence doesn’t offend you.” A marvelous pianist, steady electric bassist and a percussionist playing an electrified box capable of bass drum sounds, tambourine and
more, backed her. Her songs were about love and persona growth. She sings, “So we were in love and you dropped me and now you want to come back…don’t bother!” Her message is “I’ve come through a lot of pain and struggle and I’m here and fully present.” She bursts out with “I’m fucked, but I’m happy.” Her range went from sweet and light to raw animal screams. She and the band had us up and dancing. A wonderful surprise.
Wednesday July 11
6pm Duke Ellington tribute Ernie Wilkins almost big band (outdoors) Carlsberg Lisbeth, Tina, Nette and I went with the expectation of the warm , lush and swinging Ellington that reaches right in and grabs your heart. Instead, we heard a rare performance of The Ellington / Strayhorn rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. The trombonist in the fourteen-piece band had gone to the Smithsonian to photocopy the original arrangements. The performance was well-done but really lacked the swinging quality we were looking for. It was a great novelty piece, but…
8pm Bela Fleck/Oumou Sangaré
Hanging out at the Bela Fleck Concert
Kulturhuset Viften Bela Fleck is arguably the greatest banjo player in jazz or in a bunch of other genres. He opened the show with a 45 minute performance that showcased his banjo skills, but not much in the way of jazz pieces. He played a poignant tribute medley of the late Earl Scruggs’ music.
The second portion was dominated by Oumu Sangaré, a singer from Mali with a band (including Bela Fleck) to kill for. She and her back-up singer spoke and sang in French. Her voce dominated and at times pushed us to our feet to dance. Her bass player from Senegal stayed in the background until the last quarter of the concert and then he came on strong with power and amazing technique. Another man played an instrument called a core, a predecessor of the banjo, shaped like a gourd with a long neck. He was very skilled and able to produce a wide range of sounds. The percussionist was steady and highly complex in his integration of African rhythms. It was a powerful evening of swinging world music.
Thursday July 12
7:30 Lee Konitz 84 year old master saxophonist, composer. I was lucky enough to perform with Lee Konitz at a jam session in Memphis 25 years ago. He is even more fluid and interesting…dry humor, lyrical and sweet. Konitz has the ability to penetrate a tune to its core, cut away the extraneous and offer up the essential guiding tones that move you from one set of chord changes to another. He can start playing in the middle of another musician’s solo as if he were a subtle sweetener…as if that were exactly where he was meant to be and the soloist immediately recognize and appreciate it. Sometimes he would start playing as if from a ‘nowhere’ point and after the band would react to him, gradually, a well-known jazz standard would emerge and be artfully embellished in moments. It was a sweet, charming and enriching concert.
Friday July 13
3pm The long-awaited Kong Arthur Hotel Jazz Brunch. For many years Kong Arthur was the hotel of choice for the international jazz festival performers. As a sign of appreciation for the music and the musicians, the Kong Arthur presents a colorful, delicious and sophisticated gumbo brunch for the performers along with a top flight jam session featuring some jazz greats and young jazz turks.. This year the bunch was preceded by a birthday party for Svenn Assmusen, a famous Danish jazz violinist. At 3pm, the brunch and the jam session took off. I got to sing a few times.
Lisbeth at the Kong Arthur jazz brunch My favorite performance was with a wonderful
At the Kong Arthur Jazz Gumbo Brunch
jazz steel drum player doing ‘There’ll Never Be Another You.” The brunch is a great place where local jazz greats who never get to see each other get to connect.
7pm Marilyn Mazur, a fantastic, multidimensial percussionist playing a traditional trap set surrounded by gongs, bells, bowls, shakers and more. Bass, tenor sax and guitar provided a mixture of jazz, middle eastern and fluid free form music. Very engaging, occasionally challenging and very satisfying.
9pm John Scofield Hollowbody Band at Det Kongelige Teater Gamle Scene Well, there we are, sitting in the elegant Royal Theater only to be told that John Scofield and a bunch of fabulous musicians are two ad a half hours from landing at the airport. We get our money back and as a bonus, we hear an interesting young band of men called Girls in Airports…interesting mixture of two saxophonists, a drummer, keyboardist and a percussionist. The sax players use very interesting, reedy tones and have mastered the rare art of listening to one another. I have a taste for harmonic diversity that I found missing in the group’s repertoire. By the third tune we were ready to get our refund and split.
Saturday July 14
5:00 pm A relaxed and delicious meal at Tina’s house near the center of town. My friend Ejvind, his wife Zaneta, Tina and myself. We are surrounded by a delightful and colorful fruit and flower garden. Tina and I are dropped off at Politiken Hus for our next concert.
8:30 Eliane Elias Famous Brazilian pianist, songwriter and singer performing the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Her authenticity was enhanced by her touring with Jobim and his lyricist for three years. Her voice is husky and sensual and her playing is both intimate and commanding. Side note: even with the best of musical performances, the body grows weary. Eiane Elias was impressive and moving…we were tired and left half way through the concert. Ah well.
Sunday July 15
16:00 Hugo Rasmussen Allstarz at Christians Kirke. I am more rested and really looking forward to this concert. I sang here last year and was well received by an audience of four hundred.
Outside a huge church, on a large lawn, once again an audience of four hundred. Bass, drums, trombone, tenor sax and piano. Under Hugo’s leadership they played sweet ballads, swinging standards and clever, interesting be-bop melodies interspersed with clever repartee. In the second set, I was preceded by a young woman named Sue Jin. She was born in Korea and raised in Norway. She is recording with Hugo. She sang ”Just a Closer Walk With Thee” with an amazing purity.
Then it was my turn. Hugo called a blues and I started by getting the audience to sing various blues lines. This is already up on Facebook.
During the break of New Jungle Orchestra
James ‘Blood’ Ulmer
8:30pm James Blood Ulmer & New Jungle Orchestra; the last but certainly not the least concert of the festival. A triple WOW!!! The New Jungle Orchestra is an institution in Copenhagen. Five horns, percussion, keyboards, drums, bass and guitar. I have never seen a more devoted audience to such an avant-garde band. The set opened with an outrageous ten-minute guitar solo that connected Jimi Hendrix to the most outside, psychedelic wildness…and then the band jumped in and took it even farther out. I was dumbfounded and then I noticed that the audience wasn’t dumbfounded and then pretty much everything I thought I knew about performance and presentation of music began to melt. During the break, the bass player said ‘This is dangerous music.” At one point, the lead guitarist began yelling nonsense words and the audience (including me) without hesitation yelled them back. The aliveness and improvisational energy made the room rock. Some of the lines played by the band were scary in their complexity, atonality and outright humor.
As if that weren’t enough, in the second set, they introduced James ‘Blood’ Ulmer. Ulmer looked to be about 75 or 80ears old, dressed in a dashiki with an African cap. He shuffled up onto the stage and was greeted by pure reverence. I had never even heard of him and here I was, surrounded by devotees. Ulmer tuned up ad began to play a heavily reverberated guitar in a purposeful atonal rhythm pulse, announcing “This is called TV Blues…imagine that.” And then he chuckled and disappeared into the music. Within minutes the whole band was rolling with it, reading extremely complex high tempo lines that seemed to make sense but perhaps on another planet…an interesting planet at that..
After two tunes that were definitely from outer space, the leader asked James ‘Blood’ Ulmer to play a solo. Out of the rapt silence came the most down-home authentic Mississippi blues version of “My Little Red Rooster” I have ever heard. I was stunned. Then he played anther blues and the band slid right in.
I felt like I had just been fed a nine course meal. As a matter of fact, I felt full to the brim from the whole 10 days of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.
Architectural side note: Before I left for the festival, my neighbor Karen asked “Does Copenhagen look like a European city?” I think she wanted to know if it had lots of old, interesting buildings like Budapest. Upon reflection, I must say that Copenhagen has it all. You can find plenty of castles and churches and old museums. You can also find some of the most dazzling modern buildings in glass and steel, a modern metro and train system and a wonderful modern sense of Danish interior space. The Danes have beautiful, well-manicured parks and gardens as well. If I can take my mind off my beloved jazz for a while, next year I will go on an architectural tour all over Copenhagen.
Eating Frugally in CopenhagenBy SETH KUGEL
Its become really hip to eat old-fashioned Danish food, Nina A.S. Geist told me as we shared a kartoffelmad an open-faced potato sandwich loaded with crispy fried onions at Dyrehaven, a local cafe in the fun Vesterbro neighborhood of Copenhagen. It was great to hear this from a Dane, because from abroad what appears most hip about Danish cuisine is Noma, the worlds top-ranked restaurant for the second year running, according to Restaurant Magazines much-blabbed-about list.
Its chef, René Redzepi, has become a sort of king of new Nordic cuisine, which has spurred a worldwide trend toward foraging for ingredients, digging deeply into the past for recipes, then modernizing and adding a touch of whimsy (and a hefty surcharge).
Great trend. All for it, even when I cant afford it. But for foreigners who dream of a Noma reservation: how much can you appreciate new Nordic cuisine if you have no idea what old Nordic cuisine is about? Thats why I decided to spend the first week of my Frugal Scandinavia summer tour in Copenhagen eating as much traditional Danish food as I could, for the cost of a single 20-course prix fixe meal at Noma, 1,500 Danish kroner (or $258 at 5.8 kroner to dollar), drinks not included.
My friend Tina enjoyed the opportunity to sing here in Memphis.
Next time she will ask when she is supposed to dome in.
It was her FIRST TIME doing that. Here are a couple of pictures from
Boscos and Alfreds.
What a day!!!! At 4pm Lisbeth and I went to the Tranquebar, a bookstore with a small wine bar and performance space. Our friends Kresten Osgood(drums), Soren Kjaergard (piano) and Hugo Rassmussen (bass), performed a concert for sixty people entitled “World Music”. This reflects the group`s sense of humor; All of the tunes were composed by Americans with oblique references to far away places. There were a few exceptions; tunes written by Soren.
I discovered that Soren and Kresten are cousins and have played with Hugo on and off for many years. Although the concert was conducted in Danish, I found myself laughing in the right places with a little bit of translationhelp from Lisbeth. Kresten brought with him his usual bag of `silly toys` to loosen up the band and the audience. His out-of- tune whistle, baby rattles, bells and occasional grunts, yells and theatrics belie the fact that he is one of the number one drummers in Denmark.
They opened with a melody from a legendary album called Money Jungle performed by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach, three of the most powerful improvising musicians in the world. As Soren spoke, his respect for these three heroes of jazz was evident. Between tunes, jokes and quips kept the packed house in stitches.
I have a special affection for Soren and Kresten. They were he first Danish musicians to invite me to share the stage with them at my first CPH Jazz Festival twelve years ago. The music was fresh, interesting and fun.
A side note: I had to use the rest room at the Tranquebar, I entered the door, observing a pretty yellow note with some Danish written on it. As I prepared to leave the rest room, and much to my chagrin, I turned the door handle and it just kept turning but the door wouldn`t open. I felt some panic as I envisioned myself listening to the concert from inside the rest room. With the kind of thinking-on-my-feet learned in the cub scouts, I whipped out my cell phone to call Lisbeth. Of course as a polite audience member, she had turned off her cell. I began softly tapping on the door. No one came. Finally I tapped (banged) on the door with my cell phone. A kind gentlman heard my tapping and opened the door. He read the yellow note: “Do not go in this door unless you have a friend standing by to let you out.” Ah well!
Shortly after the Tranquebar we discoved that the concert that was rained out last Saturday was rescheduled later on in the evening. It was another incredible treat. It was called “Singing the Truth.” It featured Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright, each a singing powerhouse. Backed by a top-flight five piece band, the trio of singers performed individually, in duet and as a trio. The overall theme of the performance was directed to women hearing and encouraging the expression of their own voices. The range went from passionate love songs, gospel to African freedom songs like “Revolution Now.
Angelique Kidjo is a dynamo on stage, using Afridan rhythms to excite the audience and get them to participate. Once the audiencewas on it`s feet, she came down into te audience and racheted the energy up even higher. Their inevitable encore had even more punch. We left feeling energized, inspired, provoked and thoroughly entertained. And now a piece of history.
ABOUT JAZZHUS MONTMARTRE
From 1959-1976, the club made jazz history as the European home for jazz giants Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster, Stan Getz in the 60’s and 70’s.
Pictures from the last days of the Jazz Festival 2011
Sunday July 10 CPH
What a day!!!! At 4pm Lisbeth and I went to the Tranquebar, a bookstore with a small wine bar and performance space. Our friends Kresten Osgood(drums), Soren Kjaergard (piano) and Hugo Rassmussen (bass), performed a concert for sixty people entitled “World Music”. This reflects the group`s sense of humor; All of the tunes were composed by Americans with oblique references to far away places. There were a few exceptions; tunes written by Soren. I discovered that Soren and Kresten are cousins and have
played with Hugo on and off for many years.
Although the concert was conducted in Danish, I found myself laughing in the right places with a little bit of translationhelp from Lisbeth. Kresten brought with him his usual bag of `silly toys` to loosen up the band and the audience. His out-of- tune whistle, baby rattles, bells and occasional grunts, yells and theatrics belie the fact that he is one of the number one drummers in Denmark. They opened with a melody from a legendary album called Money Jungle performed by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach, three of the most powerful improvising musicians in the world. As Soren spoke, his respect for these three heroes of jazz was evident. Between tunes, jokes and quips kept the packed house in stitches.
I have a special affection for Soren and Kresten. They were he first Danish musicians to invite me to share the stage with them at my first CPH Jazz Festival twelve years ago. The music was fresh, interesting and fun.
A side note: I had to use the rest room at the Tranquebar, I entered the door, observing a pretty yellow note with some Danish written on it. As I prepared to leave the rest room, and much to my chagrin, I turned the door handle and it just kept turning but the door wouldn`t open. I felt some panic as I envisioned myself listening to the concert from inside the rest room. With the kind of thinking-on-my-feet learned in the cub scouts, I whipped out my cell phone to call Lisbeth. Of course as a polite audience member, she had turned off her cell. I began softly tapping on the door. No one came. Finally I tapped (banged) on the door with my cell phone. A kind gentelman heard my tapping and opened the door. He read the yellow note: “Do not go in this door unless you have a friend standing by to let you out.” Ah well!
Shortly after the Tranquebar we discoved that the concert that was rained out last Saturday was rescheduled later on in the evening. It was another incredible treat. It was called “Singing the Truth.” It featured Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright, each a singing powerhouse. Backed by a top-flight five piece band, the trio of singers performed individually, in duet and as a trio. The overall theme
of the performance was directed to women hearing and encouraging the expression of their own voices. The range went from passionate love songs, gospel to African freedom songs like “Revolution Now. Angelique Kidjo is a dynamo on stage, using Afridan rhythms to excite the audience and get them to participate. Once the audiencewas on it`s feet, she came down into te audience and racheted the energy up even higher. Their inevitable encore had even more punch. We left feeling energized, inspired, provoked and thoroughly entertained.
And now a piece of history.
ABOUT JAZZHUS MONTMARTRE
From 1959-1976, the club made jazz history as the European home for jazz giants Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Kenny Drew and many other masters of the 60’s and 70’s.
Friday July 8 Copenhagen
It feels good to be seventy years old and still be able to be amazed . Tonight I was amazed. My friends and I went to see Marilyn Mazur with her group Celestial Circle. Marilyn is a phenomenal percussionist. Half the stage was filled with bells, gongs, rattles,etc. Pianist John Taylor, Bassist Anders Jorman and vocalist Josefine Cronholm operated as a well integrated, mutually supportive team. At first the music was eery and ethereal, almost jarring. As Marilyn introduced subtle rhythmic elements, everything fell together. Bass and piano demonstrated virtuosity and sensitivity. Part of my amazement was the quality of musicianship the group exhibited. Josephine`s voice soared above the group and then swooped down into gutteral sounds, somewhere between rage and pain, only to rise again with serene beauty. She and Marilyn joined voices for some original duets. They were in tune with each other harmonically and emotionally.
Intro by the band to their musical universe
Singing and drumming
The whole band
Thursday,July7 Great day in Copenhagen
If I were to pick the greatest place in the world to be, it would In the courtyard of the Kong Arthur Hotel on sunny Danish summer afternoon surrounded by an international potpourri of brilliant, talented jazz musicians. This is the Annual Jazz Brunch hosted by the family that owns the hotel. The spread: gumbo, sushi, appetizers, desserts, free drinks. All of this in the company of old and new friends.
The rhythm section (bass, drums and piano) is swinging and various players step forward, axe (instrument) in hand to play into the ears of some master musicians. After a few instrumentals, I walked to the bandstand, called a familiar tune, counted it off and went for a ride. A wonderful Italian clarinet player joined me and played a dazzling solo. I felt the level of my own improvisation soaring into new dimensions as the rhythm section got more intense and driving. When the tune ended, and the applause died down I looked into the eyes of the old masters at the front table (Svend Asmussen) and received a knowing nod, ‘good job…you`ve got it.` After a few more tunes, the trumpet player called a Clifford Brown tune called Sadhu. I jumped up (well, given the condition of my healing knees, it wasn exactly a jump) and took a few choruses. A saxophonist named Christina Von Bülow stepped to the stage. I have been wanting to perform with her ever since I saw her winning the best young musician award five years ago. After many choruses we finised the tune. Smiles in all directions.
Video here – more stories below..
As the air got cooler and the light dimmed all the guests began filtering out into the parking area. I felt a fabulous sense of completion.
Lisbeth and I went to a club called KafCaféen to hear a band named Stærkeodder, featuring Tranberg, Osood, Kjærgård. I have known the pianoplayer Søren Kjærgård and the drummer Kresten Osgood since the first time I stepped into a danish nightclub twelve years ago. Kresten and Søren invited me to sit in and I recieved a standing ovation. Later that night they invited me to preform at a midnight jamsession. I’ve been going back ever since.
The band was somewhat left of avant garde, in fact they left avant garde in the dust. The opening song involved the tree musicians whisteling in a playful way. Then the trompet player using a mute began emitting that were beyond definition. The second tune was completly free form with Søren on the floor plugging the piano strings on his upright piano, Kresten played responsivly to the caos around him, sometimes playing whit knitting needles, and other times just stamping his foot. They invited a guest saxofonist from Finland who fit right in. The interplay amoung the musicians was exiting and occasionally produced a sweet and listenable tune. That brought the night to and end.
See all videos from Copenhagen here:
Dr. Scat Youtube Channel
Tuesday, July 5 When I learned that Bobbie McFerrin was performing at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, I immediately skyped (videophoned ) my friend Ejvind and told him to order five tickets. It was good that we did because the concert sold out in two days.
The performance was at the concert hall of Denmark Radio. The hall was extraordinary, with seating broken up into multiple levels and angles. Great acoustics. Bobbie McFerrin came out on stage alone in jeans and a black tee shirt. After the thunderous opening welcome from the audience, he sat in a chair with a hand held microphone and began to sing rhythmic lines that outlined brilliant harmonic cascades. He supported the rhythm by slapping his chest. The range of his voice was well over 4 1/2 octaves. His falsetto high notes were impeccable and always in tune. After two songs, Bobbie began to talk to the audience, engaging them in a converstation. Then he asked if there were any professional dancers in the audience. Two women and a man came bouncing out to him. With each of the two females he improvised with his voice and they improvised with their bodies. The male dancer started tap dancing in sandals and Bobbie got down on the floor with the mike and improvised so the audience cold hear the tapping. We were entranced by the utter spontaneity of the experience. More thunderous applause. After another medley of tunes, he asked for singers from the audience. Five singers immediately appeared and with each one, he improvised or sang bass lines to support them. After another tune featuring his magnificent low range, he asked for sixteen singers to join him on stage. Forty appeared. He separated them into bass, tenor, alto and soprano and taught each of them polyrhythmic lines with an afro-cuban beat. The crowd was enthralled.
At one point he began to sing a beautiful set of arpeggios that sounded like the upper register of an organ. He raised his hand to the audience and the voices of over fifty women rose spontaneously and with incredible purity, to sing Ave Maria. I have included some clips to give you a taste of the excellence and humanity of Bobbie McFerrin´s concert. At one point in his singing, Bobbie uttered these words: “Every day make something better.” And so it was that every member of the audience was uplifted.
Side note…a bright momnet: Bobbie McFerrin came to the Orpheum in Memphis in 1989. I knew that during his performances he would jump off the stage and go into the audience. I purchased two tickets for my then wife Beth and me tenth row center aisle. Sure enough, he jumped off the stage and walked up the ceter aisle. He walked past me about five rows, turned around and came back to me, He asked for my name and he asked if anyone had ever made a song about my name. I said *no*. He started to sing my name in 5/4 time. I looked up at him and started singing a blues bass line. For a moment he was startled then immediately started to scat sing over my bassline. After a couple of choruses, he started to sing a bass line and I scatted on top of his bass line. The audience went wild. Later my friends asked me if we had rehearsed it. It was totally improvised. We had a ball 🙂