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Scandinavian Jazz

Posted on 28/01/2013

There’s a strong melodic tradition in Scandinavian folk music, and I think this is part of the explanation why there has been so much music and so many musicians coming out of these relatively small countries. Some of the biggest pop hits from the past 40 years have regularly come from Scandinavian writers and production teams – some of them sung by Scandinavian groups, but most of them done by working in the shadow of an endless list of international pop stars. These articles on Swedish pop music – here and here – give an idea, and Denmark and Norway have also supplied their fair deal of worldwide pop hits.

As far as the culture of musicianship in these countries goes, the immigration of a large number of American jazz musicians in the 50’s and 60’s, most of them black, had a huge impact on the music scenes. Their influence went way beyond the Jazz circuit, and I think they can be attributed a good deal of the credit for the success that Scandinavian music has enjoyed since the 70’s. A straightforward proof of this is american Jazz trumpetist Don Cherry, who moved to Sweden in the 70’s, and whose children include Neneh Cherry and Eagle Eye Cherry, two internationally successful Swedish acts. But I think the folk music tradition also has a lot to do with why Scandinavian music so easily catches on around the world.

There are some extremely beautiful recordings of these two historic treads intertwining, that are hugely popular in Scandinavia, and that many of you probably know already. One is Jan Johansson’s historic album “Jazz på Svenska”, which consists of minimalist Jazz arrangements of Swedish folk music tunes. Another is the duo album of Kenny Drew, a black American pianist who moved to Copenhagen in the 60’s, and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, the world famous Danish Jazz bass player, who learned his trade backing up a lot of the American Jazz expatriates in Copenhagen when he was barely in his teens. While the Drew/NHOP album features a more diverse repertoire than the Johansson record, there are some prime examples of Danish folk tunes getting a jazz/gospel treatment, and both records provide a look into two of the most important trends that in my opinion help explain the success of Scandinavian music since the 70’s: when black American music and Scandinavian folk music meet. The opening tracks from “Jazz på Svenska” and “Duo” are featured below, sharing the minimal instrumentation of Piano and Double Bass:

Faada Freddy live @ La CIgale

Posted on 21/01/2013

Here’s a lo-fi video from when Faada Freddy opened for Imany at La Cigale in Paris. We’re still hard at work on the album. In order to properly finish the recording and mixing, and have time to prepare the presentation of the album, I think the release date should be sometime in the fall at the earliest. This said, Faada will start doing shows before the summer, so keep a look out for him. Here’s his FaceBook page: Previous post about this project are here, here and here.

Saez 2013

Posted on 20/01/2013

I’ll be spending a lot of 2013 on the road with Damien Saez on his “Miami” tour. It looks like it will be a lot of fun, I have several close friends on the team, and Damien is in a very productive and successful period in his career. I toured with him in 2005 on one of my first large-scale tours, and since that time he has continued to create an enormous following while breaking most of the rules about how to make and promote music: often making double or triple albums, putting out new material on an almost yearly basis, radically changing styles between albums, and most importantly by almost entirely bypassing the usual circuit of radio, press, television and advertising, that most projects depend on to be successful. As our preparations for the tour begin in February, I’ll be back with more soon on this project.

The tour dates booked this far can be found in the Concerts part of this page. Damien’s FaceBook page is here:

New York Philharmonic

Posted on 10/01/2013

I went to see the New York Philharmonic rehearse Bruckner’s 6th symphony yesterday at the Avery Fisher Hall, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. What a fantastic orchestra. The violin section was simply beyond belief. To see 100 musicians play so well together that you have the impression of hearing one single performer is very impressive. Especially when you consider the amount of music they play so masterfully in a year… in 2012 they were the world busiest orchestra with 144 performances, rarely playing the same pieces more than 4 or 5 times. Incredible. Here’s another great performance of Bruckner’s symphony with Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The showcase with Nolwenn Leroy on Tuesday at the East Village venue “The Drom” went well. There was a full house, and even though the sound equipment at the venue was seriously run down, to a point I’ve rarely seen in Europe, we made it through alive and even had the entire house dancing the jig. Playing a French variant of Celtic music in New York City wasn’t what I initially signed up for when hoping to become a professional musician, but I love the variety of all these different experiences. Last time I was here, I played songs in Hebrew with Yael Naïm. I wonder what it will be next time.


Mingus Orchestra

Posted on 08/01/2013

I went to see this orchestra’s set last night at the Jazz Standard. Unfortunately without the direction of Gunther Schuller, who is directing in this video, but they still sounded great. Mingus is such a master of color, and his widow Sue is doing a great job keeping his legacy alive with this orchestra and the big band. Great players all around, but I have to give a special mention to the trombonist Frank Lacy. Last night was the third time I heard him live, and the first two times really made a mark on me: 1997 in Paris at the New Morning with Roy Hargrove’s Crisol Habana project. And on one of the best tours that ever happened: D’Angelo’s Voodoo tour in 2000, that I saw in Paris at the Grand Rex. Both shows made a lasting impression and seriously influenced me, and Frank Lacy was a big part of both…

New York

Posted on 08/01/2013

Happy new year to everyone! And thanks to all who stopped by this blog in 2012. The new year is off to a fun start: Saturday morning I got a call from my old buddy Fred Renaudin, who needed a last-minute replacement for a gig Tuesday night in New York with Nolwenn Leroy. Her album “Bretonne”, which was a huge hit in France selling over a million copies, is being released in the US on Decca, and there’s an acoustic showcase in New York tomorrow night presenting the album. Fortunately for me, I was available to do it, so here I am suddenly in New York. I’ve been here many times before, but this city really is one of the most unbelievable places on the planet. This is what a sunset looks like from the top of the Rockefeller Center.