CPH Jazz Festival: Touching bass with local talent

Copenhagen double bassist and composer Klaus Nørgaard has recorded his two self-published albums, “Village Life” (2018) and “Clarinet” (2020), within a block radius of N inrrebro.

These are, in many ways, hyper-local productions – very personal compositions produced in his own home and in a local wine bar.

Nørgaard has also appeared on the albums’ Route One ‘(2009) by Søren Dahl Jeppesen,’ Red Sky ‘(2001) and’ Pipe Dreams’ (2013), ‘All That Turns’ (2012) by Elou Elan and’ Sikorski ‘by Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard’ (2013), among others.

In Copenhagen and beyond, he has performed with the Jorge Rossy Trio, Soft Trio and Aaron Parks Trio, and is the conductor and composer of Tropic Minor.

But Nørgaard’s training took place in New York with esteemed American bassist Ben Street. As a result, his sound blends old-school American tradition with contemporary Scandinavian jazz sensibilities.

Music in motion
Nørgaard’s debut record, Village Life, is in its own words “rooted in the golden age of jazz in the 1950s and 1960s, but just as firmly anchored in [his] contemporary life ”.

With a nod to Ellington’s playful exoticism, the composition is warm and multi-layered. Tonally, it oscillates between rich textures and quiet, muted interludes, each instrument offering moments that are both frenetic and thoughtful.

After its release, All About Jazz noted the particular lyricism of the record: “Its music is on the move and the poetic quality of its tunes is balanced by a cool sense of swing.

Although the atmosphere is softly hypnagogic, ‘Village Life’ owes its sense of privacy to more than light hands.

Nørgaard is joined by “local musicians, friends and longtime collaborators from afar” on saxophone, drums, vibraphone, trombone and vocals. Whether by cause or by effect, this esprit de corps imbues the sound with a tangible expression of friendship and harmony.

“If Sisyphus picked up the clarinet”
But hold on: what followed Village Life was a complete stylistic change. Clarinet, recorded in Nørgaard’s small apartment, is composed of a single clarinet voice, dubbed several times.

“It is not the music of the village, but that of the recluse,” explains Nørgaard. Nor is the record inspired by the traditions of American jazz – Clarinet is rather founded on “a specific way of relating to the present”.

“There are no pauses, rhythms or harmonic developments in the classic sense of the term. Just constant repeats, none of them exactly the same as the last, all slowly building an ever-changing present, ”he explains.

“This is what it might look like if Sisyphus took the clarinet.” Certainly, if Village Life is a late afternoon stroll through the plaza, the cerebral clarinet is the rolling of a huge boulder on a hill.

While remarkably polar, the disparities encompassed by Clarinet and Village Life are all contained in Nørgaard itself.

Together, they illustrate a look at jazz that is both philosophical and introspective, both free and referential.

What style are you influenced by?

As a composer my biggest influences are Duke Ellington, Jobim, Joe Zawinul and a lot of folklore from Africa and Latin America. As a bassist, these are Wilbur Ware, Charles Mingus and Ron Carter. But the guy who won me over was my first real teacher, Ben Street.

What did you do to develop your sound?

Lots of manual work on bass and ear training. Also read and listen widely. Study jazz, as well as the cultural and racial history behind it.

What new beginnings in jazz do you find most interesting?

One of my favorite recent jazz albums (in part anyway) is Kurt Rosenwinkel’s Caipi.

What non-musical sources are you looking for inspiration?

I take a lot of books. Specifically classical literature and philosophy.

What’s your favorite jazz album?

Probably Afro Bossa or Indigos by Duke Ellington… Or indeed any Duke album.

Check out our full guide to the CPH Jazz Festival here