Valby Summer Jazz
Prøvehallen in Valby and The Betty Nansen Theatre
July 6-15, 2012
“Good things tend to grow, at least when there’s passion and dedication involved, and Valby Summer Jazz, which primarily takes place at the outskirts of Copenhagen in the suburb of Valby, is indeed a labor of love that has become so prominent that it almost outshines its big brother, the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.
The first edition of Valby Summer Jazz took place in 2010, and from the beginning the ambitions were high. At that time, names like guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Scott Colley and saxophonists Bobby Watson and Chris Potter stopped by the festival, while the next year saw visits from the likes of guitarist Ben Monder, saxophonist David Sánchez and trumpeters Dave Douglas and Alex Sipiagin.
2012 found the festival in its boldest incarnation yet. Besides the usual venue, Prøvehallen in Valby, another stage was added: the Betty Nansen Theatre, which was located in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen. Here, performances with saxophonist Lee Konitz and drummer Brian Blade took place.
While the festival branched out to include the inner city of Copenhagen, the heart of the festival still lay in the suburb of Valby where artists like bassist Miroslav Vitous and guitarist Jim Hall worked in constellations with pianist Kenny Werner and saxophonist Benjamin Koppel, who are both musical directors and the creative forces behind the festival. In the program, the aim of the festival was described as a place where: “Musicians meet in unique and completely new ensembles with the aim to reinvent jazz and the way jazz emerges with other artistic genres.” Indeed, the festival could also be seen as a manifestation of the musical friendship between Koppel and Werner. By now, the two have worked together for many years and play with telepathic understanding and prowess.
Metaphorically speaking, a festival can be seen as disparate collection of musical stories. Sometimes, there may be an overriding idea in the shape of a theme, but a narrative as such is often missing. Valby Summer Jazz was interesting because it offered a unique sense of continuity. Koppel and Werner participated in all the concerts played at the festival—except the one played by Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band. They could be seen as the main characters in a musical novel where the lineup was constantly changing, but the narrative core remained the same. Of course, this much spotlight on two musicians required a lot of stamina, but Koppel and Werner were up for the task and thankfully knew how to vary both constellations and their own playing. Listening to them, there was constantly a fountain of fresh ideas on display and they were often caught smiling or nodding at each other as the musical stories unfolded.”
All Photos: Kirstine Lykkeberg Thomsen/Cowbell Music
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