For the first two weeks of July, the sleepy Copenhagen suburb of Valby will be the gathering point for finger-clicking, cool-cat jazz aficionados, as Valby Summer Jazz brings the exclusive New York jazz scene to these shores. Experience top names from the New York Blue Note Jazz Club at 22 concerts over ten days mixed with the best of Danish jazz, as well as late-night concerts with local rappers, DJs and other great musicians.
The festival, organised by the Danish virtuoso saxophonist and composer Benjamin Koppel and the prominent American piano player Kenny Werner, takes place every year at the same time as the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. Within a few years it has established itself as one of Northern Europe’s most distinguished jazz festivals. Artists meet in unique ensembles that find new ways to blend, merge and rethink genres and sounds in jazz. The festival has taken on a New York concert style with two 80-minute concerts of no-breaks world-class music.
Alongside established Danish artists such as Benjamin Koppel, organist Anders Koppel and drummer Jakob Andersen, come an impressive array of the hippest international stars.
Drummer Brian Blade – who has worked together with names such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Herbie Hancock – will be here with the Brian Blade Fellowship on 8 July. Look out too, for percussionist Johnathan Blake and his incredible drums solos.
Lee Konitz, one of the driving forces of Cool Jazz, is an experimental alto saxophonist who has released a number of avant-garde jazz albums. Even at the age of 84, he manages to sound fresher than ever and is much sought-after by younger musicians. Randy Brecker is a versatile American trumpeter and flugelhornist who has worked with names such as Charles Mingus, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Frank Zappa and Parliament. The concert on Monday night (9 July) promises to be a true masterclass.
World-class guitarists at the festival include the legendary Jim Hall (Tuesday 10 July) and Julian Lage (Sunday 8 July). Hall is a guitarist who has been in vogue for seven decades. Described as the father of modern jazz guitar, Hall changed the way jazz guitar sounded with his innovation, composition, and improvisation. Meanwhile, Lage, one of the most amazing jazz guitar talents in the world, is a former child prodigy whose flying fingers and jazz stylings will leave you distinctly breathless and overwhelmed.
Scott Colley is a prolific American jazz double bassist, featuring on over 200 recordings to date. His remarkably empathetic skills, strong melodic sense and improvisational abilities have served him well in groups. In more recent years his skills as bandleader and composer have come into focus. The Czech founding bassist of the ground and soundbreaking Weather Report, Miroslav Ladislav Vitouš, is known for his strong rhythmic sense, innovative walking lines, and intensity and abandon as an improviser. Catch him together with Benjamin Koppel on Saturday (7 July).
American jazz pianist Kenny Werner possesses a natural improvisational ability. His groundbreaking work on Improvisation – Effortless Mastery – Liberating the Master Musician Within has inspired a generation of musicians and artists. He will be performing throughout the festival with different ensembles.
Closer to home, Marie Carmen Koppel is Denmark’s queen of soul and, on Wednesday (11 July), will perform the repertoire from her acclaimed first jazz release, on The Brooklyn Sessions.
A popular and emotional concert is sure to be one of the eclectic Bazaar’s last ever performances. Featuring the talents of Anders Koppel (hammond organ), Peter Bastian (clarinet), and Flemming Quist Møller (percussion), the band has been part of the Danish jazz scene for almost 40 years, but is now set to break up at the end of the year.
Whatever you do, don’t forget your dancing shoes for the exuberant Mames Babagenush on 14 July. It will be where the past meets the present as Jewish dance music is united with new waves of modern music – a fresh blend of musical genres that appeals to both the heart and the feet.
While Avishai Cohen (trumpet) and Omer Avital (bass), who are performing on 13 July, are both familiar figures on the New York scene where they regularly thrill audiences at the Big Apple’s many famous jazz clubs.
The final Friday and Saturday late nights (13 and 14 July) are aimed at the younger generation with current artists like Al Agami, Pede B and Shaka Loveless mixing it up with Denmark’s incredibly gifted Koppel family in over two nights of amazing improvised hip-hop, electronica, rap and dancehall.
There comes a time in every music lover’s life when jazz takes over the senses – why wait? Valby Summer Jazz is guaranteed to release your inner hipster, flipster and finger poppin’ daddio. Be there or be square.
Valby Summer Jazz
Prøvehallen, Porcelænstorvet, 2500 Valby & Betty Nansen Theatre, Edisonvej 10, 1856 Frederiksberg, starts Friday, ends 14 July; tickets: 100-230kr, www.billetlugen.dk; www.valbysummerjazz.com
Download our 2012 Copenhagen Jazz Festival guide