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Oscar Pettiford & Jan Johansson Featuring Stan Getz – In Denmark 1959-1960

STUNT RECORDS STUCD 16022 [76 :00]



Oscar Pettiford & Jan Johansson Featuring Stan Getz – In Denmark 1959-1960

  1. Sonny Boy

  2. Willow Weep for Me

  3. There’ll Never Be Another You

  4. The Nearness of You

  5. Now See How You Are

  6. La Verne Walk

  7. I Remember Clifford

  8. Stuffy

  9. Moanin’

  10. Fru Brüel

  11. I Succumb To Temptations

  12. Dahoud

  13. Oleo

  14. Now See How You Are

  15. Ack Värmeland, Du Sköna

  16. Emigrantvisan

  17. Farfars Sång

Copenhagen, February 1960 : Oscar Pettiford (b, cllo); Erik Moseholm (b, on tracks 1&5); Finn Frederiksen (d). [Tracks 1-5]

Copenhagen, October 28th, 1959 : Stan Getz (ts); Oscar Pettiford (b); Joe Harris (d). [Tracks 6-8]

Copenhagen, August 22nd, 1960 : Allan Botschinsky (tpt); Uffe Karskov (saxophone); Anders Lindskog (ts); Bent Nielsen (b); Jan Johansson (p); Lars Blach (gr); Oscar Pettiford (b, arr); Jørn Elniff (d); Lee Gaines (vcl). [Track 9]

Kildevaeldskirken, August 22nd, 1959 : Louis Hjulmand (vbs); Jan Johansson (p); Oscar Pettiford (b). [Tracks 10, 11]

Randers Jazzklub, September 22nd, 1959 : Louis Hjulmand (vbs); Jan Johansson (p); Oscar Pettiford (bs); William Schiøppfe (d). [Tracks 12, 13]

Montmartre Jazzhus, Copenhagen, August 20th, 1959 : Louis Hjulmand (vbs); Jan Johansson (p); Oscar Pettiford (b); William Schiøppfe (d). [Track 14]

Montmartre Jazzhus, Copenhagen, August 20th, 1959 : Jan Johansson (p). [Track 15-17]

Mixing, Restauration & Mastering, Copenhagen, 2016
Compiled, 2015.


It seems fitting to be writing a review about the jazz cellist Oscar Pettiford when Jacqueline du Pre’s cello bow (made by James Tubbs) was recently up for sale. And, no, that’s not a typo! Oscar Pettiford, known to all as a bassist, also recorded himself on cello. As a cellist and a jazz lover, he is a rare and treasured find. As an aside, for those interested, Stephan Braun and Fred Katz are two further examples of jazz cellists.

The cello is often thought of as one of the most sonorous instruments of the orchestra, in part, due to its range and tonal similarities to the human voice. It epitomises the ‘classical’ of classical music and therefore features less frequently in jazz. The cello’s rarity in jazz line-ups could also be due to the predominance of its big brother, the double bass. Whilst the cello is known for the lyricism and richness that Bach’s suites and Beethoven’s sonatas deftly extract, it is also a finely tuned instrument (excuse the pun) that makes playing jazzier styles so demanding. Pettiford’s spontaneous and elastic performances, therefore, require intimate knowledge of the instrument (including knowing what it can’t do), a daring personality, and great technique. These three skills, Pettiford has in abundance. On the two cello tracks, Sonny Boy (Track 1) and Now See How You Are (Track 5), Pettiford turns the cello into a sexy, light-hearted, slick, and humorous (note the glissando at the opening and end of Now See How You Are) instrument. The bass parts for these tracks are played by Erik Moseholm. For the remaining fifteen tracks, Pettiford plays bass.

Oscar Pettiford (or ‘OP’ as he was affectionately known) spent the last two years of his life recording in Europe, mainly in Scandinavia and Germany. Pettiford settled in Copenhagen after visiting Europe with a touring band. He often played in the soon to be legendary Danish jazz club ‘Montmartre’. To gain a sense of Copenhagen’s proud jazz heritage one only has to look at the number of street names that have been named after American expats such as Ben Webster, Ernie Wilkins, Kenny Drew and, of course, ‘Oscar Pettiford Vej’ (Oscar Pettiford St.) in the Frederiksholm neighbourhood. Pettiford’s 1960 concert in Essen with Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, and Coleman Hawkins marks the calibre of music and mêlée of US expat and Scandinavian musicians working with Pettiford at this time. His sessions with guitarist Attila Zoller first appeared on LP for Black Lion records and have since been reissued on a variety of labels.

Oscar Pettiford & Jan Johanssonn In Denmark 1959-1960 seems to pick up where SWR Music’s incredibleOscar Pettiford: Lost Tapes – Germany 1958-1959 leaves off. In Denmark offers its listener an eclectic selection of tracks. Indeed, the CD contains instantly recognisable jazz standards like Sonny Boy (Track 1) and The Nearness of You (Track 4), tracks accompanied by Stan Getz like the toe tappingStuffy (Track 8), compositions by Pettiford like Now See How You Are (Track 14) which lasts for 10:37, and three much shorter Swedish folk inspired tracks to close the album (Tracks 15-17). On these final three tracks Johansson foreshadows what would later turn into his well-known interpretation of Swedish folk songs on Jazz På Svenska (rec. 1964).

The diversity of In Denmark is, in part, due to it being a collection of recordings from seven different occasions with slightly varying line ups, all bound together by Pettiford. In this review, I shall offer tasters of some of the most captivating and diverse tracks. I must begin with track 9 where Pettiford is joined, amongst others, by Allan Botschinsky (tp) to give us the first release of Moanin’ on CD. Lee Gaines (of Delta Rhythm Boys!) sings Pettiford’s very bluesy arrangement with lyrics by Jon Hendricks. Classic Pettiford can be heard in the intro of There’ll Never Be Another You (Track 3) where his intelligent bass solo weaves its way in and around Bent Axen’s piano part. Pettiford’s musicianship is on show throughout this piece. Not only does Pettiford make full use of the range of the bass, but before gliding into his walking bass line that supports Axen’s solo, he teases out themes, ideas and interesting rhythms. No matter how many times I’ve listened to his solo at 3.30 (which lasts until the end of the track), I always find new melodies, key changes, reflections and variations on what he has already heard and is hearing. I am reminded of Malachi Favours, bassist for Art Ensemble of Chicago, who said: “Pettiford was the most melodic bass-player I ever heard, and his solos were on a different level to anyone else. I heard him when I was starting out, and it almost discouraged me, but he showed what was possible.” A musician’s musician, Pettiford not only steals the show, but also shares the limelight with his bandmates. I Remember Clifford (Track 7) contains a transcending tenor sax solo performed by Stan Getz at around 3 mins into the piece. This is picked up seamlessly by Pettiford and Johansson (piano), demonstrating the great listening skills and humility of these two musicians. As Jorgen Siegumfeldt writes in the album’s sleeve notes: “Johansson had a personal, unique lyrical-melodic approach to music that appealed to the romantic in Getz.” His accompaniment throughout is well paced, enhancing and full of character.

As my comments thus far illustrate, there are simply not enough superlatives to describe Pettiford. Perhaps, Jan Johansson can better describe his bandmate’s incomparable musicianship when he refers to the occasion when he stepped in for French pianist René Utreger who pulled out of the Tiboli Gardens gig (Tracks 6, 7 and 8): “Stan and Oscar are so helpful, and they are simply wonderful to play with. More inspiring than any other musicians I know. It is a very big experience to me. Just to paly accompaniment with Oscar…oh, he is absolutely fantastic. When you play with him, you know exactly where the rhythmical accents are, it is an amazing feeling. You dare to do more.” This daringness can be heard with an equal measure of subtlety and sensitivity; qualities evident in the traditional folk songs (Tracks 15, 16, 17).

This anthology has been expertly compiled by Danish jazz musician, writer and broadcaster, Ole Matthiessen. Overall, sound engineer Jørgen Vad has produced a full and clear sound quality (perhaps Track 14 is a little fuzzy). In the sleeve notes, Jan Persson’s photos, which include a snap of Pettiford and Duke Ellington mid quip, are a pleasure to look at. Overall, In Denmark is a beautifully produced album, which I heartily recommend to all.

The only major drawback of In Denmark is that it is only 1hr 16 minutes! For those who are itching to hear more of Pettiford’s playing, which I hope this review will encourage you to do, I attach a YouTube channel, PettifordJazz , with sixty videos of Pettiford solos, ensembles, and compositions. Other fantastic recordings include Oscar Pettiford Orchestra: 1958 West Coast Jazz and 3 For Duke, 1957 featuring Teddy Charles and Hall Overton.

Lucy Jeffery

See also review by James Poore

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