Category Archives: Denmark

Russian Muse: Niels Lan Doky



Another fine album in my recently-begun mini-series on Danish music.  Niels Lan Doky, is a jazz pianist with a gold plated CV.  At the age of 15 he played with veteran trumpeter Thad Jones who was so impressed that he recommended the Danish-Vietnamese teenager to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston.  Since becoming a professional musician he has worked with or had the services of John Scofield, Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Jack DeJohnette, Bob Berg, Clark Terry and Tom Harrell amongst others.  Though he worked out of New York for several years, he is currently based in Paris and as such is not as well-known as he should be in the USA.

Niels Lan Doky

Niels Lan Doky

The album in the spotlight today is from 2012 in which Doky interprets the works of several Russian classical composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky. The piano playing is very lyrical and fluid and his jazz accompanists are equally adept at making these pieces take on new life.

Here is AMG’s review.

Pianist Niels Lan Doky explores classical music by seven different Russian composers who were active during the 19th and 20th centuries. Joined by drummer Alex Riel and bassist Pierre Boussaguet, several of Doky‘s arrangements leave much of the romanticism of the original works intact as he plays variations of their famous themes, gradually converting Modest Mussorgsky’s “Promenade” (from Pictures at an Exhibition) into a bluesy vehicle, though his adaptation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble Bee” is a full-fledged, high-octane post-bop improvisation, not introducing its theme until near the end of the performance. The arrangement of Tchaikovsky‘s “Theme from Violin Concerto in D Major” is in honor of the late bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and a lush feature for Boussaguet and the leader, accompanied by Riel‘s sensitive brush work. Doky’s originals fit in beautifully with the concept of this remarkable CD, sounding like modern classics themselves, though without a Russian flavor, especially the Impressionistic “Improvised Colours,” which the trio evidently created on the spot during the recording sessions.

Russsian front russian back

Track Listing:

01 Pictures at an Exhibition

02 Theme from Suite Italienne

03 Theme from Piano Concerto No. 2 – First movement

04 Theme from Love For Three Oranges Suite

05 Theme from Piano Concerto No. 2 – First movement

06 Theme from The Nutcracker

07 Theme from Violin Concerto in D Major

08 Simonova

09 Flight of the Bumble Bee

10 Theme from Piano Concerto No. 2 – Third

11 Misty Dawn

12 Improvised Colours


Everyday Things: Dan Turell, Halfdan E and Thomas E. Kennedy

Dan Terell

Dan Terell

The second in this mini-series of Danish music brings us to the much beloved figure of writer and street philospher Dan Turell.   According to the Giant Ever Expanding Unreliable Source of All Information: Dan Turèll (March 19, 1946–October 15, 1993), affectionately nicknamed “Onkel Danny” (Uncle Danny), was a popular Danish writer with notable influence on Danish literature.

Dan Turèll grew up in Vangede, which at that time was a town outside Copenhagen surrounded by fields; today it is a part of Greater Copenhagen. He died from esophageal cancer and is buried at Assistens Cemetery. On Sunday March 19, 2006, on what would have been his 60th birthday, part of the town square of Halmtorvet in Copenhagen was named Onkel Dannys Plads (English: Uncle Danny’s Square) in Dan Turèll’s honor and remembrance. images

Turèll was unruly, modern, and experimental when it came to both content and form. He might probably himself have claimed to let the form at all times be a consequence of an interaction between theme and subject, which inevitably would lead to a flood of crossing genres; delightfully difficult to fit into a box. There is often a touch of autobiography, or perhaps rather self orchestration, to his works. He was very conscious of his own image. Many will remember him for his black nail polish. Thus his major breakthrough was the autobiographical novel, Vangede Billeder (English: Images of Vangede) from 1975. He shares subjects with the American Beat poets (mainly Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac & William S. Burroughs): jazz, metropolis, drugs, and zen. He has an eye for the aesthetic dimensions of decline and degeneration, which he cultivates not least in his series of crime novels. Other recurring topics include Copenhagen, Malta, the teachings of Donald Duck, icons of American culture and the Americanization, which the U.S.A., for better or worse, had on Denmark.

Turèll loved his city of Copenhagen, its life, its noise and perhaps especially the little stories, that lurked everywhere. This love for the city is portrayed in many of his stories. It must be said, however, that his portrayal of Vesterbro is considerably more romantic than the Vesterbro of real life.

In the early 90’s Halfdan E, a Danish composer scored several of Turell’s poems to a jazzy, TV-show theme sort of music.

Normally, a somewhat eclectic mix of music and poetry attracts an equally eclectic, rather limited audience. Such was not the case with the two albums I produced with Danish poet Dan Turell in the early 1990s: in fact, we succeeded in reaching a broad audience who normally listened to more mainstream music, rock and jazz.  Not only did we succeed beyond our wildest expectations, we had great fun doing it. Mr. Turell always wanted the world to hear our songs in a language they’d understand. Sadly, he died only six months after the initial release, and all further plans of conquering the world were shelved. Sixteen years later I get this letter from an American gentleman, stating that loves our work and that he has actually translated most of it to his native tongue.

Thomas Kennedy, Halfan E and Dan Terell

Thomas Kennedy, Halfan E and Dan Terell

Turns out this gent is an accomplished author in his own right—with 30 books to his credit, born and raised in Queens, NY, now living in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Old plans were revived and soon after, I was back in the studio with Thomas E. Kennedy at the microphone, re-recording the album you’re now listening to, twenty years after it was initially released.  A few things have been reshaped, but otherwise the material feels as fresh as it did back then- only, this time we’re communicating to the world, not just five million souls of a small green country best known for Carlsberg, Hans Christian Andersen and cool furniture from the ‘50s.                                                                        (Halfdan E., from the liner notes)

A great album this. I was reminded of cop shows, nursery rhymes, Hunter E. Thompson, Tom Waits, losers and Seinfeld.  Humorous and wise, this poetry and music is straight from the heart.



Track Listing:

01 A Tribute To The Everyday Things

02 My TV Drama

03 I Should Have Been A Taxi Driver

04 All Those Women

05 Deep Frost Film

06 Today’s Disney-Sermon

07 Teddybear

08 Total Euphoria

09 Last Walk Through The City

10 Red Harvest

11 My Friend The Microphone

12 Dream Of Age


Hot Funk from Frozen Northern Lands: Ibrahim Electric

Ibrahim Electric

Ibrahim Electric

I am in Europe for a wintry interlude from the humidity of SE Asia.  In one of my old favourite music shops in Copenhagen, I asked the helpful (if somewhat harried) staff about their recommendations of local or Danish artists.


Happily, I was given a 20 minute tour of several sub sections of the ample racks with many, many suggestions.  My hands were soon overflowing with CDs: jazz, funk, spoken word, pop and someone who two members of staff said, ‘he’s got a very distinct voice.’ I, obviously had been given fair warning.


Unable to justify 8 CDs (my initial shortlist) I narrowed it down to three which I am pleased to report are all of very high quality. And so the next several posts will be entirely dedicated to the sounds of Denmark!


imgres-1Ibrahim Electric is a band that play ‘jazz, funky, fusion’ music ‘excellent for dancing’ according to one of the shops assistants.  And indeed, this is an accurate description of the sound. A three-piece instrumental outfit that has been around for a long time, Ibrahim Electric makes eclectic funk-jazz sounds based around a driving drum beat (Stefan Pasborg) and founded upon the shimmering sounds of Hammond B3 as played by Jeppe Tuxen. Niclas Knudsen’s electric guitar work fills in the space in between, sculpting the sound of each track to its ultimate and individual destiny.


Though they finish off this set with a massive homage to Fela, Afrobeat is but one of their many styles. Really, the IE, sound (based upon this recording) is a kindred spirit to Martin, Medeski and Wood  and even 1970’s prog jazz-soul.  Absolutely fun. Accomplished. Attractive and addictive.  Straight A’s to the lads from Copenhagen!


I think I’ll head back to the store for another slice of their cake and to check out the guy with a ‘very distinct voice.’

Ibrahim Electric

Track Listing:

01 Pet Pettostan

02 Endangered Beat

03 Shamtime

04 Dansevise

05 Ticks

06 Tuttelut

07 Kirketjenervikar

08 Fela