This article will appear in the upcoming edition of All About Jazz – NY.
In the October 2010 edition of All About Jazz – NY, writer Martin Longley aptly described Danish drummer Kresten Osgood’s “relatively undercover presence on the US jazz scene” despite his immense, multi-directional talent and associations with the likes of Sam Rivers, Paul Bley, Oliver Lake and saxophonist Michael Blake. Contrast that with his nearly household-name status in his native Copenhagen, and it’s not surprising that after brief stints living in New York Osgood is back living in Denmark making vital contributions to its thriving music scene, as shown on two strong new releases.
As in the US, Osgood’s singular sound has caught the ears of veteran Danish musicians. On 3 Of A Kind, saxophonist TS Heog aka Dane TS Hawk, a stalwart of Copenhagen’s genre-bending music scene, leads Osgood and bassist Nils Bosse Davidsen through a series of originals and standards. Hoeg’s nearly vibrato-less, articulate alto, establishes the mood of most of the brief tracks, but the leader also leaves room for Osgood and Davidsen’s consistently inspired statements.
Hoeg’s “birdbasket hipster” opens the album with the sort of puckish line that is a hallmark of the saxophonist’s writing and playing. Hoeg runs down the staccato melody before Osgood and Davidsen rush out of the gate at full swing, leading the saxophonist into a series of long glisses and free-associative phrases that culminate in a blistering, impeccably timed multiphonic climax.
At the other end of the spectrum is “upper hand/lower light,” a Hoeg original with a dirge-like bass line and drumbeat that underlies Hoeg’s slowly unfurling melodic narrative. Hoeg’s alto is transfixing throughout the piece, lighting a meandering path through the ominous bass and drum counterpoints without rising above a whisper.
The altoist’s approach is similar on the album’s three standards, notably the Monk original “Ask Me Now,” which features an unadorned reading of the melody on alto, followed by a truly beautiful midsection of collective improvisation that floats ethereally in and out of time and harmony, and is perhaps the moment that best captures the trio’s unwavering commitment to spontaneity and emotional clarity.
In addition to his busy performance schedule, Osgood is also the founder and organizer of Musketer Festival, a free-minded music festival in Copenhagen that features a range of native talent, as well as performers from around the world. The drummer’s longtime trio Og Hvad Er Klokken is a fixture at the festival, and the group is at the center of the proceedings on the newly released album Musketer Festival Vol. 3.
On his website, Osgood explains Og Hvad Er Klokken’s raison d’etre thusly: “to have a band where we do all the stuff that I don´t get to do in all the other bands,” and listening to Muketer Festival Vo. 3 it’s clear that the trio hasn’t strayed from that mission in its twelve years of existence. Taken from from live recordings from 2005 and 2006, the album’s seven tracks feature the trio and a cast of guest performers whose stylistic differences make for truly compelling listening.
From the funk-inflected opener “The Zone,” a showcase for Thomas Vang’s electric bass slaps, and the restless, burly tenor of Jesper Lovdal, to the ethereal “Sorte Sondag,” a vehicle for the Danish pop singer Nanna Lüders Jensen, the album is stylistically diverse, but anchored by the contributions of Vang, Lovdal, and Osgood.
The band is at its best on the Oliver Lake original “Valley Sketch,” as well as the Albert Ayler composition “Angels,” where they’re joined by percussionist Anders Mogensen. Over an unrelenting pulse from Mogensen, Lovdal’s ebullient tenor melds with Osgood’s keyboard effects and builds to a climax that draws shouts of approval from the audience. It’s a griping performance, and another reminder of the great music that is coming out of Copenhagen these days.