My table and a short introduction to Scandinavian jazz

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(Edited)

After my post about the missing table there were people who wanted to actually see it - and I admit that it was a mistake not to take the time to find this photo of it. Problem was that I couldn't find it, and so went ahead with just a photo from wikipedia of the city hall.

The greatest problem is that people now think that I have a great Napoleon III mayors desk in several types of exotic wood with brass fittings and sculpted putti and palm leafs... well Danish design isn't like that. Both Danish and Finnish design are, and was even back at the turn of the previous century, about simplicity, natural materials and an air of groundedness. That is the Viking part. So here it is with all my many treasures on it. Details are hard to see because of the photo quality, but it was the only one I could find.

Bor_direktør_viking.jpg

And with that out of the world I will write about Scandinavian jazz as @owasco didn't know about this very special flavour of hot'n'sweet.

Chilly'n'melancholic

When jazz arrived for the first time in Denmark in the 1910-20 it didn't take long for us to learn it. Here's the splendid Leo Mathisen and his orchestra from the early forties.

But to get to the point where things started to be really Scandinavian we have to jump ahead to the sixties where Copenhagen and Stockholm was filled with American musicians who came here for a change of air. Every spring I take my daughter's to the nearby cemetery where great people like Niels Bohr, Hand Christian Andersen and the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard are buried, to put some flowers on Ben Websters grave. He died in the Netherlands on a tour, but was buried here where he lived.

In this environment the local jazz scene flourished and many great local musicians emerged among them the Swedish piano player Jan Johansson who probably was the most important person to take the hot'n'sweet to some place completely different by starting to play Swedish folk tunes - we could call it chilly'n'melancholic.

The clean sound is part of it - as with the table design simplicity, clarity and homeboundness is strong tendency in Scandinavian art. Even more important is the modal feel and the constant changes of major and minor key which is typical of Scandinavian music. As you can see in this post about a small piece of the Danish composer Carl Nielsen - this goes further back than jazz, notice how many times Carl Nielsen changes from major to minor key and back again.

So the jazz suddenly turned melancholic, yearning and haunting. When I listen to it the foggy sea and the damp forest hovers over it and I feel at home. But to people outside Scandinavia I know that it seems very exotic and strange and beautiful.

Here's a very new and young, Danish piano trio which must be said to have this Scandinavian feel to it.

A very simple modal structure with a simmering F# sus chord changing between 7 and maj7 and then in the piano bass the theme is played perfectly unison with the double bass. Really astonishing and beautiful.



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22 comments
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Looks like a sturdy desk with some history behind it. I used to have a wooden one my dad used to use at his office. Now I have my Ikea Jerker that suits my needs.

I enjoyed the jazz and it's interesting to get the background. I am no jazz expert, but it seems parts of Europe really embraced it and took it in different directions. When I lived in Germany there was a fair bit of jazz on regular TV. Certainly more than you would see in the UK before we got some extra channels that expanded the selection of culture on tap. I went to a fair few jazz gigs in Freiburg. Some of these were at the Jazzhaus that also had rock gigs.

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I have been all over the place when it comes to musical genres. I used to play jazz when I was in Gymnasium (which is our high school), and never stopped loving it.But at the same time I also listened to death metal, hip-hop, punk and grunge and much more. But having played it myself gives something that connects me more to jazz than most other genres.

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Wonderful music I grew up on old albums of jazz and swing and at my favorite Grandfather's we'd listen to 78's from the teens and Caruso :) There is something in this 'old' music that always feels more 'at home' to me. I love that the desk saga continues, very Nordic tale of you :)

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"The desk saga" - that is a good franchise!

I also have a lot of connection with older music - I was late to embracing modern pop. Classical music was throughout my pre-teen and early teen years what i listened to. The weird kid syndrome I guess.

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Your desk looks well worked on.

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Yes, it is even quite tidy at the picture. I have this bad habit of having large stacks of books everywhere, and the table takes quite a few of those.

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I will admit that this isn't quite what I was picturing lol. I thought it was a large dinner table of sorts with thick rough wood and ornately carved legs or something haha. I think it was the viking references. If I'm remembering right you referred to it as a viking table or something - unless I just created a whole story in my head. Sometimes I do that.

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No, it is not just you. As I wrote I was suddenly aware that I might have oversold it. What goes for Viking art and craft these days is actually also pretty far for what the real Viking art was. Hollywood prefers the fin de siecle versions of everything, and doesn't care much for historical authenticity. But the Scandinavian architects and designers from 100 years ago did look very much at the real deal. If you see this Viking bed which was one of the burial presents from the Oseberg ship, I think you can see what I mean.

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I see. Everything always sounds more grandiose in our heads and also in Hollywood cinema. That is a cool bed though. Simple but with a lot of character. It actually looks like a historic ikea bed haha. Before, when they used real wood instead of only using particle board, of course 😂

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Thanks for the pix of the desk. It is not at all what I imagined from the last post. Really gorgeous piece!

I love all of these pieces!

Mathisen's I would like to learn, swingin'!

Invoke is killin'!

I can't really remember Johanssen's piece with Invoke playing, but that one is similar to klezmer tunes in structure and melody, especially in those switches from 7 to major 7, bringing in an augmented third in the melody that is common in klezmer music.

Great post!

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I bought all the records of this trio called, "Little North", some weeks ago and I have listened a lot to it. Really some great young musicians! https://littlenorth.bandcamp.com/album/familiar-places

I think there might easily be some harmonic connection to the Eastern European music like the Klezmer. Scandinavia is placed in the middle between East and West in many regards. This music does lack those wonderful and wild gypsy-scales that really makes it sound Eastern though, in that regard I find the Scandinavian music more bland and diatonic.. (or less spicy is probably a better term). I have heard a lot of live Klezmer music lately as my youngest daughter attends a music school founded by a classical oboist and Klezmer musician who wanted to create a place where poor children can also play. As he is Jewish it has also been a major driving force to involve children from the Muslim communities (which are also in general poor and uneducated compared to the general Dane). We live in this riff-raff quarter and it was possible for our daughter to learn the flute at this place.

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Sounds like a very vibrant place to live!! I don't think I have ever heard an oboist play klezmer - that would be interesting to hear. Bringing all cultures together through music, a portal to other dimensions.

None of the music you posted is bland!! And only Mathissen is diatonic to my ears.

I don't have the music background that you obviously do, but I learned to play the fiddle via klezmer music. Haven't played for twenty years or more. You've made me want to take that thing out of its case.

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It is a fine place I live, and only to countryside Danes who only know it through the media is it a dangerous place. And we have the best shawarma in Denmark. The man who made the school base it on his experience with living in Israel and teaching Palestinian children music. That it could be done to meet in music despite the terrible conflict was what made him go home to Denmark and continue the work here. He is what we call a fire soul and what he has created with this school when he came home is really beautiful.

Originally he is a classical musician so it's the oboe instead of the clarinet. I couldn't find something I could for sure identify as klezmer. In the clip below he is playing with a peace orchestra which is one of his projects and the intro cadenza sounds very middle eastern to me (they seem to play a fusion), but when the double bass kicks in it sounds klezmer :)

I love klezmer music it's so lively and danceable, and like all music it is all the background you need. I have had long periods where I didn't play, but with regular intervals I return to music. I have played with my girl to make them practice, and even though they always shout at me it is moments i really cherish.

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The intro is a fore-shpiel (sp?), a free meter improv on the melody. Common in klezmer presentations. The entire piece is klezmer through and through, presented with a classical precision. I've been gone too long to tell you what type of tune it is, perhaps a bulghar. It's very very beautiful! I have chills from that one. I don't think I have ever heard that tune, was there a title? Not that it would help me find out anything about it - titles mean pretty much nothing in klezmer. What a wonderful orchestra! How lucky you are to have this man in your family's life! He's very special, a fire soul indeed!

Thank you for providing that. It makes me want to compose a forshpiel for a country tune I am learning. I'm willing to bet almost no one in this town has ever heard klezmer. Oh you have inspired me today!!

You clearly are highly trained musically. What was your original instrument? I'm gonna guess piano. Your understanding of music theory, which far surpasses mine, suggests it.

Your daughter doesn't like to practice? Did you? I never ever practices as a kid. I carried my violin home every single day from school, and never took it out of the case. No one told me to practice. As an adult I tried again with a classical teacher, and again could not get into it. A great klezmer fiddler, Deborah Strauss, crossed my path and klezmer lit up my life with its effusive but simple celebrations of life. Here's an album that your video reminded me of, with Deborah on the fiddle. Classically trained musicians, no slouches any of them, playing klezmer. Lots of forshpiels on this album, and it starts right out with a doyna, a forshpiel that follows prescribed chordal changes.

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Ha! Music is the universal language after all. It's a wonderful record. I just had a short listen because I have to go to a 18 years birthday soon. Looking forward to the forspiel (or how it is spelled. I was looking into the scales and it made my head spin: Ukrainian Dorian scale, Phrygian dominant scale, Jewish major! Very much Eastern and middle Eastern inspired. Just shows how some of the things that are remembered as terrible and bloody conflict (in this case Eastern Europe and ottoman calamities) adds up in this wonderful music void of anything negative.

I'll have to look into those scales.

I started with the piano when I was 10, and was just as bad at practising as I was at doing my homework. I can fully understand my daughter when she finds it hard to add a daily hour of practice to her busy life. In high school I bought a saxophone and then I was all into music for three years (and still bad at doing my homework). Had to sell it many years later when economy was tight. I also played a lot of drums as one of my friends left his drum kit in my parents basement. But now I mainly play piano and my shakuhachi flute. As you can see no strings. Oh, now I have to get ready for that birthday!

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... and the Hungarian minor scale, which is the actual gypsy scale :)

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Those scales are easy. Like mixolidian in western music, U Dorian (called Freygish and might be what is called Jewish major because the root chord is major although the tune sounds minor) is a harmonic minor scale with the 5 as tonic: D Freygish is G harmonic minor (same going down) starting on D. C Mishebarek would be G harmonic minor starting on C. Never used Phrygian in my klezmer travels that I know of.

Bummer about the sax. Get another one!! Hope the party was swell.

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A half step there and one and a half there :) Still the way they interact with harmonies make my head spin.

I have considered buying a tenor or soprano saxophone again, but i am also considering a clarinet as that is the favourite instrument of my wife (who is from a tone-deaf family and therefore never got to play any instrument) - and I still have my shakuhachi flute so I do have a blown instrument.

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Alright, my curiosity is assuaged now, it's a beautiful and simple table, it doesn't remind me of that city hall one bit though 😂, since the architect made it to suit the building I was expecting some kind of resemblance or reminiscence or something.

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Your table your rules, haha.
I see a bunch of book behind the monitor, I can say you are an avid reader of novels and thrilling stories. You are an artist and you keep your brushes in front of you, so any time you feel urge to paint something on the canvas, you pick a brush and start moving it on the canvas, or sometimes you might wave it for fun. :D

I listened to those jazz videos, it is different from American Jazz, I like it because it has smooth flow unlike that of Jan's. I also like Romano-Hungarian gypsy music and songs, they move you even though you don't want to do so. Amazing huh.. Listen to this gem.. This is kinda jazz with fast forward.

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I love Roma music. There was a fusion of gypsy and jazz when Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli played. I also once found this: Hungarian gypsy-band Romengo with singer Monika Lakatos, and guests: flute player Szokolay Dongó Balázs and folk-techno diva Bognár Szilvia from Anima Sound System in an really great acoustic concert.

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