Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, (May 27, 1946 – April 19, 2005) was a Danish jazz double bassist known for his impressive technique and an approach that could be considered an extension of the innovative work of Scott LaFaro. Born in Osted, near Roskilde, on the Danish island of Zealand, Pedersen was known as The Great Dane with the Never-Ending Name, or sometimes simply as NHØP. As a child, Pedersen played piano. As a teenager he started learning to play double-bass and at the age of 14, while studying, he began his professional jazz career in Denmark with his first band, Jazzkvintet 60 (Danish for 'Jazz Quintet 60'). Later on, he was engaged as the regular bassist at Copenhagen's Jazzhus Montmartre. At 17, he had already turned down an offer to join the Count Basie orchestra, mainly because he was too young to get legal permission to live and work as a musician in America. During the 1960s, Pedersen played with several important American jazzmen who were touring or resident in Denmark, including Ben Webster, Bill Evans, Brew Moore, Bud Powell, Count Basie, Roy Eldridge, Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, Jackie McLean, Roland Kirk, Sonny Rollins, and vocalist Ella Fitzgerald; he also played with Jean-Luc Ponty. He became the bassist of choice whenever a big-name musician was touring Copenhagen. Pedersen had a great friendship and working relationship with Oscar Peterson. They played together for many years on and off. In 2005, Peterson dedicated his entire tour to Pedersen after he had died. He was awarded Best Bass Player Of The Year by Downbeat Critics' Poll in 1981. Pedersen worked in duo and trio arrangements with pianist Kenny Drew, recording over 50 albums together. He also worked with Stéphane Grappelli and Joe Pass and recorded extensively as a leader. His best known songs are "My Little Anna", "Jaywalkin' ", and "The Puzzle", as well as jazz arrangements of traditional Danish folk songs. He was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize in 1991. In 1999, he co-led a duo with pianist Mulgrew Miller, touring Europe, Japan, Australia, and Korea. This format was later enlarged into a trio featuring drummer, Alvin Queen. This trio remained intact until his death. Pedersen died of heart failure in 2005 at the age of 58 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was survived by his wife, Solveig, and his three children.
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In 1999, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and Mulgrew Miller came together in a unique and unlikely pairing to pay tribute to Duke Ellington on the 100th anniversary of his birth. The result was a passionate and long-lived musical partnership between two masters of their respective instruments, but the original recordings were never released. For the first time ever, more than 20 years after its recording, this lost treasure is finally made available to the public.
The duo was initially brought together by Bang & Olufsen and set out to celebrate Ellington and his partnership with bassist Jimmy Blanton. With the help of Per Arnoldi, who is also credited with the album’s artwork, NHØP was approached to take part and tapped Mulgrew Miller to tackle a series of Ellington’s classic themes and a couple of their own. He saw the opportunity to work with Mulgrew Miller, a pianist whom he admired and had not yet had the opportunity to work with, and this decision paid off greatly for both of them. A great musical and personal partnership was born, and the duo’s captivating chemistry is obvious from the first notes.
Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen is widely celebrated as one of the greatest to ever grace the upright bass and had a long and fruitful career among the greats of jazz. He is arguably jazz's most virtuosic bassist, and his long career saw collaborations with legends like Oscar Peterson, Kenny Drew, Michel Petrucciani, Tania Maria, Philippe Catherine and Joe Pass. In the duo with Miller in particular, Niels-Henning’s unique sense of harmony and his impeccable timing stand out. Meanwhile, Mulgrew Miller, one of the most accomplished jazz pianists of the 80s and 90s delivers Ellington’s themes with grace and admiration. His playing is marked by versatility, skillful soloing and tasteful restraint. With NHØP on bass and MIller on piano, the talents of both are given plenty of space to explore Ellington’s themes and to form a musical dynamic that rivals that of Ellington and Blanton.
The duo was very successful and they toured the world in the following years. A live album, The Duo - Live!, was released on Storyville Records and documents the duo’s great musical chemistry in a live setting. They kept playing shows together until NHØP’s passing in 2005.
The collaboration was a unique meeting of two of the greatest jazz-minds of their time paying tribute to another legendary partnership. Thankfully, these recordings are finally available and they make up an important addition to the already extensive and impressive legacies of both NHØP and Mulgrew Miller as well as a beautiful tribute to Ellington and Blanton.