Exclusive to Storyville Records, a previously unreleased live concert with jazz stars Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass) and Mulgrew Miller (piano) is now finally available for everyone to enjoy. For a short but magnificent time, the two played together, and our revival of their visit to the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland in 2000 testifies to their musical brightness and beauty.
In 1999-2000, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen was given the chance to make a studio recording on the occasion of Duke Ellington’s 100th birthday. For this duo session, NHØP chose Mulgrew Miller, whom he had heard, but never played with. Both were at the height of their careers, giants in their own right, and with totally different backgrounds. NHØP was born into the Danish folk high-school milieu that promoted freedom of thought and had a prolific song tradition. Growing up as the child of plantation workers in Greenwood, Mississippi, Mulgrew had his roots in gospel music and the racially divided USA of the 1960s. A Duke Ellington connoisseur, he had played with the Ellington Orchestra under direction of Mercer Ellington.
Still, from the moment NHØP and Mulgrew met and played together, the two had an affinity as human beings and musicians. They chose a repertoire based on the historic 1941 Duke Ellington—Jimmy Blanton duets. Mik Neumann, NHØP’s long-time sound engineer, says about their collaboration: “What was special was how their music assimilated the divergent influences of their younger days. Remarkable, too, was the degree of profundity in their interplay – a talent that demands years of experience for a musician to deliver, and possibly also for an audience to understand. At the same time, thanks to their ability to swing, and their inbred musicality, the music was also immediately accessible.” In many ways, piano-and-bass was the ultimate constellation for Niels-Henning and Mulgrew. Here, NHØP had the necessary room to display the same creative brilliance that revolutionized modern contrabass playing.
In 2000, NHØP and Mulgrew Miller embarked on a world tour celebrating Duke Elington’s 100th birthday. Mik Neumann recalls the special connection between the two musicians: “Not once during the tour did they sit down and discuss what they were going to play – it materialized on stage, in the moment.”
Recorded live, all the tracks on this never before released concert remain in the same order as the two masters chose that evening at the North Sea Jazz Festival. They are at the peak of their abilities, combining new version of the Ellington songs they had previously recorded together with jazz standards. Niels-Henning and Mulgrew have sadly passed away, but are remembered as intelligent and insightful musicians on and off stage, but also as unconditionally generous mentors and influences for generations of musicians after themselves.
Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen - bass
Mulgrew Miller - piano
1. Whisper Not (Benny Golson)
2. Sophisticated Lady (Duke Ellington)
3. Mood Indigo (Barney Bigard – Duke Ellington)
4. All The Things You Are (Jerome Kern)
5. Take The A Train (Billy Strayhorn)
Total time: 50:50
1. I'm Old Fashioned (Jerome Kern)
2. In My Solitude (Duke Ellington)
3. Autumn Leaves (Jacques Prévert - Joseph Kosma)
4. Caravan (Juan Tizol – Duke Ellington)
Total time: 43:35
5 out of 6 stars
"Her oplever vi et møde mellem to eminente musikalske kunstnere, som begge alt for tidligt skulle forlade denne verden. Helt elementært har parret plukket ni værker fra jazzens store sangbog, og så giver de ellers hinanden det smukkest tænkelige med- og modspil. Mulgrew Miller viser et elegant og behændigt håndlag og en særegen sans for melodik, og både som ledsager og solist fastslår NHØP, at han som bassist næppe har haft sin lige i jazzhistorien"
- Kjeld Frandsen, Berlingske, September 27, 2016.
All About Jazz
5,5 stars out of 6
- Chris Mosey (original article here)
Sandy Brown Jazz
- Ian Maund (original article here)
"NHØP's tremendous technique is well known and comes to full expression here. (..) This release is a beautiful memory of two amazing musicians in a unique interplay."
- Ole Rahr
"It's a rare pleasure, especially posthumously, to hear thsse masters at such length."
- Brian Priestley
"The two weave in and out of each other like long time dance partners, always knowing when to lead and when to follow, as they relax on ”In My Solitude” and glide on “I’m Old Fashioned.” Even when one takes the spotlight, the other is always there, sometimes with just a dash of a thin brush stroke, or a Morse Code dot. This is why you fell in love with jazz!"
The ArtMusic Lounge
"This is a performance played on the head of a pin - two pins, actually, one by Miller and one by the bassist. When they really get going in the improv section, they almost literally bounce off each other, like two ping pong balls, the music flowing as it's being created. (...) Happily, we now have this previously unissued live session with which to enjoy what they were able to accomplish together."
- Lynn René Bayley (original article here)
"The tunes arre certainly familiar, often overly so, but the mastery of the two artists, their sterling improvisations, wit and uncanny ability to swing make their collaboration anything but commonplace. Though they both died far too young (Pedersen at 58 in 2006 and Miller at 57 in 2013), this album stands as a reminder of their marvelous talents and a testament to their brief but brilliant union"
Joel Roberts, The New York City Jazz Record, March 2017
"The duet NHØP & Mulgrew Miller fears nothing. An unequalled sideman (his walking bass is marvellous on Whisper Not, All the the things you are and Autumn Leaves), NHØP improvises with such liveliness that his numerous acrobatic choruses find a favourable resonance in Miller's powerful and refined playing. The technical achievements of this duo are many, and their harmonic refinement also passes the test, especially in the ballads which are among the best moments of the concert. NHØP makes his harmonies sing on Sophisticated Lady, and Bach meets Ellington in the last instances of In My Solitude. Miller's arpeggios, his rosaries of intoxicating notes, his blues-filled melody lines and honeysweet swing exudes a composed strenght and enriches the music."
Jazz Magazine, Numéro 692, March 2017