Sometime last year, I got an email from Ole Kjær from the Gladsaxe Jazz Club. He wanted me to play a special concert for International Jazz Day (April 30). He didn’t want my regular configurations, but something different and out of my ordinary wheel house. The deal was that they would record the concert and then release it in June during their Gladsaxe Jazz Festival. How could I say no to that?

Taking the gig was easy. Coming up with that project was another story. I wanted to create something that would put me out of my comfort zone and then have a potential touring life into 2019. I noticed that 2019 will be the 100th year of Art Blakey. Listening to my collection of Jazz Messenger CD’s, I noticed that there was a lack of bass solos, singers, and women in general.

Sounds like my kind of project, right?

Blakey was one of the great jazz mentors, pushing the guys to the limit to write their own music and play with big dynamics and passion. The young lions that joined his group evolved under his tutelage and left to become our biggest names in jazz.

My hope is to pay tribute to his mentorship and the guys that went through his band and became mentors themselves. We take the music and change the arrangements to honor their tradition without trying to directly replicate what they did so perfectly.

Soren Moller contributes four arrangements to the project and plays some wonderful piano. His arrangements bring a fresh perspective to Messenger “standards” that make me smile. For my part in the arranging, I added the vocal component and a few small alterations.

This project is truly about the ensemble. I’m honored to have these guys on the project. They are badazzz players and wonderful human beings:

Karl-Martin Almqvist

Karl-Martin Almqvist

Tenor Saxophone

Karl-Martin is one of my favorite tenor players here in Denmark (even though he is actually Swedish). His huge dark chocolate sound wraps around you when he plays. When he isn’t leading his own band or touring with others, he’s playing in the Danish Radio Big Band. He also happens to be one of the sweetest guys you’ll ever meet.
Soren Moller

Soren Moller

Piano / Arrangements

Soren and I met through a program called Danish Vibes. He was helping musicians living in Denmark to expand their tours into the German market. Talking with him, it seemed like we had a lot in common in spite of our different personal experiences. We stayed in touch and he invited me to a gig he had where he did big band arrangements of indie rock tunes for the Danish Radio Big Band. I was knocked out by his arrangements and knew he was the guy to bring in for this project. He is insanely busy here between his writing projects, mentoring younger musicians, and playing all kinds of creative gigs.
Jesper Riis

Jesper Riis

Trumpet

I played my first gig with Jesper a short time after I moved to Denmark. I’ve been looking for an excuse to play with him ever since. He is a deep writer and swinging musician. I love to hear (and watch) Jesper and Karl-Martin go back and forth on their solos. They bring the musical party with them.
Morten Lund

Morten Lund

Drums

“Driving the bus” for our project is Morten Lund. This guy is one of the busiest musicians in Denmark. His abounding energy and great musicianship is the perfect combination for this band.

We did the live recording on April 30, 2018 for an intimate audience at Aldershvile Slotspavilonen. After a quick mixing session, we released the CD on June 17. The jazz club pressed a limited run of CDs. My understanding is that this is not being released digitally. If you want a copy, email me and I’ll hook you up. We’re also currently booking gigs for 2019 to celebrate 100 years of Art Blakey’s legacy.

Blakey Tribute Sampler

by Karl-Martin Almqvist, Jesper Riis, Soren Moller, Kristin Korb, Morten Lund