The Olufsen Years 1988-1994

Recorded in February 1988
Released in October 2011
SteepleChase Records SCCD 30020/24


Tracks


Lineup




Notes

5 CD BOX SET
SCCD 30020/24

Pierre Dørge & New Jungle Orchestra
Pierre Dørge, Harry Beckett, Kenneth Agerholm, Jörg Huke, Morten Carlsen, Jesper Zeuthen,
Jakob Mygind, John Tchicai, Volker Schlott, Charlotte Halberg, Hugo Rasmussen, Harrison
Bankhead, Aage Tanggaard, Bent Clausen, Hamid Drake, Thomas Dyani, Ayi Solomon, Gert
Mortensen, Ivan Hansen, Berit Mæland, Lennart Fessel, Mamadou Bari, Suso Diallo, Semaxua
Dithla, Gakebajese Tshekelo, Ensemble Semera Ratih, Deva Putu Berata
Recorded 1988 - 1994
DISC ONE Different Places Different Bananas
+ 1 previously unissued track
DISC TWO Peer Gynt
+ 3 previously unissued tracks
DISC THREE Live In Chicago
+ 1 previously unissued track
DISC FOUR Karawane
DISC FIVE Absurd Bird
+ 2 previously unissued tracks
Originally issued on Olufsen DOCD 5079, 5122, 5141, 5207, 5319
Art works: Mirjam Dørge
Liner Notes: Mark Gardner
Remix & mastering: Nils Winther
Photos: Cheng Long, Gorm Valentin, Torben Huss
Produced by Nils Winther
© 2010 by SteepleChase Productions ApS
P.O. Box 35, DK-2930 Klampenborg, Denmark
http://www.steeplechase.dk/

PIERRE DØRGE & NEW JUNGLE ORCHESTRA – THE OLUFSEN YEARS
Guitarist, composer, arranger and instigator of the New Jungle Orchestra, Pierre Dørge founded
his unique ensemble in 1980 mainly because he wanted to hear his music played.
Dørge (born Copenhagen February 26, 1946) became a reluctant bandleader after the group’s
first gig on September 24, 1980. The die was cast for his future and that of the remarkable
individual talents who have populated the NJO over those three breathless decades.
Subsequently, the ensemble circled the globe, performing its brilliant blend of jazz, folk,
classical and ethnic styles in scores of countries on five continents. The band experienced
some tough times in the early years when club-owners wanted to pay the nonet quartet money
for their gigs. But the musicians stuck by Pierre because they loved playing his mix of vibrant
music.
The first turning point came in 1982 when SteepleChase producer Nils Winther, who had
recorded Pierre as a sideman, taped the first New Jungle Orchestra date (SCCD 31162). It was
followed by three more releases, “Brikama” (SCCD 31188), “Even The Moon Is Dancing”
(SCCD 31208) and “Johnny Lives” (SCCD 31228).
“I first met Nils when I played on the “Real Tchicai” date (SCCD 31075) with John Tchicai in
March 1977. We got along very well. He was a person who really understood the music and
did not interfere with what you were trying to do. If he made a suggestion it was a good one.
I enjoyed making those early recordings,” Dørge recalled.
Seeking what he thought would be “greener pastures”, Pierre signed a long-term contract in
1988 with the Olufsen label, and during that period up to 1994 recorded the five CDs contained
in this package. “I thought I would try something different. I was young and ambitious to make
headway with my career,” he explained. “I guess the grass always looks greener from a distance.”
Over the years the ever–flexible NJO, which ranged in size from seven to sixteen musicians,
had a core of founder members, keyboard player Irene Becker (Pierre’s wife and colleague of
33 years), saxophonist Morten Carlsen (colleague of 39 years), trombonist Kenneth Agerholm
and Pierre himself. All remain in the ranks to this day. On its global travels, the band’s
experiences of other cultures have provided constant inspiration to Dørge the composer. Today
there are more than 800 pieces in the bands voluminous repertoire.
While aspects of classical, sacred, oriental, African, Indian, Balinese, Arabian, East European,
Scandinavian and Maori music have all found their way into the writing and performance of
the ensemble, running through everything is a strong and powerful jazz undercurrent. One of
Pierre’s chief inspirations has been the work of Duke Ellington, not least the ducal “jungle”
phase.
However, the composer has not restricted himself to any one era or style. He loves bebop
and, as you would expect from a player who studied with Ornette Coleman, also embraces
free jazz. He also believes that absurdity has its place in music, along with the contrasts between
joy and sadness, the need for depth and hilarity, all fused into a cohesive and utterly personal
whole. Some would label it “world music”, but that’s a shallow definition which ignores the
Underlying seriousness of Dørge’s very sophisticated oeuvre which has stood the test of three
decades.
It was the extraordinary nature of the orchestra that persuaded the Danish movement to
choose NJO as a state sponsored ensemble in 1993 - 1996. During that time the band
accompanied the Queen of Denmark, other royalty and movement ministers on overseas visits
including the occasion when the Queen met Nelson Mandela. They were hectic times with the
band presenting a staggering 80 concerts a year.
The five Olufsen releases which are included here comprise three studio dates, a live recording
in Chicago and a re–creation of music that Pierre composed for a new version of Grieg’s “Peer
Gynt”, following in the footsteps of Duke Ellington, who, with Billy Strayhorn, arranged the
suite in 1962. Dørge was persuaded to bring his own touches to the classic Ibsen story. “The
director of the Danish theatre production wanted new music. I ended up writing twice as
much as was needed. It had to be fitted to the action, and the band participated in the play on
stage. We gave 50 performances, and afterwards recorded the arrangements, but in greater
detail than the show allowed. We had a septet including John Tchicai, who has often guested
with the band since then, but was a regular member at the time.”
Pierre describes his involvement with “Peer Gynt” as one of the greatest experiences of his life.
“Working closely with the director and actors and adapting to another medium was very exciting,
a wonderful adventure which kept me fully occupied for three months in 1989.”
Different Bananas”, prompted by the remark of a Balinese waiter when Pierre praised the
taste of a banana he had just enjoyed, part of copious bowls of fruit offered during one of
the band’s visits to Bali. “He spread his arms and said quite profoundly ‘different places,
different bananas’!’ True and very amusing”
In 1990 NJO toured North America, playing a series of festivals in the U.S.A. and
Canada. In Chicago their tenth and final appearance of the series was taped. For these
performances the orchestra had the rhythmic backing of two excellent Chicago-based
musicians, drummer Hamid Drake and bassist Harrison Bankhead. The recording was
not perfect, but Nils Winther has been able to clean it up and extra music from the
concert has been included.
The NJO 1992 recording entry was a ducal homage to coincide with an Ellington
conference held in Copenhagen that year. Among venous bands invited to play was
Pierre’s, so he prepared new compositions based on/variations of “Black Beauty”, “Mood
Indigo”, “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” and a special recreation of “Caravan” called “Lost In
The Desert, I See A Caravan” which features trombonist Jörg Huke and saxophonist
Volker Schlott, two East German musicians who had greatly impressed Dørge. Also in
the band was Barbados-born Harry Beckett, an accomplished veteran trumpeter/
flugelhornist, a leading light in many experimental British ensembles, who sadly died in
July 2010. Another tune in this set has the arresting title “Duke Greats Sun Ra From
Outer Space”.
Finally, when it was still a Danish state ensemble, NJO made its fifth and final Olufsen
session in 1994. This one was called “Absurd Bird”, a piece which was an early sample
of jazz rap. Ayi Solomon intoned in his native tongue, “who is the Bird in charge” as the
saxes ad–libbed on a 12-tone, Dolphy–like line. Along with an Ellington-type tune entitled
“Dukish Kiss”, with echoes of “Prelude To A Kiss” there is the intriguingly-named “Free
As An Ostrich, Cool As A Penguin” composed by saxophonist Jesper Zeuthen, and the
lengthy “Travelling through the jungle”, featuring a 25-piece Balinese gamelan orchestra,
two Gambian griots playing African flute and fiddle and two Kalahari musicians and the
instrument known as mbira (African thumb piano).
When Pierre acquired the masters of the Olufsen material, he asked Nils Winther if he
would like to reissue them. These recordings were never too widely available and the
producer agreed it made sense to put them out in a single package to mark the orchestra’s
thirtieth anniversary.
“I’m very happy to see them accessible once again. They are historic recordings and
now in better sound and more complete than in their original format. Re–listening to them
after so many years has been almost like an excavation in musical archaeology,” says
Pierre.
Also coinciding with the 30th anniversary celebrations is the publication of the leader’s
biography “Pierre Dørge - Into The Jungle” recounting his fascinating careers to date and
the music of the New Jungle Orchestra.
After parting from Olufsen, Pierre and NJO recorded for three other Danish labels before
his triumphant return to SteepleChase in 2007 since when four more CDs have appeared
- “Jazz Is Like A Banana” (SteepleChase SCCD 31636), “Whispering Elephants” (SCCD
31652), “At The Royal Playhouse” (SCCD 31693) and “Presents” (SCCD 31701).
Of the Olufsen canon, Pierre says: “Each album represents a phase of the orchestra’s
development, featuring musicians with us at that time. They are also an important part of
my life as a composer which is all about creating new music all the time.”
A 30th birthday tour of Denmark will be a focal point of this September’s celebrations,
followed by NJO visits to Spain and Sweden, and in December a concert progress through
India where Pierre will be seeking inspiration for his next recorded project – a CD of
Indian-based music.
Many more exciting times beckon for the New Jungle Orchestra which retains the
freshness of approach that has characterised its many works, whether heard live or on
record. So raise your glasses and toast the lasting appeal of a musical institution - 30 years
old and still going strong.
Mark Gardner
(Contributor to Jazz Journal since 1962)

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