Tracks

  • 01
    HOW IS THE SUNSETRISE UP THERE? (Pierre Dørge) 5:42
  • 02
    A ROSE FOR LAURENT (Pierre Dørge) 5:38
  • 03
    DUALITIES (Irene Becker) 7:21
  • 04
    MOZOMBO (Pierre Dørge) 6:07
  • 05
    A RUFOUS MOT MOT (Pierre Dørge) 9:03
  • 06
    JUNGLE SKETCHES (Jakob Mygind) 5:57
  • 07
    TJAK TJAKA TCHICAI (Pierre Dørge) 7:35
  • 08
    LARGO LAPIDARIUS (John Tchicai) 3:57
  • 09
    KERA DORONG (Pierre Dørge) 7:02
  • 10
    AUTOBAHN TCHICAI ZWEI (Pierre Dørge) 3:57
  • 11
    LUCIANUS IN CONGO (Pierre Dørge) 4:01

Lineup



Notes

In a career spanning four decades and two dozen
albums, Pierre Dørge’s New Jungle Orchestra has
recorded a bewildering array of music. His albums
astonish us in the breadth of his creative palette;
they surprise us in the range of infl uences he incorporates;
they impress us in the consistency of
quality that he has maintained over this time. But
he has never recorded an album more meaningful
than this one. Although Tjak Tjaka Tchicai arrives
more than thirty years after the NJO’s debut, it in
fact illuminates the origin and inspiration behind
this most extraordinary band, by celebrating the man
who infl uenced Dørge to play jazz in the fi rst place.
That man, the saxophonist John Tchicai, died
in 2012 at the age of 76, having left a signifi cant
impact on modern music in general and Danish
jazz in particular. He grew up in Aarhus, Denmark’s
second largest city; the son of a Congolese
father and Danish mother, he blended African
roots with European modernism to become one
of the most prominent European avant-gardists of
his era. Soon after arriving in New York in 1963,
Tchicai joined saxist Archie Shepp and trumpeter
Don Cherry in the short-lived but influential New
York Contemporary Five; after that, he brought his
“metal poems” (in the words of poet Amiri Baraka)
to the celebrated New York Art Quartet. He then
appeared on two of the decade’s most adventurous
recordings – Albert Ayler’s New York Eye And Ear
Control and John Coltrane’s Ascension – before
heading back to Denmark in 1966, a celebrated
musician whose New York experiences lent him
considerable cachet.
Even before that, Tchicai’s exploratory instincts
had made waves in Copenhagen, the city where
Pierre Dørge first encountered him. The year was
1959; Dørge was 13, attending music school, when
“suddenly there was in the school a very tall black
man, dressed in the uniform of the Danish navy,” he
recalls. (For his military requirement, Tchicai served
as a navy chef.) Tchicai had arrived to lead an open
rehearsal at the school. Dørge had experimented
with jazz, “but it was very simple: I couldn’t play
the standard songs so I had to compose my own.
But then I heard John on alto, and the group had
a guitar,” and Dørge began to see the possibilities.
Fast forward to January 1969, almost three years
after Tchicai’s return to Denmark. Although he
had not been readily accepted by the mainstream
jazz establishment up to then, Tchicai received a
major boost when the Danish Jazz Circle named
him “Jazz Musician of the Year.” That’s also when
Dørge once again encountered the saxophonist,
at the original Jazzhus Montmartre (the legendary
Copenhagen nightclub). “When I heard him play
there,” Dørge says, “I went home and thought,
‘This is the music I want to play.’ And then, two
months later, there was an announcement in a
jazz magazine that John was planning to make a
jazz symphony orchestra.” Interested musicians
were advised to attend an open audition, and
Dørge remembers about forty showing up, playing
everything from traditional band instruments
to Moroccan clay drum. It resulted in the second
edition of Tchicai’s ensemble concept Cadentia
Nova Danica (“New Danish Song/Improvisation”),
represented on the 1969 disc Afrodisiaca – Pierre
Dørge’s recording debut.
Tchicai had other plans for Dørge beyond that
recording, but he communicated them indirectly.

“He was very closed; he didn’t socialize at all, and
you didn’t dare ask him anything about the music.
But after one month I got a letter from him, and he
enclosed a picture from the newspaper of himself
with Yoko Ono.” (The photo was taken at Cambridge
University in England, where Tchicai had gone to
record the avant-garde album Unfi nished Music
No. 2 by Oko and John Lennon.) “And on this
picture he wrote, ‘Hey Yoko, what do you think
about Pierre?’ From that I thought that maybe he
liked what I was doing, somehow. And when he
returned in the spring of 1969, he asked me to
play in a smaller group, with just trumpet and bass
and drums. For me it was fantastic, a tremendous
inspiration. I found something.”
Later that year, Tchicai received a contract from
the Danish public broadcasting company to present
a monthly concert of new music for large ensemble.
The contract provided a boon for all the musicians,
but especially Dørge, who used the opportunity to
start writing for the orchestra: “I learned the instruments,
how to write the notation; for me it was like
studying at the conservatory.” These lessons served
Dørge well when, in 1980, he established the New
Jungle Orchestra, brimming with Dørge’s inventive
voicings and colorations. And throughout the NJO’s
fi rst decade, the reed section starred John Tchicai
on saxophones and bass clarinet.
In preparing this tribute to his mentor and colleague,
Dørge chose from three sources of material.
One source is the handful of pieces composed by
Tchicai during his time with the NJO. Dørge has
picked the loveliest of these, Largo Lapidarius: “It
has musical phrases from different Danish children’s
songs,” he explains, “so when you play it in
Denmark, people would recognize these sounds.”
The opening track, Dørge’s How Is The Sunsetrise
Up There? belongs in this grouping too, because
it builds upon an earlier piece written by Tchicai.
“We played his piece called It Is Beautiful Up There
in the 80s,” Dørge explains. “John made this piece
inspired by some things I had played on guitar on
one of his other compositions.”
A few more songs were composed as tributes
to Tchicai: the initially raucous, ultimately quieting
hymn Dualities, written by keyboardist Irene
Becker (Dørge’s wife); saxist Jakob Mygind’s Jungle
Sketches, who performed and recorded with
Tchicai in the several years before Tchicai’s death;
and A Rose For Laurent, which Dørge wrote as a
tribute to French jazz critic Laurent Goddet, who
died in the 80s. (Since Tchicai often soloed on
this piece, Dørge intends it as a farewell to them
both.) Kera Dorong, which shows the infl uence
of Balinese as well as West African music, was a
vehicle for Tchicai’s vocal improvisation during his
time with the NJO, while Autobahn Tchicai Zwei
was prompted by Tchicai’s love of automobiles.
“I think if he weren’t a musician he would have
been a Formula One racer,” says Dørge. “Back
in the 80s, after John moved to Switzerland for a
while, I wrote a piece called Autobahn Tchicai,
about him driving from Switzerland to Denmark
and back. So this song is the ‘sequel’: Zwei [Swiss
German for “two”].”
And then there are the songs that offer a sort
of musical biography by tracing facts and events
in Tchicai’s life. Mozombo, for example: the title
comes from a Congolese greeting, a nod to Tchicai’s
paternal roots. A Rufous Mot Mot takes its name
from a bird in the South American rain forest;
Tchicai loved birds (and Dørge loves the sound
of this bird’s name). With its folk vocals, diatonic
melody, and African-inspired guitar, the piece draws
on the heritage of Gnawa musicians, with whom
Tchicai played briefl y in his career. And Dørge
used Tchicai’s family history in titling Lucianus In
Congo: “John’s father was Joseph Lucianus Tchicai,
the son of a tribal chieftain in Congo. In those days
there were several brothers, but only the oldest
was the Crown Prince. So the tradition was to kill
all the younger sons – to avoid confl ict among
them. But John’s father was so lucky. He met the
infl uential German ethnologist Leo Frobenius, who
was studying there, and John’s father helped him as
a guide and translator; and when Frobenius went
back to Germany, Joseph went with him; that’s
how he survived. And when he grew up he went
to Denmark, and married John’s mother.”
And fi nally there’s the title track, with its calland-
response vocals and its comically brooding
woodwind vamp. It’s a piece rooted in Dørge’s
late-80s study of gamelan music in Bali. “I heard
this chorus of 100 men singing what’s called the
Monkey Chant in a ceremony there,” says Dørge.
He incorporated this chanting, known as Ketjak,
in a 1988 piece called Dancing In The Temple,
where it developed into the phrase “Tjak Tjaka
Tjaka” (based on a word repeated throughout the
ceremony.) From there, it’s a short leap to “Tjak
Tjaka Tchicai,” which Dørge imagines as “a fairytale
about ‘Prince’ Tchicai, traveling around.”
After his initial experiences in Tchicai’s bands
during the 1970s, Dørge went on his own travels,
performing and recording in various small groups.
But by 1980, he found that he missed the sound of a
larger orchestra – the sound he had fi rst encountered
in Cadentia Nova Danica. To satisfy this craving,
he formed the New Jungle Orchestra: the primary
vehicle for his music over the last 30 years, and a
lasting monument to the infl uence of John Tchicai.
“I wanted this music to refl ect all the inspiration
we got from John, through his playing, his
compositions, his way of telling stories in his music,
and his ideas about music – the way his African
roots were modifi ed by the Danish songs that he
grew up with. In Aarhus in the late 30s and 40s,
John and his brother Mauritz were very special. As
black men, they were something exotic – although
hearing it from John, he didn’t feel any discrimination
– and he retained that feeling of being ‘special’
when he began playing music. And already from
childhood, he had a fantastic imagination; with
the children where he grew up, he was a kind of
leader for them, inventing games, theatrical things,
sometimes a procession through the city.” He carried
this theatricality into his adult years, when he
came up with ideas like a concert in the subway,
or recording the horn section of his orchestra as it
rode the carousel in Tivoli Gardens – yet another
source of inspiration for Dørge, who has regularly
staged performance “happenings” with the New
Jungle Orchestra.

Thanks, thanks, Tchicai.

Neil Tesser

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