Pierre Dørge Presents New Jungle Orchestra

Recorded in October 2009
Released in August 2010
SteepleChase Records SCCD 31701



JB / http://culturejazz.net/ (French)


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Pierre Dørge and New Jungle Orchestra are
celebrating a generation of international music-
making. That longevity, allied with their
perennial freshness of sound, places them
right up there with great enduring bands of the
past - Basie, Herman, Kenton, Ellington.
Ensembles that reinvigourated themselves over
the decades, while remaining true to their
original purpose.
The comparison between Dørge’s N.J.O.
and the Ellington orchestra is pertinent since
Duke was and is a constant inspiration to
Pierre. And both men provided most of the
material for their aggregations, always
composing with specific soloists in mind.
Thirty years, three decades, is a wide wedge
of a lifetime for any group of creative artists to
stay together. To remain as a unit for so long,
the stimulation and demands of the repertoire
have to be exceptional. And every member
must feel satisfied that he/she is making a full
contribution to the evolution and development
of the whole. A player who feels marginalised
will soon seek opportunities elsewhere.
A vital core of four musicians have been
with the N.J.O. from the start. Of course there
were personnel changes along the way, so that
now the ensemble is truly multi-generational.
But there is an ongoing stable foundation that
can accommodate an occasional infusion of
new voices. The present line-up is virtually
unchanged since Pierre returned to the
SteepleChase fold in 2007 with the orchestra’s
brilliant CD “Jazz Is Like A Banana” (SCCD
While the NJO’s continued existence is
now assured, it was not always so. The first 13
years were a struggle. Often a gig would pay
quartet wages to a group of ten. In those
circumstances it was love of the music that
sustained the ensemble. As Pierre observes,
the turning point came in 1993 when the
orchestra was chosen as a state ensemble,
representing Denmark on royal visits at home
and around the world. For instance when
Danish royalty went to South Africa at the
invitation of Nelson Mandela, the N.J.O. was
there too.
Suddenly Pierre and his colleagues were in
terrific demand, playing 80 concerts a year,
and a growing audience was attracted to the
band’s unique blend of jazz, folk and classical
elements merged into a vibrantly exciting,
international whole. “I never set out to be a
says Pierre. “I was interested in
composing and arranging and I obviously
wanted to hear my music performed. But then
I found out you had to negotiate fees, make
travel arrangements and deal with a whole lot
of administrative stuff. In the first year none of
us talked about money, but finance has to be
a factor if musicians are turning down other
jobs to play with you.”

Then there were the social and musical
problems that inevitably arise in every band.
“One guy doesn’t want to play Ellington tunes,
another wants to play only Ellington material.
Someone else demands that we should
concentrate on free jazz. So, as a leader, you
have to try to keep everyone happy. My
philosophy was that we should use all the best
elements from the many different styles of
music, combining them in our own way"
“When writing, I have tried to employ the
most powerful side of each musician’s
character, and to set them a challenge. I also
try to put myself in the place of the audience
and think about what would be interesting and
pleasing to their ear. When we have added
new players, it has provided fresh inspiration,
stimulating different ideas and possibilities
which are reflected in the writing. It is important
to stay open-minded in music.”

The N.J.O. made its debut at the Music
Cafe, Copenhagen, on 24 September, 1980,
so in September 2010 that 30-year milestone
was being marked by a week’s celebratory
tour of Denmark, and release of this outstanding
anniversary CD, the orchestra’s 22nd
recording. The band was due to play a number
of these pieces during their September progress.
For this collection, Pierre decided to
structure each composition to focus on a
particular member of the orchestra. “I spoke to
each musician and asked if they had any
special preferences or wishes about which
side of their style they would like me to
portray. They approved of the idea and I
received very positive feedback".

“My concept was to create 10 pieces of
music, as 10 abstract pictures, each of them as
an image of an individual, creative, New
Jungle musician. They responded with their
special wishes for the individual piece. I knew
that the music would not shine unless the
composition inspired and challenged each
individual’s creativity. I can write the music,
but it is the musician who is the true creator of
the spontaneous expression in the music - the
here and now.”

Pierre shared his thoughts on the pieces and
their performances in the following

Balada Para El Trompetista: The opening is
based on traditional jazz harmonies with the
airy sound of Gunnar Halle’s expressive and
unique Norwegian “mountain hut” trumpet
echoing both Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis
- subtle reminiscence of two great jazz
Für Kontrabas: Today’s best Danish scene
jazz bassist according to my taste is a Swede,
Thommy Andersson, who can play the heaviest
bass roots and make an infinite number of bass
sounds, patterns from the jungle. The skeleton
of this bass tour de force is a Beatles song. A
very few fragments from this song pop up in
the horns’ accompaniment.
Potato Head: I wrote a potato head
arrangement for nine musicians and improvised
the guitar lines. I did not discuss this with the
Igor Abedungola: Voice and percussion
contributed by our African brother Ayi Solomon
from Accra. I tried to guide Ayi into a European
Dadaistic universe. You could say that this is
spiritual Afro soul going dada.
Sankt Jakob: Our tenor and soprano
saxophonist Jakob Mygind is rooted in the
Danish song tradition. This song shows the
beauty of Jakob’s soprano sax contrasting with
his growling tenor, and turning into a high
pitch state of heavenly love. He is our soul
brother from the northern part of Denmark.
Rata Tata Lang Ra: Directions for a jazz
drummer framed by the Jungle ensemble.
Martin Andersen is freewheeling with his
mallets on the tom-toms. He improvises
spontaneously between fragments of melodic
rhythm patterns.
Blessing Bones: Like a shadow of a bluesy,
atonal lullaby, this is a heartfelt trombone
prayer expressed by Kenneth Agerholm’s
blessed ‘bone.
Little Claus And Big Claus: The masterly
contrasts of the screaming Hungarian taragot
and the enormous force of the mature saxman,
Morten Carlsen, are displayed in this
In A Mystery Mist: A fantasy/sketch of a
never ending choral that floats on the river
passing the king of elves and his elfin maids.
Irene Becker is the lithe improviser conjuring
up the mystery morning mist.
Waltz Für Basklarinette: The finale of the
individual portraits is a tribute to my favourite
instrument - the bass clarinet. Anders Banke
developed his own unique style on the
instrument in the setting here of a grotesque
Rounding off these messages from the New
Jungle are earlier missives which Pierre has re-
cast. He explains that Xongly moves at ostinato
in 5/4 metre with an indian-like folk melody.
“It was recorded on one of my early albums for
SteepleChase called Ballad Round The Left
Corner (SCCD 31132)”

And finally Mirjam’s Dada Dance which,
Pierre recalls, was a song he wrote for his
daughter. It was first recorded for SteepleChase
in March 1977 - long before the birth of the
N.J.O. - as part of the album “Real Tchicai”.
That date, incidentally, marked the first meeting
of Dørge with producer Nils Winther - the
beginning of a long and lasting friendship.
So after 30 years, 21 albums, scores of
scores (actually upward of 800), hundreds of
concerts, countries galore, tens of thousands
of miles, Pierre Dørge and New Jungle
Orchestra are still going strong; even stronger
than ever. A generation of music-making
continues to expand for the pleasure of a truly
global audience.
Mark Gardner
(Contributor to England’s Jazz Journal since