Zig Zag Zimfony

Recorded in January 2000
Released in January 2000
Stunt Records STUCD01022



Bent Stenbakken / Nordjydske Stifstidende (Danish)


  • 01
    Arab Klap
  • 02
    Once In A Blue Moon
  • 03
  • 04
    In Aquis
  • 05
    Zig Zag Zalza
  • 06
    Primus Amor
  • 07
    Ellingtonian Space Is The Place
  • 08
    Kwandu Wedding
  • 09
    Night In Klung Kung
  • 10
    The Hat Hut Hothouse
  • 11
    I Sama - Brikama



  • Anders Banke (tenor & soprano saxophone)
  • Peter Fuglesang (piccolo flute & clarinets)
  • John Ehde (cello)
  • Josefine Cronholm (voice)


By Neil Tesser
Author The PLAYBOY Guide To Jazz

I have trouble believing it, but the truth is this: in my dozen encounters with the New Jungle Orchestra, in Chicago (where I live) and in Copenhagen (where they live), I have never actually seen Pierre Dørge wearing a pith helmet. Yet in my mind's eye, I never see him without one.

The same paradox applies to the fair-haired Irene Becker, the scholarly-looking Morten Carlsen, the beaming friar Hugo Rasmussen in his bass embrace, and the rest of this band of serious musical pranksters. The pith helmet is a universal symbol for restless search and seasoned exploration - the perfect image to accompany the wild, wooly, effervescent hybrids these players bring back from their artistic safaris. (The fact that seeing a pith helmet almost always evokes a smile - after all, they do look pretty silly - makes it all the more appropriate for the New Jungle Orchestra, which counts wit among its musical virtues.)

There's certainly no doubting the sense of discovery and adventure that characterizes the NJO. It seems you just can't satisfy these geo-musical explorers. In the early 80s, they found vines and veldts, tigers and elephants, in the heart of Scandinavia: until Dørge started recording his music from "the Danish Jungle," the closest you'd come to such a contradictory concept would have been the tidy enclaves at the Copenhagen Zoo. Dørge used the music of West Africa, which he loved and later studied in the Gambia, as his inspiration. Then, by weaving in the music of his heroes (Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk), he created a sturdy lanyard that has supported a dozen albums, each of them more accomplished and colorful than the last.

But Dørge has also embraced other inspirations, layering them into a band whose core has remained relatively intact in its 20-year history. The combination of the NJO's stability and his own invention has allowed Dørge to expand the band's scope - and at the same time sharpen its focus. Thus, in 1997, following a successful tour of the People Republic of China, the NJO recorded China Jungle, and the infusion of Sinological influences (as well as the addition of guest soloists on Chinese instruments) unloosed a waterfall of newly energized music. Then came Giraf, which returned to Africa for its primary setting; but Dørge again stretched the music and challenged the band, finding common ground between the sounds of the Dark Continent and the music of New World giants from Coleman Hawkins to Sun Ra.

And now, on Zig Zag Zimfoni, the NJO goes gallivanting once more, this time to the Middle East, where Africa meets Asia, desert replaces jungle, and exotic melodies perfume the air. "Arab Klap" may start in the southern tip; but by the time Josefine Cronholm offers up her sirocco voice against the insistent beat, the NJO has transported us to one of a hundred bazaars in the lands east of the Red Sea. So too with "Bahrain": Dørge's guitar, which often captures the sound and attack of the African kora, here approximates the Middle Eastern oud in introducing a melody that would make Aladdin proud.

And if you don't hear the muezzins pray during the introduction of "In Aquis," you're just not listening.

Africa still provides the scrim against which the NJO arranges its new furnishings: listen to "Zig Zag Zalza" or "Kwandu Wedding" for a reminder of the band's evocative, irresistable roots. But if Dørge had strictly adhered to the original blueprint of the NJO, we'd still be listening to only the simplified big-band settings and loping high-life rhythms that characterized his first albums. Instead, he understands that the long-term success of his achievement depends on more than its initial creative vision; it also requires an adaptability to, even a hunger for, new influences. Zig Zag Zimfoni brims with evidence Dørge's ability to incorporate these influences while growing as a composer - his writing becomes more nuanced and evocative with each passing year - and of the band's ability to invest even Dørge's older music with new emotional depth. One of the world's great jazz bands has now produced perhaps its finest album to date.

And the more he explores musical exotica, the more Dørge embodies the spirit of his band's namesake - the Jungle Orchestra that Ellington led at the Cotton Club in the late 1920s. In that band, Ellington established himself as a master musician, popular entertainer, and a pioneer in the utilization of world-music rhythms, a tradition that Pierre Dørge has helped extend into the 21st century.

Of course, I never saw Ellington wear a pith helmet, either.


By Sundance Reccords

One the international scene Pierre Dørge's New Jungle Orchestra is one of the most well-reputed Danish orchestras, irrespective of genre. It has existed since 1980, and it now celebrates its 20-year anniversary with a new and sensational release on a new record label. The band has toured most of the world and recorded numerous records and cd, and for a three-year period it was the official Danish "State Ensemble".

This time the adventurous geo-musical explorers in the Jungle Orchestra have reached the Middle East, where Africa meets Asia and where desert takes the place of jungle, where exotic melodies perfume the air and unfamiliar grooves lay the foundation. New inspiration, new experiences have been transformed into the Jungle Orchestra's life-giving music. Africa is never far away, nor is jazz. Humour and infectious joy of playing are important ingredients, which are mixed well with both the unexpected and the familiar, anarchy, mysticism, madness and something quite indefinably Danish. Aladdin conjures up magical music from his lamp. ZIG ZAG ZIMFONI proves that after 20 years the Jungle Orchestra is still developing, without in any way losing its identity.

And this brings us to one of the secrets about the Jungle Orchestra. The band leader, guitarist and composer Pierre Dørge, has never rested on his laurels (and God knows there have been many), since he became interested in modern jazz early on in his career in the 1960s. But jazz music was not enough for him. His curiosity and interest in other cultures and musical genres turned him into a true cosmopolitan and into the highly individual musician and composer that we know today. And it seems that he can go on finding new ways to go. Elements from Europe, Asia, African and, of course, black American music blend happily and naturally in Dørge's flourishing universe. He has been playing jazz-rock, gathered impressions and inspiration from Bali, Balkan, Gambia and the Arab countries, and this can all be heard on the anniversary cd. Dørge is a true artist of the world, and his music is insistently extrovert and never strained. Pierre Dørge and New Jungle Orchestra have succeeded in being sophisticated and popular all at once, and live as well as on cd they are entertaining, challenging and engaging. A deeply original band which is able to play colours on a grey day.

Even after 20 years in the business the line-up is practically intact. The orchestra's 16th cd, ZIG ZAG ZIMFONI, is now available. One of the "greatest" jazz bands in the world has produced what may be its finest cd so far. Yet another exuberant and surprising work created by the jungle people.