Negra Tigra

By Donald Elfman from All About Jazz
May 2006

Tigra Negra, Pierre Dorge and the New Jungle Orchestra, Ilk Music, 2007

Pierre Dørge has what seems like a magical ability - he can re-imagine and rethink the way that music is voiced thus creating entire new worlds out of worlds we think we know. He can take an Ellington standard or the "soundtrack" from an imaginary film or an organ tune from Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) and present each with riotously funny squawking, chanting, singing and dancing but with an expansive and inclusive respect.

Negra Tigra uses as its centerpiece the early jazz tune "Tiger Rag". Here called "Negra Tigra", it appears in five miniature segments (and one even more abbreviated 13-second interlude) introduced with a kind of "Salt Peanuts" line and then as fully structured cacophony with mad horns pushed frantically ahead by drums and percussion (Martin Anderson and Ayi Solomon respectively). These "tigras" frame and present the musics of the world as tantalizingly colored through the unique prism of composer Dørge. The theatrics come across aurally but so do the imaginative skills of all concerned. This is music of the East but not cutely jazzified. It’s poignant and expressive in its blend of the familiar and the exotic. Dørge is a fine guitarist but that instrument is used as yet another in a vast palette. And speaking of colors, note must be made of Morten Carlsen on the taragot, a Hungarian reed instrument related to the saxophone and clarinet. (The current one is actually an update of an ancient instrument of Turkish, Hungarian and Romanian roots.) Its difference from those instruments gives it a special role in the way that Dørge, Carlsen, the other players and guest trumpeter Herb Robertson hear the music of their world.

On each tune here, the band is allowed to find its way into the Eastern colors and just when that has been accomplished with an extended groove that features one or another of these players - the band jumps back to the chaotic rag of the tiger. The end result is a rich and heady mix that feels like a mysterious yet always engaging journey.

And boy - that’s what the band in concert is like. To a small yet enthralled audience at Joe’s Pub last month, the horn players of the band started to play from places in the audience. It felt like music for a new church and, not surprisingly, the music turned out to be organ music from Carl Nielsen. The horn lines and even the colorful effects of trombonist Kenneth Agerholm bounced around, defying one to seek their source. The procession to the stage - where Dørge, keyboardist Irene Becker, drummer Martin Anderson and percussionist Solomon awaited them and offered them support - was mock solemn yet the music always seemed vital and never novel for its own sake.

"Dukish Mingus" found the band reworking the evolution from Duke to Mingus and back to Duke as transmogrified through the new ensemble passages written and arranged by Dørge. The individual horn men - Kaspar Tranberg, Agerholm, etc. - as well as bassist Thommy Anderrson - were allowed and encouraged to shine even as they were beautifully into the sound of the whole - that remarkable old/new mix of the music of the masters.

As on the album, the music in concert presents a new and engaging way of hearing world influences as well as the jazz roots. Dørge introduced "Munzun Mun" by saying that they had decided to come up with a new "Bollywood" film after seeing Monsoon Wedding. Agerholm was presented as the hero and two of the trumpeters as "Ravi and Ravi". The "new" film music featured a chase scene with Morten Carlsen riding his taragot Vespa, an imaginary gangster somewhere offstage, the effects of "holy cows" and much more. And during the course of the hour and ten minute set was another song by Nielsen, a South African style chant, "Jubee", a portrait of "Sun Ra Saluting Mars" and more that left the audience wanting more. Though all the players contributed mightily and in individual ways , what shone through was their total musicality and their part in a most magnificent musical whole