This 1992 set showcases the work of the Danish pianist/composer Jørgen Emborg with a quintet including his specially invited guest, the American bass-guitarist Steve Swallow. The leader (born in Frederiksberg on March 29 1953) had already packed a lot of musical experience into his career. Bursting upon the scene as early as 1975 at the famous Dunkerque Jazz Festival, he had become a permanent member of the Danish Radio Big Band, alongside working with such varied visiting artists as Eddie Harris, Red Rodney and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Now described as probably the most important composer of contemporary Danish jazz, he created two significant albums incorporating vocalist Mona Larsen (Ships In The Night and Face The Music) and Moonsongs with Susanne Palbol in 2005.
The career of Steve Swallow (born October 4 1940) has been equally broad-based. Taking up the bass only at the age of 18 after studying piano and trumpet, he soon joined Paul Bley and, with Bley, the free-jazz edition of the Jimmy Giuffre trio; at the other end of the stylistic spectrum, he played later in the 1960s for Art Farmer, Gary Burton and, with Burton, the Stan Getz quartet. An early champion of the writing of Carla Bley, he became her sideman (and eventually her partner) while also developing his own skills as a composer; later, he also became a successful free-lance producer, working on albums by John Scofield, for instance.
Most significantly, beginning in the 1960s, he has taken the bass-guitar from being an instrument only accepted in rock or fusion contexts to one which, through his mobile lines and veiled, singing tone, has helped to set the standard for bass playing in even acoustic jazz groups. Interestingly, Swallow’s acceptance of the JAZZPAR invitation to appear as the guest of Jørgen Emborg was, as it turned out, chronologically linked in with another guest appearance he made on a recording project by the great Danish bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. And it’s appropriate here to mention the inclusion in Emborg’s group of drummer Alex Riel who, although he had previously collaborated with Emborg, first became widely known as NHØP’s colleague in the house rhythm section of Copenhagen’s Montmartre Club in the 1960s. Riel had preceded Emborg in being selected as one of the JAZZPAR featured artists in 1990, as had the young saxophonist Fredrik Lundin who, as composer, contributed one of the works for Lee Konitz’s performance with the JAZZPAR Nonet, also recorded as part of JAZZPAR’s 1992 celebrations.
The history of the JAZZPAR AWARDS constitutes, in retrospect, a significant development in the recognition of jazz by international arbiters of taste, and by distributors of monetary recognition. Set up by the Danish Jazz Center and sponsored by Skandinavisk Tobakskompagni, it was the first award in the jazz field to offer an international nominee not only the exposure of a concert series, but the donation of a statuette and a significant cash prize (amounting to 200,000 Danish kroner). Between 1990 and 2004, the award was made to several American performers but also, reflecting the history of the music itself, to six Europeans (Tony Coe, Django Bates, Martial Solal, Marilyn Mazur, Enrico Rava and Aldo Romano).