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OK NOK…KONGO

OK NOK...KONGO


Behind this - strange, admittedly - band name you will find Thomas Agergaard, one of the most versatile and accomplished Danish tenor players of the younger generation. Thomas first and foremost plays an outstanding tenor sax, but in addition keeps making the headlines as a composer and arranger involved in numerous, innovative projects.

On this, his second album he is surrounded by a group of young fellows, each of whom have already been recognized as excellent jazz musicians in their own right. In addition, John Tchicai - the renowned Danish expatriate - is featured on two of the songs. Also, Tchicai contributed with two compositions -"Thrift Shopping" and "Sorry About That'. The music escapes "labelling" because of its layers and variety. Is it modern? - yes, absolutely! Avant-garde? - no, not really. So-called "serious" jazz? That depends on one's angle: "yes", in the sense that the music skilfully builds on a multitude of milestones and precedents in jazz, but "no" in terms of humour and immediate appeal. OK NOK ...KONGO is anything but boring!

-- Czas –

Moonstone Journey

Music of John Tchicai played by Ok Nok..Kongo

By Glenn Astarita

Longtime contributor to AAJ and Downbeat, Jazz Review, EjazzNews, Radio DirectX.

The highly revered saxophonist-composer John Tchicai has performed with larger than life jazz icons such as John Coltrane, Archie Shepp and was a member of the now legendary “New York Art Quartet”. Besides his long-standing influence on the avant-garde scene, Tchicai has been actively involved in the burgeoning Danish “modern jazz” scene. Spirited contributions to Pierre Dorge’s New Jungle Orchestra on this years “Giraf” cd (see AAJ July ’99 review) and other stouthearted engagements have proven noteworthy as Mr. Tchicai himself is of Congolese-Danish origin. On Moonstone Journey “music by John Tchicai played by Ok Nok….Kongo” (an anagram) features the master along with some of the most exciting Danish jazz musicians on today’s scene. The results are profoundly rewarding!

The title track, “Moonstone Journey” features a bouncy, borderline bop-ish motif, enhanced by Nils Davidsen’s killer walking bass line which emphasizes the hard-edged meter and clever horn arrangement. Tchicai’s soprano sax along with the extremely talented multi-woodwind man, Thomas Agergaard chair the lead solo duties as “A Chaos With Some Kind of Order” steadily evolves over a hybrid African-Latin beat. Here, the twin saxophonists seem comfortable trading often glistening, majestic choruses. On “Spirals Of Ruby” , the horn section speaks volumes and authoritatively over a heavy funk-rock beat; hence a multi-layered and quite captivating arrangement.

The confidence and originality of this band serve Mr. Tchicai’s compositions well as “Climbing The Mountain” commences with Mads Hyhne’s explosive trombone solo…This piece takes off into “hard swing” territory, accentuated by Tchicai’s intense blowing yet keenly intelligent phrasing on tenor. Again, Nils Davidsen provides the booming bass along with the crisp drumming of Martin Andersen. “Hypothesis” is slightly chamberesque, with nods to free jazz, ultimately evolving into a melodic swing romp. On this piece, clarinetist Peter Fuglsang performs articulately, augmented by brief yet poignant choruses from the horn section acting as catalysts. Again, Tchicai’s high-octane tenor sax soloing is a sheer delight while at times counter balancing the tight as a drum horn charts. Soft textural arrangements on “At The Lotus Lake” and upbeat, odd-metered funk close out this recording on “Monk Me”

This octet does not reinvent modern jazz yet communicates a distinctively appealing yet stylized demeanor, which works wonders. Danish Jazz is on the move once again and for those of you in the New York City area this September, be sure to catch the Danish Jazz festival at various locations in or around the City. It should be well worth your time! * * * * ½

Personnel:

Thomas Agergaard; Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax, Flute: Martin Andersen; Drums: Niclas Knudsen; Guitar: Kasper Tranberg; Cornet: Nils Davidsen; Bass: Mads Hyhne; Trombone: Peter Fuglsang; Alto Sax, Clarinet: John Tchicai; Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax.

OK NOK ... KONGO + 3 JOKERS
PLAYS THOMAS AGERGAARD & JOHN TCHICAI
Det swinger, det ruller, det gynger, og det synger, det er
vild lyrik og klar dynamit, det er, skal vi kalde det neo-
bebop eller hvad? Det er frem for alt tenorsaxofonisten,
komponisten, arrangøren og tusindkunstneren Thomas
Agergaard og mindst 12 af de folk, han regelmæssigt
omgiver sig med. Det vil sige OK NOK er grundstammen,
og tryller du lidt med bogstaverne og bytter det ene k ud
med et g, får du KONGO som en hilsen til landet, John
Tchicai, også tenor-saxofonist og medvirkende på den
nye Storyville-cd, delvis stammer fra. Og hvordan så
mange kan reducere sig selv til tredje person ental
(plays), må du nok spørge om. Forgæves, så glem det.
Musikken indeni er smukt organiseret kaos, idel vellyd.
Agergaard siger for resten, at Kongo også betyder
smeltedigel, og at det jo passer meget godt, fordi hele
foretagendet gerne må have karakter af ophedet
workshop.
Men for nu at bringe lidt orden i det ydre også, så er OK
NOK Agergaards faste ensemble Peter Fuglsang (as, cl),
Mads Hyhne (tb), Kasper Tranberg (tp), Niclas Knudsen
(g), Nils Davidsen (b), og Martin Andersen (dm). I alt har
gruppen plads til ni, flere må man ikke være, når man
skal have officiel turnéstøtte. Jokerne er ad hoc musiker-
gæster. Af dem vil der i fremtiden kun være to, og hér
er der faktisk mere end tre, nemlig Tchicai og hans faste
trommeslager Mark Oi, den svenske trompetist Staffan
Svensson og pianistinden (og Tchicais kone) Magriet
Naber fra Holland. OK NOK stiftedes i 96 og skal i juni
være med ved en blandet dansk festival på Champs
Elysées og i hele juli på ny forenes med Tchicai. Tidligere
i år var OK NOK grundstammen i Agergaards og tekno-
programmøren Morten Remmers helt særegne forestilling
på Amager Scenen, „Inuit Barok Chock“,hvor rapperen Al
Agami og operasangerinden Sasse Flodgaard lagde deres
talenter til Agergaard-kompositionen Diving. Tre
grønlandske sangere var også med..


Netop Diving er fra Storyville-cd’en og har her Tranberg
og Thomas selv som solister. Agergaard har skrevet og
produceret det meste af den mestendels instrumentale
plade: 0th Street; Duo for en hund; Dancing On One
Leg, etc. Tchicai har leveret et par numre, Thrift
Shopping og Sorry About That, som Ole Matthiessen
producerede for Danmarks Radio. Næsten alle kommer til
orde med soloer, og Svensson og Tranberg ytrer sig
desuden vokalt. Bidder af børnesang fra et gammelt bånd
forekommer også, de medvirkende er for længst voksne,
en af dem er designeren Maja Ravn. Cd-omslagets
design står Thomas’ lillebror Morten for, doodle-
tegningen er Thomas’ egen. Brødrene, nu henholdsvis 31
og 35 år, har stået mere eller mindre på egne ben, siden
deres mor blev syg og deres far, Politiken-tegneren Knud
Agergaard, døde.
Thomas var bare 11, og i skolen klarede han den lige
akkurat gennem 10. klasse. Han havde altid ønsket sig
en saxofon, men måtte i starten nøjes med en tværfløjte.
Aske Bentzon hjalp ham i gang, og Thomas og pianisten
Asger Siiger kom i Zahles Skoles Jazz Band. Store
indflydelser herhjemme - og lejlighedsvise samspillere -
blev Jan zum Vorde og Thomas Blachman; de store
amerikanske inspirationer var Miles Davis, John Coltrane
og Charles Mingus. Thomas stod under Kulturby 96 for
Ring Free, Seconds Out-arrangementet med boksning og
jazz kombineret à la Jazz & Poetry. Han skrev det meste
af materialet til Embla-ensemblets Olafsson-cd
Contemporary New Danish Jazz, men har faktisk kun
indspillet én cd under eget navn, Rounds, også for
Olafsson. De andre i The Thomas Agergaard Quartet var
Thomas Blachman, Lennart Ginman og Carsten Dahl.
J. R. Keith Keller

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