The Good Life

  • Christina von Bülow: altosax
  • Søren Kristiansen: piano
  • Jesper Lundgaard: bass
  • Eliot Zigmund: drums

(Switch to Danish version)

Many non-Scandinavians think that jazz sounds Scandinavian when it has a translucent and melodious, but slightly melancholy expression. Alto saxophonist Christina von Bülow’s playing owns all of these traits. But make no mistake: The music on THE GOOD LIFE is gifted, courageous and posessed by a powerful and clearly defined element of improvisation. This is what makes it jazz. This is universal music and Scandinavian only because three of the four musicians were born and raised in southern Scandinavia and carry Danish passports. One reason for playing down the Scandinavian aspect is that historically Danish jazz is more bebop-inspired than its Swedish and Norwegian counterparts, and these four musicians play jazz in the modern Danish tradition created from the 1960’s and onward through inspiration from the many American jazz musicians who settled in Denmark. The music on THE GOOD LFE comes from this inspiration, resting securely in the music coming out of the bebop period – while still challenging us. The players are historically aware, and because they are top-notch instrumentalists, they have the ability to focus maximally on making their own musical language flourish within the given ramifications.

It is true that Christina von Bülow’s sound is translucent, but her fearless melodic understanding also reveals that tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and alto saxophonist Lee Konitz have been her personal mentors and tutors. Pianist Søren Kristiansen never hides his different but equally solid roots in another American school of jazz founded by Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson, but he too adds his own advanced harmonic understanding to form a very personal expression. In the middle of it all we hear bassist Jesper Lundgaard with his rich, steady beat, his virtuosity and his solos, which – due to his impressive technique – take him to adventurous far-away corners rarely touched by most other internationally famed bassists. Finally, we find Eliot Zigmund at the drums. Not because he once was Bill Evans’ drummer, but because he can do something that many European drummers still find difficult: to play with intensity and insistence – and relaxed at the same time. At first, Zigmund’s playing seems discrete, but listen again, and you will discover how attentive and driving it is despite its apparent tranquility.

The six tracks on the this CD by the collective von Bülow – Kristiansen – Lundgaard – Zigmund were recorded live at Jazzhus Dexter in Odense during a tour in 2012 and all come from the standard repertoire, music that has inspired thousands of jazz musicians, and continues to lure new facets from the musicians that play it. And that’s the way it is here as well. It’s THE GOOD LIFE – and it’s the good music!

Christina von Bülow grew up with jazz – her father, Fritz von Bülow, was a well-known jazz guitarist. She studied at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen 1986-1990, and in 1990 she had the opportunity to take private lessons from Stan Getz in his home. He received her with great hospitality, and developed a mentor relationship with her. Another important musician in Christina’s life has been Lee Konitz, who taught and inspired her during his stays in Copenhagen, where the two of them performed, most recently in 2011. Christina retains the same passion for jazz as 30 years ago and never tires of playing standards or other good melodies. She has fronted her own groups for decades, and collaborated for years with tenor saxophonist Bernt Rosengren and trumpeter Jan Allen, both from Sweden, and with legendary pianist Horace Parlan and many others. She is the recipient of every Danish jazz award: the JASA Award (1994), the Ben Webster Award (2002), The Palæ Award (2009) and the Bent Jædig Award (2013). She has released several albums. Her Stunt releases include MY LITTLE BROWN BOOK (2007) with Horace Parlan and Jesper Lundgaard and a tribute to Lasse Gullin, SILHOUETTE from 2011.

Søren Kristiansen (b. 1962) was seven years old when he took his first piano lesson from the local church organist, and he has played professionally since 1985, when he swiftly gained a reputation as the new piano talent. Since then, he has established a fine career as a member of many bands and accompanist for visiting soloists including Art Farmer, Harry “Sweets” Edison, James Moody, Scott Hamilton and Putte Wickman, as well as upholding an extensive tour schedule. He has appeared on numerous recordings as a sideman and released three Stunt albums in his own name, VERY EARLY – VERY LATE (2000) with a trio, and two award-winning solo releases WITH A SONG IN MY HEART (2007) and UPON A STAR (2008).

Jesper Lundgaard (b.1954) began playing bass at the age of 16. He studied music at The University of Aarhus from 1976, and quickly became an attraction on the local scene, where he became the preferred accompanist for touring musicians from Denmark as well as from abroad: Dexter Gordon, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Joe Newman, Benny Waters, Hal Singer, Thad Jones, Pepper Adams, Howard McGhee, Roy Eldridge, Doug and Jimmy Raney – you name them. Lundgaard established himself as one of the country’s leading bassists – one of those they talked about internationally – and in 1978 he joined the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. Lundgaard moved to Copenhagen and continued on the same track. Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Jay McShann, Chet Baker, Dorothy Donegan, Phineas Newborn, Mose Allison, Stanley Turrentine and others joined the list of jazz greats to enjoy Lundgaard’s fine bass playing. He has been a member of the Danish Radio Big Band and plied his métier with dedication throughout the years. He is still an extremely popular sideman. He appears on hundreds of albums as a sideman – 40 on the SteepleChase label alone – as well as several in his own name.

Drummer Eliot Zigmund (b.1945) studied music at Mannes College of Music and at City College of New York. He moved to Los Angeles, and through the 1970’s he worked with Ron Mcclure, Steve Swallow, Art Lande, Mike Nock, Mel Martin and Vince Guaraldi. Back in New York he worked with Bill Evans 1975-1978, and during the same period he also worked with Eddie Gomez, Bennie Wallace, Richard Beirach, Jim Hall, Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Fred Hersch and Red Mitchell. In 1984 he joined Michel Petrucciani’s trio and since the late 1980’s he has led his own bands, taught, and worked session jobs with the likes of Neil Sedaka, Dionne Warwick and The Pointer Sisters. Naturally, he appears on numerous Bill Evans recordings.

[audio:goodlife.mp3|titles=The Good Life|artists=Bülow/Kristian/Lundgaard feat. Eliot Zigmund]
Christina von Bülow