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April 2008

Pierre Dørge & New Jungle Orchestra
Jazz Is Like a Banana
SteepleChase

Talk about your pan-cultural jazz. What isn’t in here? Pierre Dørge admits all sorts of influences and styles into the music of his New Jungle Orchestra, which formed in 1980 and now has 19 albums to its credit.

The aesthetic varies widely from tune to tune, and yet it all feels part of the greater whole. “Taranaki” paints Arabic tonalities on a canvas of Afro-Caribbean big-band swing. “Café Central” is what Duke Ellington’s band might sound like after too much caffeine, and if it had been fronted by a European electric guitarist. “Blue Mask” could come from an Asian avant-garde big band. “A Minor Disturbance to Mr. Nielsen” puts a modern-jazz spin on what sounds like a Balkan folk form, and incorporates variations of Carl Nielsen’s organ music. With a meaty horn line accented by the thick, pulsating trombone of Kenneth Agerholm, it seems like something Charles Mingus might have done if he’d taken an interest in Eastern Europe.

Dørge gives himself a few opportunities to display his chops, which he does with bluesy but clean lines on the celebratory title track (which takes its name from something Jean Paul Sartre once uttered to Charlie Parker). He turns ethereal against a backdrop of elegiac horns on “Great Grief.” It is Agerholm, however, who steals the show, what with his growling, burbling tone during the bombast of “By the Foot of the Mountain” and his quietly devilish exchange with bassist Thommy Andersson later in the same tune. Sartre’s immortal quote, “Jazz is like a banana—it has to be consumed on the spot,” may hold true in some instances, but this recording is a thing worth saving and savoring.

Originally published in April 2008
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