God Bless the Child
It’s a kick to discover that there are balls-to-the-wall tenor saxophone players like Bob Rockwell raising hell in places like Copenhagen, Denmark.
There was a time, of course, when Copenhagen was very much on jazz radar screens. Major American expatriates lived there (Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster, Kenny Drew) and many great albums were recorded at a legendary club called the Jazzhus Montmartre. But the Jazzhus closed in 1976. Now, when an American player like Bob Rockwell emigrates to Denmark (where he has lived since 1983), he effectively drops off the edge of the earth.
Rockwell is simply one of the heaviest current players in his genre anywhere. His language is hard-bop tenor (think Dexter Gordon, Stanley Turrentine, Junior Cook). Rockwell’s passion makes “I Love Paris” into a war cry. His aggressive, confrontational bluster turns “St. James Infirmary” very nasty. His sound can also purify itself when the occasion calls for it, like on the drawn-out clarion announcements of “Love for Sale,” or the plaintive calls of “Cry Me a River.”
Carsten Dahl is one of Denmark’s premier pianists. You would never know that on albums like Moon Water he has shown an interest in freer forms, because here he is locked down hard into Rockwell’s sweaty working-class world.