Pierre Dørge often has a slightly impish smile when he talks about his music, a kind of gestural italics for observations like, “I don’t think in a guitar way,” which liberally pepper his conversation. At first, Dørge’s comments and mannerisms come across as second-language reductions of what presumably would be extensive explications of intent and purpose, and their resulting methods, if rendered in the Danish composer-guitarist’s native tongue. Yet, it soon becomes clear that nothing is being lost in translation, that the tenets of Dørge’s coloring-outside-the-lines creativity, and his good-humored subversion of Western art music hegemony, are well encapsulated by surrealist-tinged statements like, “I try not to use too much glue to make music.”
Instead, Dørge, the leader and principal composer of New Jungle Orchestra, uses large dollops of African and Asian musics, as well as early jazz styles, to create an exotically hued, rhythmically vibrant music that is surprisingly accessible. On their 14th recording, Giraf (Dacapo), Dørge and NJO tap indigenous sources ranging from percolating Gambian kora figures to wistful Danish melodies (“being Danish is an ethnic background,” Dørge recently suggested), along with jazz materials stretching from Ellingtonian jungle music to Ornette’s “Lonely Woman.” This minimally glued music would unravel in giddiness or become bogged down with world music pretensions in less adept hands. However, New Jungle Orchestra (which will perform in New York in late September and early October as part of the “Danish Wave” festival) has honed Dørge’s off-center conceptions for nearly twenty years; their unique ensemble cohesion and distinctive improvisational voices make Dørge’s music approachable without diluting its quirkiness.