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Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen : The Unforgettable NHOP Trio Live

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Although he spent his entire adult life playing bass with a swath of the most acclaimed jazz musicians of his time, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen also grabbed what opportunities he could to step out as a bandleader. On this posthumous live recording, Pedersen, an unexpected victim of heart failure in 2005, fronts a trio featuring Ulf Wakenius on guitar and Jonas Johansen on drums. Divided equally between concert performances in 1999, and another just a month before Pedersen’s death, this posthumous tribute offers additional evidence that the bassist was playing at full strength in his final years.

Over a program that touches on standards, a bop warhorse, Scandinavian folk songs, a Bach adaptation and original material, Pedersen displays the flawless technique that earned him international acclaim and allowed him to successfully collaborate with such disparate jazz masters as Ben Webster, Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton and Oscar Peterson. Although the use of direct amplification on his instrument unfortunately renders NHOP’s formerly regal woody tone into a more uniform, less distinctive sonority, his impeccable intonation, speed and flawless control can’t help but sound impressive.

If Wakenius’ fusiony “Lines,” Parker’s “My Little Suede Shoes” and “You and the Night and the Music” demonstrate the trio’s unity, as well as each player’s high-stepping chops, less exhaustive pieces including “A Nightingale Sung in Barkley Square” and the two folk adaptations come off best. They allow the now-legendary leader to reveal the musical intelligence and taste that balanced and offset his immense technical gifts.