The first "Golden Age" of Danish jazz was in the 1930s and 1940s. The dominant figures in the era were the pianist Leo Mathisen and the violinist Svend Asmussen. And among the modernists in the 1950s there were players such as Max Brüel, Jörgen Ryg and Erik Moseholm.
But it is the 1960s that counts as the heydays in Danish jazz. It began when Jazzhus Montmartre opened in Copenhagen early in the decade. It was a place modelled on the jazz clubs in New York and Paris and it had a great inspiring effect on the Danish jazz life.
Not least the young Danish musicians were inspired by all the Americans who settled in Copenhagen and played at Montmartre. It was great jazz musicians such as Stan Getz, Oscar Pettiford, Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon and Kenny Drew among others.
Interior detail Jazzhus Montmartre
Besides Svend Asmussen, who made his mark on the international scene early on, a number of other Danish jazz musicians have also attracted international attention over the years. During the 1960s, saxophonist John Tchicai was a part of the avant-garde scene in New York. In the 70's Palle Mikkelborg collaborated with Miles Davis, who in turn discovered the Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazur, and hired her for his band. Niles-Henning Örsted Pedersen was in many years one of the most influential bassist in the world.
DANISH DEBUT was launched in 1957 by Ole Vestergaard. He had a book shop in the little Danish town Brande, and was keeping the American Debut catalogue alive, at a time when the label was about to falter.
Many of Debut´s American recordings were reissued by Vestergaard, mostly with new covers and sometimes in an unexpected way, like the Jimmy Knepper quintet recording in New York 1957. It was ment to be a regular LP album in the USA but was never released. Instead, the first issue is the Danish Debut DL-101, a rare 7" LP (or 33 rpm EP).
Vestgaard´s first production of his own was a trio session with Oscar Pettiford. It was followed with more recordings by Americans in Europe and by young Danish musicians such as Bent Axen, Bent Jaedig and Allan Botschinsky among others.
Later on, the Danish Debut continued with an avantgarde-policy for some years. Recordings, made in Copenhagen, with Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor and others gave the label legendary fame.
SONET was a Swedish-Danish collaboration launched in mid 1950s. The founder was Anders Dyrup in Copenhagen and the two Swedes Sven Lindholm and Gunnar Bergstr鰉.
Soon included was also Karl Emil Knudsen, who brought his Danish jazz label Storyville into the new record family, as well as Dan Haeggqvist whose contribution was the Swedish label Gazell.
In the 1950s and the early 1960s Sonet´s Danish recording activity centered on traditional jazz and blues, issued on the Storyville label. The first great blues singer to arrive in Copenhagen was Big Bill Broonzy in 1956. Many recording sessions followed with Champion Jack Dupree, Lonnie Johnson, Speckled Red, Memphis Slim, Sonny Boy Williamson and many others.
These Storyville blues recordings made it also economically possible to record modern jazz, originally issued on Sonet and later reissued on Storyville. Among the artists were Bud Powell and Archie Shepp, but also Scandinavian musicians such as RoIf Billberg, Bernt Rosengren, Max Br黣l and J鰎gen Ryg.
Besides their own recordings, Sonet also reissued jazz from many sources. This includes the series of American Music recordings (Bunk Johnson, George Lewis, et all) on the Storyville label, and many modern jazz EPs on the Sonet label from other small American labels. They are of interest, not least because of their often unique original covers.
StepleChase was founded in Copenhagen in 1972 by Nils Winther. The label took over the tradition from Debut and recorded Americans, living or visiting Copenhagen.
Nils Winther was a student when he started to record live performances at Montmartre. When Jackie McLean heard a tape from a set, he encouraged the young enthusiast to make a record. Winter used his grant for university studies, and pressed 500 LPs of Jackie McLean´s Live at Montmartre. The SteepleChase Records was born.
SteepleChace continued to issue LPs by Kenny Drew, Johnny Griffin, Ben Webster, Duke Jordan and many others. Dexter Gordon led his first recording date for the label in 1974 (The Apartment), and over the next few years, he would release over a dozen albums. Today the catalogue contains more than 400 albums.