Emil De Waal

Vente (July 2nd, April Records)

Release: July 2nd 2021

A free-spirited and somehow nostalgic collection of songs, Vente is the sixth album from the long-running collaboration between drummer Emil de Waal, veteran clarinetist Elith “Nulle” Nykjær, multi-instrumentalist Gustaf  Ljunggren and hammond organist Dan Hemmer. 

The title – the Danish word for “wait – aptly describes the mellow, patient style of the album.  

De Waal’s warm drum sound underpins the woody clarinet, the gentle throb of the organ and carefully chosen colours from steel guitar, mandola, celeste, marimba and more….

Stylistically, the music runs a wide spectrum: at times reminiscent of trad jazz, with wailing clarinet; at others paying tribute to guitar-led country music before slipping into bubbling organ-led grooves.

The four musicians on Vente all bring very different musical backgrounds, yet it’s by no means a simple mix of these influences. They instead put their preconceptions aside and make music that feels ‘right’ in the moment. 

84-year old Elith “Nulle” Nykjær (clarinet) is something of a jazz legend in Denmark, with an illustrious career at Danish Radio and a tour history spanning Europe and North America. 

Drummer & bandleader Emil de Waal is perhaps best known today from his own electric-meets-African-jazz group Kalaha, but has also played with a who’s who of Danish rock, pop & jazz.

Gustaf Ljunggren (who rose to prominence as bandleader on the Danish talkshow ‘Det Nye Talkshow’) may have originally trained as a jazz saxophonist, but his mastery of a whole host of wind, strings & keys instrument marks him out as a true multi-instrumentalist.   

And finally, Dan Hemmer on organ. He’s built a reputation as a go-to Hammond specialist, first in duo with the late, great Danish cult figure Morten Lindberg (aka Master Fatman) and then, over the last decade, with others including Steve Gadd & Michael Blicher.

This free-spirited yet grooving approach to music, combined with the album’s delicate mixture of originals and unexpected covers, gives Vente a nostalgic, yet timeless, quality.

Vente album cover

Emil de Waal Drums and percussion 
Elith “Nulle” Nykjær Clarinet 
Dan Hemmer Organ
Gustaf Ljunggren Electric guitar, lap steel guitar, mandola, celeste, marimba, clarinet 

Label: April Records
Format: CD / LP
Catalogue No. APR087CD / APR087LP
EAN: 5709498108728 / 5709498108711

Peg o’ My Heart 4:18
First Song (For Ruth) 4:16
Ventemedister 3:53
Holgers vuggevise 4:15
Uffes tappenstreg 2:02
Wuhan Waltz 4:41
Music to Watch Girls By 5:44
Biblioteksvals 3:58
Such Sweet Thunder 6:51

Vente Liner Notes

Vente (The Danish word for “wait”) is the sixth album, and the latest result, of a long-running collaboration between drummer Emil de Waal, clarinetist Nulle and multi-musician Gustaf Ljunggren. Emil de Waal and Gustaf Ljunggren have been collaborating since 1998 and the collaboration between de Waal and Nulle has been running since the Copenhagen Jazz Festival in 2011. Since 2018, following a session at “Ingolfs Kaffebar” in Copenhagen, they have also been collaborating with hammond organist Dan Hemmer. The four musicians navigate effortlessly through all musical genres and this makes their music timeless.

Emil de Waal is the main man behind the project Vente. He has played drums with an impressive line-up of names in Danish rock, pop and jazz. With bands ranging from the ’80s fusion group Bagdad Dagblad to Old News, an ensemble that plays music from de Waal’s childhood in the ’70s and features a variety of talents, such as Nulle, Gustaf Ljunggren, Jacob Anderskov, Randi Laubek and Band Ane.

He is currently a member of the band Kalaha (a constellation which also includes de Waal’s long time collaborator Mikael Elkjær aka Spejderrobot), an ensemble known for mixing electronic music with elements of jazz and African music, who just released their fourth album in February, 2021 on April Records.

Emil de Waal has played within all genres of music and this is something that can be heard in all of the nine tracks on Vente.

“Emil to me is a musician who gives a whole lot of himself when he plays and creates music. He is fearless and playful and he has a strong desire to put life and energy into the music. His focus on where he is at stands very clear to anyone who works with him.”, says Gustaf Ljunggren. 

Elith “Nulle” Nykjær, who is 84 years old, is a living legend in Danish jazz. He started out as a self-taught musician at “Cap Horn” in Nyhavn in Copenhagen in the early ’60s and has since then, alongside a career as an actor, writer, musician and composer at DR (The Danish Broadcasting Corporation), played in numerous constellations.

Since the late ’80s, he has toured in both Europe and in the US with his ensemble, Nulle & Verdensorkestret (“Nulle & The World Orchestra”) and the repertoire of this very popular group has affected the repertoire on Vente.

Gustaf Ljunggren says that it is very life-affirming to play with Nulle; “His musicianship is characterised by an open mind, an unintimidated approach to music and a great warmth towards the people he plays with. Besides, he is a musician of action; something special happens when Nulle picks up the clarinet and blows life into the music. For many of us trained musicians it’s liberating that, even though he lacks a lot of the theory that we were taught in music school, it’s never hard for him to find his way into the core and the spirit of the music.” Emil de Waal adds: “Nulle and I first met each other at one of the legendary summer jazz gatherings at Brandbjerg Højskole in 1995. Besides the fact that Nulle is the sweetest man in the world, it also quickly became clear to me that he had a very distinctive sound on the clarinet and a remarkable openness when it comes to music.” 

Gustaf Ljunggren became a household name in Denmark when he was the bandleader, who played a variety of musical instruments, on the Danish talkshow ‘Det Nye Talkshow’ in the period 2009-2011.

He was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1974, but since 1996, he has been living in Copenhagen, where he has also studied to become a saxophone player at The Rhythmic Music Conservatory.

He has performed and recorded with a wide variety of artists – within many different musical genres – just to name a few: Robyn, Teitur, Caroline Henderson, C.V. Jørgensen, Thomas Helmig and Sebastian.

Gustaf Ljunggren, who is also a composer, is often referred to as a “multi-instrumentalist” and he masters both wind instruments, strings and keys. This ability of his has been a great asset in his collaboration with Emil de Waal, which has been running for more than 20 years already. 

Dan Hemmer already gained attention in the mid ’90s, as one half of the duo, Lindberg Hemmer Foundation, with the late, great entertainer and bass player Morten Lindberg aka Master Fatman. The duo put out two albums on April Records and could be experienced on and off until the death of Fatman in 2018.

Hemmer has played with virtually everyone, within all genres of music, but over the last decade or so, he and saxophonist Michael Blicher have been playing with none less than American funk master – drummer Steve Gadd. That trio has put out three albums. 

Six of the tracks on Vente are originals and three are jazz standards, the oldest example of this being…

Peg o’ My Heart, which was launched in a musical in 1913. Here it is presented in a very relaxed version and the track was chosen because the musicians wanted to play some straight swing with the rather unorthodox constellation of two clarinets, played by Nulle and  Gustaf Ljunggren. “Nulle has often asked me, when we are on our way to a gig: “Did you bring your clarinet?””, says Ljunggren. “Often I don’t have it with me, but I managed to remember to bring it to this session with Emil. And also as a reed player, it is wonderful to play with Nulle.”

First Song (for Ruth) is written by bass player Charlie Haden, but to many Danes, it will probably be best known in the beautiful recording, by Stan Getz and Kenny Barron, from “Jazzhus Montmartre” in Copenhagen in 1991. It’s one of Nulle’s favourite songs, but he hasn’t recorded it before.

Ventemedister (which roughly translates to “Waiting Sausage”) was written especially for the warm and organic organ sound of Dan Hemmer by Emil de Waal. It’s about stamina – endurance, both within a musical context and in general, in a time of Corona.

Holgers vuggevise (“Holger’s Lullaby”) originates from Nulle’s music for the Danish tv show ‘I sandhedens tjeneste’ (“Serving the Truth”), which he produced with Danish film and television personality Poul Nesgaard, and was broadcast in the mid ’80s. It was about EU and the new Europe. Holger was the Danish historical figure Holger Danske (“Ogier the Dane”) by the way.

Uffes tappenstreg (“Uffe’s Military Tattoo”) comes from the  same tv show, where word has it that Uffe was Danish politician Uffe Ellemann-Jensen. 

Wuhan Waltz is a waltz inspired by Chinese tone language. It was written by Gustaf Ljunggren, following a tour in China, where the group visited Wuhan. It should be noted that his was before the city became known for Covid-19. 

Music to Watch Girls By was made famous by both Bob Crewe and Andy Williams in the ’60s. “It has a lovely lightness to it, which is something we felt was missing on the album.”, says Emil de Waal.

Biblioteksvals (“Library Waltz”) “…should be played as quietly as if we were playing in a library reading room.”, says Gustaf Ljunggren. He has written this track as a waltz in a Nordic tone language.

Such Sweet Thunder – the last track on the album – is one of the great compositions by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. It was written for a performance at a Shakespeare festival in 1957 and was both the title track, and the opening track, of an LP that came out that same year. The version on this album was recorded live to a smartphone, which was lying on Dan Hemmer’s Leslie speaker at the first concert with this constellation of at “Ingolfs Kaffebar” in Copenhagen, during the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, 2018 – and it was right there that the desire to record an album with this specific ensemble sparkled. “To my ears, this recording has exactly that looseness and freshness, which emerges when the orchestra and audience enters a symbiotic state.”, says Emil de Waal.

When the music on Vente seems to have a timeless quality to it, then, according to Gustaf Ljunggren, it has to do with the fact that it was never meant to come out in any particular way or that it wasn’t predestined. It has to feel right for all of the four musicians. They all come from their individual musical backgrounds, bringing with them elements of their personal history. It’s all quite simple really – you should never be too conscious of traditions, form or style. All you have to do is just to play.

– Jens Jørn Gjedsted, 2021     

 

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