Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Nicolai Gromin & Doug Raney - There’ll Never Be Another You (SUNDANCE MUSIC 2018)

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a pocket of inner Copenhagen around Teglgårdsstræde called Pisserenden (“The Piss Trench”) – that fanned the flames of what was reminiscent of the old Copenhagen. It was in these windows that the last of the “old-fashioned” ladies showed off what “goods” they had left to the passersby. It was a holy hood of evening establishments, among them “Pelikanen” (the Pelican), for those with a taste for a tavern-band; “Stable Bar” (now “Men’s Bar”) for the fellows who enjoyed the flavor of other fellows; and “Floss,” which opened its doors during the pre-punk period and still has a steady crew. With rockers and rollers cranking up the level of hipness by laying their heads in pretty much any available space alongside the collectives, artists, and original residents, it became something like a Copenhagen version of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. That was before the un-democratic property prices destroyed everything. The action literally never stopped: a morning bar owned by the legendary trombonist Papa Bue, where the virtuoso swing pianist Ole Dixon (another legend in his own right) would start a live set at 5am. The nights turned into days and became nights again. And then there was Teglkroen, with a street sign that simply read: “ØL = JAZZ” (“BEER = JAZZ”).

In the middle of it all was Sabine’s Cafeteria, a humble coffee shop, with rolls and cheese and fresh-brewed coffee, all day long. The proprietor sold it and spitefully transformed it into a “bar” with obvious inspiration from the south... and the city’s first tastes of tapas and Spanish brandy. But looking back, Sabine’s continued with respect for the neighborhood and, after a short period among the hippest spots of the city - flocked to by models, photographers, journalists, advertisers and what have you - became the social hub of all of Teglgårdsstræde. The staff was fond of jazz music and Sabine’s participated early on as a venue for the Copenhagen Jazz Festival with daily concerts. They put a focus on duo performances, with no admission fees. Owner Tim Christiansen insisted that Sabine’s was something of a living room for the clientele, and that no payment should be made. Instead, the live music was his annual gift to all the “tribes.” The great atmosphere and the consistently high quality of music are remembered by many with joy, but unfortunately the experiences only existed in memories… Or so we thought. Recently discovered in the estate of a dearly beloved and departed Danish jazz aficionado (and a member of the cycling team “Team Sabine’s”) was an breathtakingly brilliant duo recording with guitarists Doug Raney and Nicolai Gromin playing at Sabine’s Cafeteria. And the greatness of the concert the recording holds up to memory! Magnificent jazz, a totally relaxed game of two equilibrists, two jazz guitarists in full command of their instruments, both with an overview and great mutual respect for (and trust in) one another. Their shared, deep insight into and dissemination of the jazz guitar tradition is brilliantly presented on these tapes.

Both musicians, without superstar-status or gimmickytheatrics in their playing, became inspiring parts of the Copenhagen jazz environment. Doug Raney originated from New York and died in Copenhagen in May 2016, at 56 years old. Nicolai Gromin was born in Moscow in 1938, moved in parallel with Doug around the same time in 1978, where he died in February of 2017.

Doug’s musicality didn’t simply appear out of nowhere. His father was the trailblazing guitarist Jimmy Raney, and Doug chose not only the same instrument, but also the same direction as his father. He became a sought-after musician on stages both at home and abroad and recorded several wonderful albums for SteepleChase Records in his own name, with both Danish and international musicians, including the great Chet Baker. Nicolai Gromin’s career began in the 1950s, while studying economics at home in Moscow, where he became a key figure on the jazz scene and in 1962 became the first Russian jazz musician to perform outside Russia. In Denmark, he played with Thad Jones Eclipse, violinist Svend Asmussen, and bassist Jesper Lundgaard, with whom he released the duo recordings “Blues For Thad” and “Nostalgia.” He can also be heard with his own trio and quartet, on “Blue In Green,” released on Stunt Records. He was a sophisticated, delicate musician, with a warm singing tone. A quiet and humble person whose art deserves greater attention.

The tunes are typical, natural choices for both guitarists - melodic standards. They each brought their favorites, as well an original composition. Doug brought “Something’s Up,” which starts the set, and Nicolai, “Blues for Thad,” which closes it. It’s the feeling and atmosphere of the music, transporting us back to that afternoon in that room, that counts. Doug can be heard with his bright tone in the left channel and Gromin with his darker sound in the right. His sound is softer, stemming from the timbres of Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery, while Doug’s is based on the sound that his father created. A major summit between East and West took place in Pisserenden on July 6, 1993 - everything else is just rumors! Sabine’s Cafeteria is still there. The music is different, but otherwise, thanks to current owners Karl Johan and Mikkel, things haven’t changed that much. And on the walls, you can still enjoy Gorm Valentin’s original photos from the festival years.

1 Something’s Up  09:40
2 My Funny Valentine  10:12
3 There’ll Never Be Another You  07:33
4 Nardis  09:09
5 Ask Me Now  08:36
6 Cherokee  08:50
7 Estate  10:21
8 Blues For Thad  05:26

Nicolai Gromin (guitar)
Doug Raney (guitar)