Around the World: Denmark’s Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen

18 Apr

Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen/Kenny Drew album: Duo 2

Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen/Kenny Drew album: Duo 2, released in 1976

Bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen might have the longest name in jazz — try fitting that on the back of a jersey — and was often referred to as NHOP, not to be confused with IHOP.

Born in 1946, Pedersen started on piano but found success and fame on the bass, so much so that the great pianist Oscar Peterson invited him to tour with his group. Pedersen declined, preferring his life in Denmark. And though he played with all of the great American jazz players when they came to Europe or when he traveled to America  — Bud Powell, Peterson, Roland Kirk, Dexter Gordon, and countless more — he played with no one more often than pianist Kenny Drew. After Drew died in 1993, Pedersen released the album Friends Forever: In Memory of Kenny Drew.

From the liner notes of the 1976 album Duo 2, which Pedersen crafted with Drew: “(Pedersen’s) reputation spread over the continent and soon he was a very busy musician considered the best bassist that Europe could offer, a natural bass talent widely acclaimed by visiting Americans for his beautiful sound and strong rhythmic concept.”

Peterson on Pedersen: “Niels didn’t play the bass. Niels was the bass . . . He had it all. He had harmonic sense, he certainly had rhythmic sense, he certainly has solo capacity within him, he could play almost anything . . .”

Pedersen died of a heart attack on April 19, 2005. He was 58.

Performing the Milt Jackson number Bluesology, with Drew, below:

Next Monday: Norway

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