Reptiles

recordings, releases, press kit, videos, scores

Reptiles in the Sky

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In May 2010 I released my first CD since the 1997 CD ’Aisha – a meeting between Moroccan and western music.’ ’Reptiles’ presents 9 original compositions and 2 collective improvisations by the band. The line-up of 5 brass instruments plus a trio of saxophone, bass and drums is unusual; we have to go back to Miles Davis’ ’Birth of the Cool’ (recorded 1950) to find a somewhat similar instrumentation. Danstrup’s music is characterized by tight arrangements with an intriguing balance of traditional jazz and contemporary dissonance.  Reptiles flips back to the roots: Blind Lemon Jefferson, Duke Ellington, traditional gospel, and forward to a contemporary, colorful and freely improvised expression. The absence of chordal instruments leads to strong, free-wheeling solos from the horns. Whilst the English composer Django Bates produced ’Reptiles’ and has left his mark on the arrangements, it is Danstrup’s contemporary trad concept that gives the whole album its unique flavour. Danish saxophone player John Tchicai is the main soloist and unleashes his personal, expressive and unpredictable playing throughout. The band consists of Danish, British, Norwegian and Swedish musicians and will perform for the first time at Copenhagen Jazz festival in July 2010.

Beautiful Untrue Things

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In May 2012 I released the follow-up to the 2010 CD Reptiles in the Sky, applauded by the critics as well as The Danish Art Council.

Beautiful Untrue Things presents 13 tracks, 10 original compositions and arrangements by Peter Danstrup and 3 collective improvisations by his band. The line-up is as usual characterized by its powerful brass section, up to 6 players, this time also featuring a clarinet and a flugelhorn. Still a unique concept in modern jazz the potential of the line-up is deeply researched.

Behind the music (and the titles)

The recording:

‘Beautiful Untrue Things’ (BUT) was recorded in 2 days in July 2011, the day after a gig in Copenhagen during the Jazz Festival. Up to that, I had been working in the music and its arrangements intensively so that everything would work out fine in the studio and on stage. I brought 10 original compositions and arrangements.

The line-up was changed a little: Anders Provis was new on the drums, replacing Stefan Pasborg, and Anders Banke was added to the horn section. Banke is a versatile and multitalented musician, playing baritone horn, clarinet and additional saxophone on the record. He also was a great help when music sheets were created in Sibelius and he was the Musical Director during both the concert and the recording.

The recording was done in the new, brilliant recording studio in Copenhagen, ‘The Village‘, run by Thomas Vang, who also did the studio work on the first Reptiles CD: ‘Reptiles in the Sky‘.

The session was in some ways dramatic and impassioned. Both John Tchicai and Claus Højensgård felt ill during the recordings. Recording all this music in such a short time was a challenge for us all. On top of that the weather was warm and humid – the recording took place only a few days after the worst rain/flood in Copenhagen in decades.

Beautiful Untrue Things

The title of the album is inspired by the Irish writer Oscar Wilde. In 1889 he wrote ‘The decay of Lying: a dialogue’ and it has inspired me to use a quote from this work: ‘Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art‘.  Wilde is known from his theatre plays, essays and epigrams. Another quote from the dialogue is: ‘Life and Nature may sometimes be used as part of Art’s rough material, but before they are of any real service to art they must be translated into artistic conventions. The moment Art surrenders its imaginative medium it surrenders everything.’  and ‘The imagination is essentially creative, and always seeks for a new form.‘ and ‘Life imitates art far more than Art imitates life‘. The making of an album, especially on conditions like these, might make you think that the music is pure, a true replication of what actually happened. It is not…

The titles

Naming the compositions when you do instrumentals is a challenge to me. Here are some of the backgrounds for the sometimes more mysterious titles.

Varan Varan

BUT is a follow-up to ‘Reptiles in the Sky’. Making a ‘number 2’ made me think of a certain phenomenon known from science when you give animals and plants names and classificates them. I have noticed that some animals is given a double name, as if the repetition of the Latin name indicates the basic origin. I don’t know the correct etymology for this, but there are other examples: Lynx Lynx, – but not the lizard, which is called a Varan in Danish. So Varan Varan is the making of a second reptile record…

Mumble Dry

Is a distortion of Tumble Dry.

Basking

Is related to reptiles, and humans as well, exposing themselves to warmth and light of the sun. In Danish there is also a wordplay on basking=jabbing, poking – and then bass king, of course…

Sketches of the Sun

This is a group improvisation, and it came out somewhat Spanish sounding, reminding me of the extreme heat and merciless sun I have experienced there.

Before-Abes

The title is a quote from Mezz Mezzrows ‘Really the Blues‘ (by the way called a ‘fine, but untrustworthy novel’) in which he calls dull, monotonous slave labor-like work for Before-Abes, referring to the times before Abraham Lincoln.

The Can Can

Well, you guessed it… This piece is inspired more by the great French composer George Delerue than Offenbach, who made the most famous of all Can Can’s. Listen to Delerue’s ‘Générique‘ from the sound track from the movie ‘Jules et Jim

Edvard

The piece is named after Thomas Vang’s son Edvard, who was present during the recording, and expressed great enthusiasm for this improvised music by rocking and dancing. He had not learned to speak at the time.

And other animals

I ran out of titles commenting on reptiles and wild animals. The title fits the melody line.

The Lemvy Enigma

This referres to the fact that a large number of remarkable talented musicians on the Danish jazz scene comes from the tiny remote city of Lemvig. This is indeed enigmatic, but shows what a dedicated music teacher can do with young talents. Lemvig is pronounced Lemvy in Dansih – more or less.

Stoner

Celebrating the influence of drugs in art…

Hair-something

Please don’t ask. It has something to do with what hair does to your appearance, especially in the morning.

Bad fish

Relates to the fatal lunch we had during the recording session. Maybe it was the bad fish? And then again the animalistic influence on the band popped up again

Unbooted

Again a quote from Mezzrow. He uses the word as synonymous with foolishness.