Monday, October 05, 2009


Danish jazz piano player and composer Thomas Clausen was born on October 5, 1949, and is inspired by both jazz and recent European composition, since the beginning of the 1980’s having become one of the important musicians in European jazz.

He is equally appreciated as a solo piano player, trio leader, and accompanist for leading American musicians. Further he has worked as a composer for large ensembles in a way that reveals Alban Berg as a main influence.”

Thomas grew up in a musical home. Both of his parents were teaching mathematics, however, his late father played a strong and able jazz piano in swing style, whereas his mother is out of a family of singers. “Like father - like son” - or as they say in Denmark: The apple does not fall far from the tree, so both Thomas and his brother Bent Clausen became musicians - Thomas as a piano player and composer, Bent as a vibraphonist and drummer, recently also music director of the Tom Waits/ Robert Wilson theater productions of “Woyzeck” and “The Black Rider”.

Thomas Clausen was very young when he began playing with great artists of jazz. His energetic, but lyrical piano playing was discovered by Dexter Gordon in 1969; at the same time Thomas began participating in Palle Mikkelborg’s projects and groups (the “Riel/Mikkelborg V8”, the “Entrance”, and the CD “Palle Mikkelborg’s Journey To…”), and soon Thomas began playing regularly with the bass players Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, Bo Stief, and Mads Vinding, and with the drummers Alex Riel, Bjarne Rostvold, and Kasper Winding.

Thomas accompanied a number of international jazz stars in the world renowned now gone “Jazzhus Montmartre” in Store Regnegade in Copenhagen: Ben Webster, Elvin Jones, Jan Garbarek, Joe Henderson, Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Eddie ”Lockjaw” Davis (as heard on the LP “Swingin’ Till The Girls Come Home”), Jackie Mclean and Gary Bartz (as heard on the LP “Ode To Super”), and Johnny Griffin (as heard on the CD “And The Great Danes”) - just to mention a few….

Thomas' wish to form his own band was fulfilled in 1978, when he started “Mirror”, a group that recorded the first LP with Thomas’ own compositions (“Mirror”/CBS/1979). Musicians: Jan zum Vohrde (sax/fl), Ole Skipper Moesgaard (b), and Aage Tanggaard (dr). Here the music had already taken a strongly melodic turn after Thomas' studies of modern compositional technique with composer Ib Noerholm at the Royal Danish Music Conservatorium.

In 1979 Thomas created his first jazz trio, with Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass and Aage Tanggaard on drums. The trio recorded two albums that were indeed positively received by both the press and the audience: “Rain” (1980) with mainly own compositions, and “The Shadow Of Bill Evans” (1983), which Baystate, Japanese record label, wanted to be a tribute to the recently deceased Bill Evans, so accordingly the LP contains a number of arrangements of tunes that are connected to Bill Evans - however, in more than one sense a kind of re-composition of the material.

In 1987 Thomas put together his second jazz trio with Mads Vinding (b) and Alex Riel (dr). In 1988 this trio recorded the CD/LP “She Touched Me” for the German label of MA Music. Here again mainly standard tunes in new disguise. The trio participated in the first Jazzpar Prize concerts (Copenhagen, Odense, and Paris) in 1990, joined by with Gary Burton. The collaboration with Burton lasted a couple of years and led to the recording of the CD’s : “Café Noir” (1990) and “Flowers & Trees” (1991), and a great Giant Jazz concert in The Circus Building during the Copenhagen Jazz Festival 1994. The basic trio recorded another CD in 1994: “Psalm”.

In the mid 90’s Thomas stroke out a new path when starting collaborating with Brazilian guitarist/ composer Celso Mendes, who introduced him to a number of Brazilian musicians living in Denmark and Germany. The first result of that can be heard on “Festa” (Olufsen, 1995). This was the beginning of a new era, leading to the “Thomas Clausen Brazilian Quartet”. By his side were his old friend Jan zum Vohrde, and the Brazilian musicians Fernando Demarco (b) and Afonso Corrêa (dr).So far the Thomas Clausen Brazilian Quartet has recorded 3 CD’s for Stunt Records:”Follow The Moon” (1998), originals + some Corrêa & Ivan Lins.“Prelude To A Kiss” (2000), originals + some Ellington and Tom Jobim.“Balacobaco” (2003), only originals, a mix of choros and classical inspiration. On Balacobaco the group is extended to an octet with Mikkel Nordsoe (guitar) and the Madame Claude Harp Trio (Pia Kaufmanas (flute), Ida Speyer Groen (viola), and Tine Rehling (harp). Ida Groen was later replaced by David Lasserson, London.

At the Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2004 the Thomas Clausen Brazilian Quintet had the pleasure of featuring the Brazilian flute and sax virtuoso Teco Cardoso. A new member Léa Freire (flutist, composer, arranger, and owner of Maritaca, one of Brazil’s most important labels) joined last year, and in spring and summer 2005 the “Brazilian Quintet” - now consisting of Thomas Clausen (p), Teco Cardoso (fl, sx), Léa Freire (fl), Fernando Demarco (b), Afonso Corrêa (dr, perc), toured extensively in Brazil and Europe.

The tour was so successful that the group did another just as successful tour in Europe in May this year, when in England joined by guitarist and composer Jonny Phillips, and the Brazilian Quintet had upcoming tours in November 2007 and again in 2008.

This quintet released a wonderful CD "Maritaca Quintet: Waterbikes", recorded in the Sun Studios, Copenhagen, June 2006. The music is compositions by Léa Freire, Thomas Clausen, and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Thomas Clausen Brazilian Quartet plays.

Reference - The National Danish Encyclopedia

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