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First-call Danish bassistby Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2005 Todd S. Jenkins
Danish bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, who began his professional career as a teenager and performed with many of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, died of a heart attack on April 19, 2005. He was 58 years old.
NHØP, as he was commonly known, originally studied the piano but moved to the bass at the age of fourteen, at which time he had already become a professional musician. The young man made such an impression on the jazz world that, at seventeen, he was invited by Count Basie to join his orchestra. Pedersen declined the offer, opting instead to work steadily at home. He began performing with the Danish Radio Orchestra shortly thereafter.
In the 1960s NHØP was the house bassist for the Café Montmartre in Copenhagen, where he backed the likes of Bud Powell, Dexter Gordon, Don Byas, Roland Kirk, Sonny Rollins, Kenny Dorham, Stuff Smith, Ben Webster and Bill Evans. The flexible bassist was equally at home in free jazz, partnering with Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton and John Tchicai, and supporting Albert Ayler on the saxophonist’s first issued recording, My Name is Albert Ayler.
Dexter Gordon employed the bassist throughout the 1970s, using the young man on his best post-comeback recordings. NHØP also found a frequent home base in the Oscar Peterson Trio. In 1975 Pedersen finally played with Count Basie at the Montreux Jazz Festival, where the bassist backed Dizzy Gillespie in the Big 7. Pedersen could be found practically everywhere at Montreux ’77. And, beginning with 1975’s Jaywalkin’, Pedersen led over two dozen record sessions, mostly for Steeplechase.
Pedersen’s combination of subtlety and propulsive force made him a marvelous rhythm partner, particularly in duo settings. Beginning in 1973, he worked in duo with pianist Kenny Drew. He also made duo albums with the likes of Philip Catherine, Nico Bunink, Palle Mikkelborg and Sam Jones. He was awarded the Nordisk Råds Musikpris in 1991 for a lifetime of excellence.
Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.