Sunday, 19 September 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen

Another week has passed, another show is due and I have a show for you with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen or as he was known,  ‘The Great Dane with the never-ending name’, or more simply as ‘NHØP’.  Whichever name we use what remains unchanged was his genius on the double bass.  Sadly I say “WAS his genius” because he died suddenly in 2005.

Before you listen, grab a coffee – a big coffee, find a comfy seat and sit down.  Now we’re ready for genius.


A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square
                                                                      with Ulf Wakenius

As I listen with eyes closed I am moved to a wonderful place.  To think I used to disown jazz!


I hadn’t heard of NHOP until June when I was preparing for the show on Oscar Peterson but having heard his music I was won over.  Clearly his talent was recognised early.  According to Wikipedia, NHOP started to play professionally in his early teens and by 17 he had been invited to join the Count Basie orchestra, an offer he turned down because he was too young to live and work in the USA as a musician. 


For the second track we pair Niels with a legendary guitarist.

Move                                                                    with Joe Pass

OMG!  Scintillating!


When Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson’s regular bassist, left to live in California it was to NHOP that Oscar turned.  Unfortunately for him Niels wouldn’t leave Denmark although he did join Oscar on European dates.


Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen died suddenly in April 2005.  Below is a short tribute from Hank Jones.

Much praise in just a few seconds.


Next up is a traditional Danish tune with pianist Kenny Drew with whom Niels recorded more than 50 albums.

Det var en lørdag aften                           with Kenny Drew

I have nothing fresh to say!


Another biography said this,

“He was a bass virtuoso, who made his unwieldy instrument sound almost impossibly agile. Like a finger-style guitarist, he could pluck the heavy strings with all four fingers of his right hand, where most bassists relied on repeated leverage from one finger, or two at the most.

The turn of speed this gave NHOP allowed jazz's classic “walking bassline” to be played at the most frenetic tempos, and over sustained periods behind soloists.”


HNOP shows his skill in this next piece – a 6 minute solo.

Samba Petit



Because of the speed at which he could play …..

“….Orsted Pedersen was thus able to hold down one of the most demanding jobs in mainstream jazz, as regular bassist to Oscar Peterson, one of the fastest pianists in the business. This was a tough enough task even with other musicians around to help spread the load, but NHOP often kept Peterson company in that most unforgiving of improvising situations, the drummerless duo.

When he took over the job with Peterson, his predecessor Ray Brown observed that the newcomer was the only bassist he could think of who would be quick enough to keep up with Peterson.”

If you want to hear Pedersen playing with Peterson then have a listen to my Oscar feature.



Bye Bye Blackbird                               with Chris McBride

Here Niels-Henning teams up with another brilliant bassist.

I realise that this music may not be to everyone’s taste but for me this is magical.


We continue with a very young NHOP – 19 or 20 - playing with Bill Evans of whom I had never heard.

Beautiful Love   
             with Bill Evans(piano) and Alan Dawson (drums)

Brilliant even then.


Oscar Peterson pays a very fulsome tribute.


We’re coming towards the end of the show now – just two more tracks and both with Kenny Drew.

Oleo   - w Kenny Drew (piano) and Alvin Queen (drums)

I’m sorry that I’m reduced to single words.  Fabulous.


When I decided that Niels would be the star of this show I knew that there was only one track with which to finish: this was the Music in the Morning track of about 10 days ago.

I Skovens dybe stille ro                           with Kenny Drew

This is another gorgeous old Danish tune.

What a way to say goodbye to the fabulous Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen.


As last week there is the sadness that a star has died much too early.  Fortunately, with YouTube, his virtuosity lives on.

I hope you enjoyed the music of NHOP and I look forward to having you with me next week.


  1. James, I hope this question means, "Where do you find these excellent artists?" as opposed to "Where on earth do you find these crap artists?"

    I'll assume it's the first.

    A few I've known for ages but Niels I found when I was listening to vids for Oscar Peterson's show and I read some of the comments on the videos. NHOP was mentioned as being a remarkable bassist.

    I guess I keep my eyes and ears open.

    I have lots of private playlists on YouTube where I save videos and artists for possible future use.

  2. Claude, You're most welcome!

    Without my listeners I wouldn't have had the discipline to discover so much fabulous music.

  3. And I would miss so much. The "Bye Bye Black Bird", among others...

  4. I always used to dismiss Jazz too, I think it is something you grow into.

    Now it is one of my favourite types of music.

  5. I saw Niels years ago in NYC playing with Oscar Peterson.

    The man was nothing short of amazing! The only bass player who could fill the void of Oscar's left hand (this was after Oscar suffered a stroke).

    Thanks for posting these performances. More people need to learn about NHOP.

  6. I felt like I had lost a family member when I first heard of the death of NHOP. I first started to follow NHOP about 30 years ago after having performed in the Rock N Roll era. and drifted to the Jazz Field ( the only place to go after having played Rock for 20 years). I then took up Jazz Double Bass and was totally inspired by the abilities of NHOP.

    I was fortunate enough to have held his Double Bass after a concert here in Brisbane about 12 years ago while he autographed a CD. It was only a brief chat of about 2 minutes however, I will remember that moment forever!

    IMHO,there have been many brilliant Double bass players over the years (both deceased and living)however, I still place Niels at the very top of that list!

    The only other Jazz Bassist I place in the same arena as NHOP is the the brilliant "Brian Bromberg"

    Give thanks that we at least have the CD's & DVD's and Video Clips to remember the "THE GREAT DANE"

    Mick Power

    Brisbane AUSTRALIA

  7. Anonymous and COOLJAS

    Thanks for visiting and leaving your comments. I appreciate them.

    I am delighted to have discovered Niels and his music - late in life but still with plenty time (I hope) to enjoy much more..

  8. Time has past....
    I only experienced NHØP live once back in the fall 1987; when in a trio with Palle Mikkelborg and Kenneth Knudsen, they performed their album "Heart to heart". It was a magical experience and the monday after, that album became the first jazz album to find the way to my shelves.
    Back then my least favorite track was "Short cart" because it contains some of the elements that originally kept me away from jazz. But now 27 years later, it is my most played track from that album. in the beginning NHOP plays a fast ordinary bassline, but after 5:15 minutes he shows what his "evil" right hand can do... you will find bits of it in the Samba Petit video at 4:00-4:20 ;-)

    He also plays a big part on my favorite jazz album: "Nigerian Marketplace" with Oscar Peterson and Terry Clarke.
    Hmm seems the "good" video is no longer on youtube