Jazz is as much part of Copenhagen’s landscape as bicycles, open sandwiches and HC Andersen. Jazz musicians’ love affair with Copenhagen began in the ‘50s, when well-known Americans like Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster, Ed Thigpen and Kenny Drew crossed the Atlantic and formed a community around Copenhagen’s legendary club, Jazzhus Montmartre; especially welcoming to Afro-American musicians, many never went home.
Jazz can be heard in Copenhagen all year, but in the first two weeks of July it really takes over as world-famous Copenhagen Jazz Festival hits town, held annually since 1979.
Whether you visit in July, come in cooler climes for a dose of winter jazz, or come at other times, here’s a list of must-sees for lovers of jazz and its history.
This legendary jazz club was reopened in 2010 in its original location on Store Regnegade as a labor of love by wealthy patron Rune Bech. Those looking for heady atmosphere might prefer La Fontaine, but Montmartre’s historical significance cannot be denied.
After Montmartre’s era ended in 1988, a group of jazz musicians and music lovers opened Copenhagen Jazzhouse in 1991 to fill the void. It is still the main venue in the city for concerts by local as well as international jazz artistes.
A gritty venue known for its legendary jazz sessions that can last well into the early hours, La Fontaine is Copenhagen’s oldest jazz venue and for many, its best. This is due in part to the intimate atmosphere of the 100-capacity room.
Visit the (very plain) grave of jazz saxophonist Ben Webster. Webster died while touring in Amsterdam in 1973, but is buried in Nørrebro’s Assistens Kirkegård Cemetery—along with HC Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard—after settling in Copenhagen for his final years.
Image: Jason Moran performing at Copenhagen Jazzhouse by citysor/flickr.