Feb 20, 2022
The music of Danish composer/performer Anders Koppel has defied genre almost since he learned to walk. The son of classical composer and pianist Herman D. Koppel, Anders Koppel was a child singer in the Copenhagen Boys Choir and studied piano with his sister and father from the age of five. He took up the Hammond organ in 1966 and the following year founded with his brother Thomas the legendary Danish rock group The Savage Rose. The band toured Europe extensively from 1967 to 1974 and even made a Stateside appearance in 1969 at the Newport Jazz Festival while also recording eight albums.
Koppel left the group in 1974 to make his first solo recording, and two years later he cofounded with bassoonist-clarinetist Peter Bastian and percussionist Flemming Quist Møller the trendsetting world music trio Bazaar. The band played together for 37 years until 2013.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Koppel wrote music for 50 plays, eight modern large-scale ballets and more than 100 movies. Since 1997, he has devoted himself to composing for classical ensembles and has completed 150 scores to date — solo pieces, chamber music, orchestral and vocal works, an opera and 33 concertos for solo instrument with orchestra. His saxophonist son Benjamin has been a featured player in six of his concertos. Father and son have also been playing together in recent years in a highly interactive jazz quartet setting with renowned bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade.
Anders merges his love of jazz and classical music while paying homage to his fellow countryman, the famed photographer and social reformer Jacob Riis, on Mulberry Street Symphony. Riis, who emigrated from his native Denmark to America in 1870, exposed the poor living conditions of impoverished immigrants in his groundbreaking photojournalism book, “How the Other Half Lives.” Inspired by Riis’ compelling photographs, Koppel created “Mulberry Street Symphony’, an epic work in seven movements, each one based on a different Riis photo depicting tenement life in New York City during the 1880s. Himself the child of immigrants, Anders responded deeply to the photographs.
Podcast 882 is my conversation with Anders, he takes us through the composting and recording of a work for a classical orchestra and sometimes improvising jazz trio. We discuss his life in and around music, and how working with his son, along with brilliant players like Colley and Blade fit into the Mulberry Street Symphony. Musical selections from the album include “Blind Man.”