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Danish Guitarist And Composer, Kristoffer Vejslev



In this Jazz Guitar Today interview, contributor Joe Barth talks to Danish jazz guitarist and composer, Kristoffer Vejslev.

Kristoffer Vejslev Dyssegaard is a composer and guitarist from Copenhagen, Denmark.  After graduating from the Amsterdam Conservatory in 2019, his music is regularly heard on the radio in Denmark and the Netherlands.  In addition to his work at the Amsterdam Conservatory, he has studied in Copenhagen with guitarist Jacob Bro.  I sat down with Kristoffer for this interview at my hotel in Copenhagen.

JB: What was most helpful in your personal development as a guitarist?

KV:  It was a privilege to have a jazz guitarist father (Jakob Vejslev) who could guide and inspire me, and who shares my passion for music. This is something I enjoy to this day. In my high school years, when I lived apart from my father, I also had some excellent teachers that helped me develop and placed me in an environment with other young, ambitious musicians.  I learned a lesson then, which still holds true today, that playing with other musicians is one of the best ways of getting inspiration and learning to play.

I would also note the four years I studied at the conservatory in Amsterdam (CVA). Many great teachers and fellow students inspired me. If I had to mention one, it would be Jesse Van Ruller. The guitar lessons I had with him taught me so much and I was especially influenced by the way he phrases his lines.  

JB: What are a couple of the most influential jazz guitar albums and why? 

KV:  I would first highlight Kurt Rosenwinkel’s East Coast Love Affair.  I was impressed with the full sound that the three musicians produced.   Rosenwinkel supports his musical ideas with chords much like a pianist would in a piano trio. He has outstanding technique, but he keeps it submitted to his melodic ideas building dream-like phrases that always interconnect. 

Jakob Bro’s Balladeering introduced me to the Nordic sound of jazz. Front and center, it has simple and beautiful melodies.  This is a ‘less is more approach’ where the interplay between the musicians and the melodies is the focus. This approach inspired me to move away from the conventional head-solo-head form that is most common in jazz.  Jakob and Bill Frisell both play Telecaster guitars and they blend sublimely.  There is also a contrast coming from Lee Konitz who brings his bebop background which adds another dimension to the music.

In John McLaughlin’s Extrapolations, McLaughlin and saxophonist John Surman have an open way of playing where you can hear elements of free jazz, modal jazz, and fusion. I also enjoy the rawness of McLaughlin’s sound on this album. It’s an album with a perfect blend of intensity and captivating heads. It tells a story, and every song leads seamlessly to the next. 

JB: Tell us about one of your CD albums.

KV:  My newest is called Parallels by my group Vejslev Exploration Band.  It’s a dedication to my father’s music that shaped me as a musician and composer, especially in my early years. I took some of my favorite tunes of his and combined them with my own early compositions, creating an album that rediscovers my past influences of modal jazz and bebop. I tried to bring these pieces to new light by adding a touch of the Nordic sound that I’ve been developing in my two other groups, Vulture Forest and Red Gazelle Trio. It felt like uniting my past with my present which was very exciting! 

JB:  Talk about the Nordic Sound.

KV:  For me, Nordic sound is simple lyrical melodies that often draw from Nordic folk melodies and psalms. I also associate it with a more selfless minimalist approach to music with a focus on the overall sound of the collective of a group rather than the individual. 

JB: What do you find rewarding in your career today as a guitarist in Copenhagen?

KV: The Copenhagen scene has a plethora of great players to be inspired by, both in the traditional and modern jazz scene (and the music scene in general for that matter). I get phenomenal inspiration from my fellow musicians here. It makes me want to keep improving and exploring new things on my instrument and in my music. 

JB:  Tell me about the type of gigs that you do here.

KV:  My main focus is playing public concerts with my two groups, Vejslev Exploration Band and Red Gazelle Trio, for whom I also write most of the music. We play gigs at the jazz venues in the city as well as during the two big jazz festivals in Copenhagen: the Copenhagen Jazz Festival which happens each year in June/July and Winter Jazz which is in February. We also started touring outside the city. Aside from these concerts, I do an array of private gigs in a variety of constellations and here the music is taken from the jazz standard repertoire. 

JB:  Tell us about the guitar and amp that you use.

KV:  I play a Fender Telecaster and before that, I played a Gibson ES-175.  I find the Telecaster’s bright sound is better suited for my melodic and spacious approach to improvising.  My amp is a Fender Blues Junior, which is light because, in Copenhagen, I often travel by bicycle to my gigs. 

JB:  What would you say if you could speak to an 18-year-old guitarist who has some facility on the instrument as well as aspirations of a career as a jazz guitarist?

KV:  Be patient, things take a lot of time. Every time you reach a goal there will always be a new one, so remember to celebrate each little victory on your path.  This is something that I still try to remind myself!

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