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Exclusive Interview With Copenhagen’s Jakob Vejslev



JGT contributor Joe Barth talks to a Danish jazz guitarist with a great sense of swing, Jakob Vejslev.  

Always fresh and inventive, Jakob has maintained an active career in Denmark and Northern Europe since his early twenties.  Born in 1957, Jakob has studied painting and drawing in addition to music composition and guitar.  His compositions for all instrumental configurations have appeared on Danish radio and television.  I met Jakob for this interview when I was recently in Copenhagen.

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

JV:  I was inspired by what I heard other guitar players do. Someone showed me the scales in position on the neck and later someone showed me the Berklee fingerings and I continually work on discovering the very best place to play melodic lines on the neck.

JB: What are a couple of the most influential jazz guitarists to you and why? 

John McLaughlin’s album with saxophonist John Surman Extrapolations.  It was an eye-opener because of the way he infuses jazz and bebop into the rock fusion approach.  Django Reinhardt’s melodic line and how flashy he was having just two working fingers on his left hand.  George Benson’s It’s Uptown and Cookbook with Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax and Lonnie Smith on organ. His rhythm feel injected into the blues struck me deeply. Jim Hall was more of a thinker in playing.  He was modern as a player and you can hear the influence of the Lennie Tristano school in his linear interplay.

JB: Tell us about one of your CD albums.

JV:  In 2001 I did an album entitled Throughout of all original compositions with a wonderful pianist Nils Raae, Marc Davis on bass, and drummer Dennis Drud. I wanted to showcase my compositions through these wonderful musicians.

JB:  Composing music is as much of your career as guitar playing.

JV:  Yes, I compose a lot of classical music as well as jazz and popular.  In fact, my newest CD is music I wrote for pipe organ and trumpet.

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

JV:  I have an older 1960s-era Gibson ES-175 I play through an older Polytone amp with a 12″ speaker.

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?

JV:  Learn how to play bebop, it is the language of our music, much like J.S. Bach is the language of classical music. Also, be very comfortable playing the ii-V-I progression in all keys, making sure you are landing on the strong tones of the “I” chord.  Work on chord melody.  This will help you to see how the music works.

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