The Danish bass player, composer, producer and educator Jesper Bodilsen was born January 5th 1970 in Haslev, Denmark.
As 3 a year old he moved to Silkeborg with his parents and older brother and there he stayed until he was 18 years old.
No one in his family were playing music. But as a 8 year old kid he found an old trumpet at the loft of his grand parents farm and he was immediately interested in trying to make music with the old horn. At the age of 10 he was admitted as a member of the school brass band there he learned to play the cornet and read music.
In 1984 Jesper got his first bass - an electric bass - and one year later he joined a pop/funk band and played his first professional gig short after. He was admitted at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark in 1991 where he studied for 5 years and ended up with a Diploma degree in June 1997. The same year as he received The Memorial Bursary of Edward Eriksen and was hired to teach at the academy.
While studying at the school in Aarhus Bodilsen also worked as a professional musician. In June 1994 he was asked to perform at two All Star Concerts at the Riverboat Jazz Festival together with American drummer Ed Thigpen and pianist Duke Jordan. These concerts was a kind of breakthrough for Bodilsen and in the years to come he was peforming with other great jazz artists like James Moody, Benny Golson, Lee Konitz, Tom Harrell, Joe Lovano, Horace Parlan, Jimmy Heath and Phil Woods. Often at the legendary jazz club BENT J in Aarhus.
In 1995 Bodilsen moved to Copenhagen and he was immediately asked to join the Erling Kroner Dream Quartet. He was touring with different Aarhus and Copenhagen based bands in the years to come when he in 1997 met Ed Thigpen again. Ed Thigpen wanted him in his trio and together with pianist Carsten Dahl the trio recorded their first album “It´s Entertainment” in 1998. The album was nominated for a Danish Grammy and won the JazzSpecial Prize “Album Of The Year”. Bodilsen was playing and recording with Thigpen until 2010 - a collaboration that lasted 13 years and the music is well documented on 6 album releases.
Jesper Bodilsen has always been interested in producing music, finding interesting musicians to perform with and create new constellations. He has been a co-producer for Danish vocalist Katrine Madsen for more than a decade but in 1999 he started his first band “Scandinavian Summit”. They recorded 2 albums and did tours in Europe, SE Asia, China and Australia.
He started his own music production company in 2002 and until now he has produced more than 15 albums, recorded and performed with many great artists.
In 1998, 2002 and 2004 Bodilsen was asked to perform at the prestigious Jazzpar Prize concerts and in 2002 the prize winner was italian trumpet player Enrico Rava. Bodilsen did 4 concerts with Rava, Stefano Bollani, Gianlucca Petrella, John Abercrombie and Morten Lund and after the final concert in Copenhagen he asked Bollani and Lund if they would be interested in playing together again.
One year later (in march 2003) they did the first trio tour and their first recording for Stunt Records “Mi ritorni in mente”. The first issue of this trio album was released as Jesper Bodilsen Trio.
In 2004 Bodilsen was awarded with the Django d'Or Prize as “Performer of the Year” and that same year the trio recorded their second album “Gleda”. Now all the names of the trio was on the cover. The album was no. 4 on the Italian Jazz Charts in 2005 and nominated for an Australian Bell Award 2006 for “Best International Jazz Album”.
From the start the trio was touring around Europe playing clubs and festivals like the Umbria Jazz festival, Copenhagen Jazz Festival and the legendary Birdland in New York.
After “Gleda” they recorded with singer Katrine Madsen. The album is called “Close To You” and was nominated for a Danish Music Award as “Best Vocal Jazz Album”.
Then 4 years went by before they recorded again. This time on the highly estimated ECM label and with producer Manfred Eicher. The album “Stone In The Water” was acclaimed the best trio recording of 2009 by several jazz magazines around the world.
Two of the songs on the album was composed by Bodilsen and that same year he went in the studio with Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius, Peter Asplund on trumpet and the Finnish vibraphone player Severi Pyysalo to record a new album mainly with his own songs. The album “Short Stories for Dreamers” was released in 2010 and was praised for its calmness and lyrical mood.
Recently Bodilsen has also been a part of the succesful TV-shows “Sostiene Bollani”. In the fall of 2011 the trio, with Bollani being the host, did 6 shows brodcasted on the Italian national channel RAI 3.
Besides touring around the world and recording albums Bodilsen has also spent more and more time composing music.
In 2013 his latest album Scenografie was released on the Italian record label Carosello Records. All his music - displaying his skills as a composer, bandleader, bassplayer and producer. Mixing different moods and nationalities together with the Italians Stefano Bollani, Joe Barbieri, Nico Gori and Paolo Russo and the Swedish Ulf Wakenius and Peter Asplund.
2013 was also The 10 Year Anniversary of the trio Bollani-Bodilsen-Lund. Ten years after the first trio recording they went in the Avatar Studio in New York and recorded a new album for the ECM label inviting the great Bill Frisell and Marc Turner to join in. The album “Joy Inspite of Everything” was released in 2014 and won the prize as album of the year in Italy.
Since Bodilsen left the conservatory in 1997 he has been teaching music throughout his carrier. Many new promising upcoming musicians have had him as a teacher at the Danish conservatories and in 2012 he was elected as chairman of Dansk Jazzmusiker Forening (Danish Jazz Musician´s Association) - an association which works with education for professional improvising musicians. Through masterclasses and courses arranged by DJF, and done by the best musicians and instructors on the international improvising scene, DJF give the Danish musicians the possibility to improve and get inspired.
World-class bassist - Jesper Bodilsen toured all over the world and music critics wrote:
“Like NHOP, Bodilsen possesses a warm sound, great dexterity, virtually faultless intonation and an aura of calm even in the midst of volcanic eruptions. He is a lyrical player whose supple lines unfold with ease” (JAZZTIMES, US)
“Jesper Bodilsen’s bass playing continues the theory that Denmark is the home of great bassists” (The Age, AUS)
“Stone In The Water finally gives the trio the international exposure it deserves - it's the year's most sublime piano trio recording, where silence and the power of understatement are as definitive as the virtuosity that underscores this group's uncanny empathy. (Allaboutjazz.com US)
Photographer: Paolo Soriani