Clifton just returned form Copenhagen, Denmark, for the Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2015, where he was scouting for one of our clients, Mutual Musician’s Foundation International. During his trip he had the opportunity to stay with one of Copenhagen’s jazz community icons. Henrik Wolsgaard-Iversen has had the privilege of meeting and befriending some of the best names in jazz history. Clifton asked Iversen more about how he got involved in jazz.
“I’m 77 years old now,” said Iversen. “It started in my childhood, my interest for this rhythmic music. I heard Edward Grieg, Norwegian composer. That got me started when I was five years old. Then my father, in the late 30′s, had records of Fats Waller, which were hard to come by at that time. I discovered the jazz feeling on these old records. I was fascinated by it. I related to the beat and to the rhythm. It grew on me and I always loved listening to all of it, from Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker. The improvisation, that’s what did it to me. These people were able to explain themselves by improvising. The jazz had a fire and I got interested in that. It has been my passion ever since…”
Iversen started as a journalist in small towns here and there, then worked his way up to editor at the Copenhagen paper, where he critiqued music and interviewed musicians.
“I made good contacts with the Americans who came here,” said Henrik. “Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Ben Webster…”
He eventually landed a job at a television station as head of satire, where he made even more connections.
“Whoever was in town, we covered it and made hours and hours of television,” he said.
Iversen has lived in his Copenhagen apartment for more than 50 years. He told stories of staying up all night, packed around the table in his apartment (where Clifton stayed) with some of the most legendary figures in jazz history. He reminisced about Teddy Wilson coming to his apartment after his gigs with a bottle of gin; about Dizzy Gillepsie calling him at four in the morning wanting to play poker, then arriving at his door 20 seconds later.
Iversen surrounded himself with musical talent. His wife was a singer from Minneapolis. Whenever jazz musicians were in town, she would cook for them.
“She has the greatest kitchen in Europe for soul food,” said Iversen, “They came here to eat around this table. Ernie Wilkins – he called her the ‘Charlie Parker of the kitchen.’ We befriended all of these people and they befriended us. It was a party that went on for 100 years. We had the greatest players in the world sitting around the table talking about music, so this place became sort of a nucleus for American musicians. If it was happening, it was here.”
Iversen continues to immerse himself in the jazz culture to this day. In 1976, after the death of Ben Webster, celebrated jazz saxophonist, Iversen helped launch the Ben Webster Foundation in Denmark under the signia of the Queen of Denmark. He has been the chairman for 25 years keeping the memory of Ben Webster alive and supporting the jazz community.
We thank Iversen for hosting Clifton during his trip and for sharing his incredible stories with us!