By Rebecca Bulnes
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Danish guitarist, composer, and bandleader Pierre Dørge admits that he requires a bit of effort from his audiences when they come to hear his New Jungle Orchestra perform. Not that his troupe (which debuted in 1980) makes experimental music by any definition. Adventurous, yes, but there certainly exist greater challenges to the ear than NJO's take on Duke Ellington's "Black Beauty," for example. Dørge's reverence for Ellington (his group is named after the jazz composer's "jungle sound" period) comes through as he preserves the delicate textures and moderate tempo of the original's compositions. He then layers NJO's playful percussion and comedic saxophones throughout the piece. His detailed electric guitar work, juxtaposed with the ensemble's striptease-band bawdiness, consistently makes for a convincing blend.
Ongoing grants from the Danish government have allowed Dørge to take the ten-piece NJO to every inhabited area of the globe, including such places as Ballarat, Gambia, and Siberia. A short documentary film on his Website shows the charismatic Dørge in Bali, mouthing amusing rhythmic patterns, genuinely energized by the Indonesian island's culture. Sitting at a work table, he shows the camera what he's been working on: a brand new composition titled "Bali/Blues." NJO's brand of world music immerses itself in its environs without getting lost. The group may add a local musician or native percussion instruments to its shows on occasion, but the New Orleans swing, Captain Beefheart-like absurdity, and Ellington-inspired, drunken "jungle" trumpets remain intact.