Alex Riel

Alex Riel was born September 40th, 1940 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He has been a prominent and influential jazz drummer in Europe since the sixties. His professional career began in the mid-sixties, when he was the house drummer at “Montmartre”, a legendary jazz club in Copenhagen. He accompanied Dexter Gordon and Kenny Drew, as well as pianist Tete Montoliu and Kenny Drew, and musicians like Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon and Donald Byrd. Alex Riel has recorded and played with a wide range of jazz musicians, both traditional and modern. He was first exposed to jazz drumming by Zutty Zingleton, Big Sid Catlett, and that impression is still evident in his playing. William Schiopffe, a Danish drummer who played an important role in the European jazz scene during the sixties, is also evident. Riel’s performances with artists such as Wayne Shorter and Freddie Hubbard as well as Jackie McLean and Dizzy Shepp, Freddie Hubbard and Michel Petrucciani have made him widely recognized as a great modern drummer, taking on the styles of Elvin and Tony Williams. Alex Riel’s 1965 debut recording as a leader was released. Riel was also named the “Danish Jazz Artist of the Year” in this year’s recording. He was presented the award by Duke Ellington, assisted by Sam Woodyard. You can find video clips of the ceremony on the internet. Alex had the pleasure of playing with Ellington’s “right-hand”, Billy Strayhorn, on a memorable evening at the Montmartre. In 1965-66, Riel was a member the Bill Evans Trio and touring Europe. A concert with Alex Riel and Eddie Gomez, who were accompanying Bill Evans as pianist, was recently released on a DVD titled “Bill Evans Trio Oslo Concerts”. (see DVD section). Also, video footage of Riel performing with Gary Peacock and pianist Niels Lan Doky on a 1989 tour is available as “The Close Encounter Recording Session”. In 1967, Palle Mikkelborg, a trumpeter, and Alex Riel founded the “Riel–Mikkelborg Quintet”. They won the first prize at The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland (Switzerland), and then performed at The Newport Jazz Festival (USA) later that year. In the 1970’s, they co-led the jazz fusion band “V8”. Alex Riel’s discography shows that he has worked outside of jazz. He was also a founding member the Danish rock band “Savage Rose” in the 1960s. They toured extensively throughout Europe and the USA. The band performed at the first “Newport Festival” in the USA, where they shared the stage with Jethro Tull, James Brown, and Sly.

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