Primary Instrument: Piano
Danish piano/ keyboard player, composer, producer, arranger and educator.
NH won the gold prize in Berlingske Tidendes competition of non-classical music in Copenhagen; won the category best European jazz piano player under 25 in the RAI competition in Rome and was a finalist in Leverkusener Jazztages European Young Artist competition in Germany.
Having graduated from Rhythmic Conservatory at 22, he was the first to get topgrade 13 for his concert performance in piano, his major subject. He later studied in the US with Richie Beirach, Danilo Perez and Gary Dial. He also studied in West Africa with master drummer Odartey and at Legon University in Accra, Ghana.
His numerous recordings as a leader, co-leader and sideman includes Nikolaj Hess Global Motion + (w Mommaas, Hebert, Moreno, Ballard, Monder) nominated as album of the year at DMA 2010, Spacelab The Champ (w AC and Mikkel Hess) and also the Nikolaj Hess Trio Playin (Music Mecca), Hess/Lund/Waidtløew/McBride Back & Forth, Global Motion (Sunnyside Records), Ulla Henningsen The Man I Love (Sony), Global Motion Trio (Calibre), Hessismore, Coral with Gregory Hutchinson, Chris Cheek & Jens Skou, A Word with Sissel Vera Pettersen nominated as best jazz vocal album DMA 2010, research&development project Spoiled Child, Hessismore Live At Wood Wood.
He is leader, co-leader and member of several other groups like NH Quartet, Funky Nacht Music, Hessismore, SisselVeraPettersen/NikolajHess, DocStomp aka Spoiled Child, counting and having counted members like Marc Mommaas, John Hebert, Tony Moreno, Jay Anderson, Francois Moutin, Kenny Wolleson, Christian McBride, Greg Hutchinson, Marylin Mazur, Donny McCaslin, Jochen Rueckert, Satoshi Takeishi, Jesper Lundgaard, Mads Vinding, Alex Riel, Lars Danielsson, Jacob Fisher, Johannes Weidenmuller, Tom Rainey, Cameron Brown, Sissel Vera Petersen, Hans Ulrik and Chris Minh Doky.
He has also worked with Lee Konitz, Benny Golson, Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti, Hal Willner, Etta Cameron, Ulla Henningsen, Annisette Koppel, Julee Cruise, Jamey Haddad, Ben Street, Ben Allison, Essiet Essiet, Lage Lund, Ron Afif, Michelle Walker, Ed Neumeister, Clarence Penn, Danny Gottlieb, James Genus, David Liebman, Hal Crook, Harwie Swartz, Jean Luc Ponty, Marcello Pelletiri, Andrea Marcelli, Michael Blair, Kysia Bostic, Ed Howard, Youron Israels, Victor Rendon, Manny Duran, Dennis Charles, Doug Raney, Judy Niemack, Cæcilie Norby, Debbie Cameron, Lars Hug, Bob Rockwell, Caroline Henderson, Jukka Perko, Severi Pyysalo, Ed Thigpen, Copenhagen Art Ensemble, and many others. He was the music director for american theater guru Robert Wilson's The White Town and is writing music for Lars Von Triers next movie Melancholia
He has composed and arranged for solo piano, small groups, large string ensemble, big band, choirs and saxophone quartet, for performances all over the world, also representing the best of danish culture at royal visits and state visits abroad. He has also written music for Zentropa, Nimbus Film, Tju Bang Film and others; and for radio: DR, NKR, Hungarian Radio.
He has also worked as a studio musician. His tours include USA, France, the United Kingdom, Africa, Holland, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Farao Islands, Denmark, South, East and Western Africa
He spends part of his time in New York, where he has played at Sweet Basil, Sweet Rhythm, Smoke, Joes Pub, Zinc Bar, 55 Bar, The Blue Note, The Kitano Lounge, The Cutting Room, Cornelia Street Cafe, Bowery Poetry Club, Pier 2110, Rainbow Room, C-note, Augies, Showmans Jazzclub, NUBLU and Museum of National History.
For 6 months he lived in Africa, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria and South Africa studying and playing African music.
He has been awarded many grants from the Danish government, as well as from private foundations, which has twice included the Bikuben Foundation artist-in-residence in New York. He is sponsored by Bach Pianos Scandinavia
He is associate professor at The Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen, where he is teaching part time. Part of his work includes research/development projects in composition and recording, among them on electronic music, combining computer-based interactive music with acoustic improvisation and composition. He has also been a guest teacher at New School University, New York; William Paterson University, New Jersey, Conservatoire Nationale Superieur de Musique Paris, Funda College, South Africa; Shuttle 2002 South Africa; IASJ 10th annual congress in Cologne (with Jamey Haddad and Dave Liebman), The Royal Danish Conservatory, and Conservatory of Nonclassical Music in Århus.
Awards:RAI's best jazzpianist under 25 years Berlingskes Gold Prize
MARC MOMMAAS and NIKOLAJ HESS - Balance @ the Kitano live May 6th,2010.Dutch tenor saxophonist Marc Mommaas and Danish pianist Nikolaj Hess have a rich history as bandmates in Global Motion and other units, but their duo work is a story unto itself, borne out by the 2005 Sunnyside disc Balance. Judging from their appearance at The Kitano, Mommaas and Hess have another album in them, if not more. Each player brought material to the gig, so brand new that the songs lacked titles. But for warm-up as well as the wind- down, they matched wits on standards, first “Alone together” and later “You and the Night and the Music”. Well-worn tunes, to be sure, but the duo’s rhythmic confidence - no need for a drummer here - and spirited flow of ideas made for sweaty, play-for-keeps performances. Mommaas filled the small room with a husky tenor sound, warm and lithe and well proportioned, buoyed by Hess’ fluidity, harmonic command and palpable determination at the keys, a compelling spectacle. Following a lyrical, diatonic major-key waltz by Mommaas and two new charts by Hess (the first with slow hiccuping rhythms, the second calmer, more classically influenced), the duo put itself to the test with Egberto Gismonti’s imposing odyssey “7 Annias”. Mommaas built up to a ’60s-like fury as the bright and twisty opening gave way to an expanded minor vamp section. But the lush rubato sonorities of Hess’ tentatively-titled “folk Song” cleared the air, foregrounding the appeal of the simple and direct. ~David R. Adler, AAJ (2010)
Passages which challenge boh musicians with the difficulty of their execution-execution which they nail with alacrity and empathetic understanding of the others’s direction. Moreover Mommaas and Hess are equally distinctive talents. Each one of them is capable of creating their own spell upon the listener through effective use of dynamics, unusual sonorities, and halting and then surging movement, which are noticeable especially on the first track, Mommaas’ theme from the movie Funny Bones, called “Funny Bones Jones”. Backed by Hess’ crashing chords and angular interjections, Mommaas is left with sufficient space to develop his own improvisation, free and yet accessible.............. “Sorcerer’s Dance”, too, consists of studied compositional originality. It starts with Hess’ free, sparkling piano solo until Mommaas comes in with a his theme, melodic in its initial statement before he proceeds into the remainder of the performance, consisting of variations backed by Hess’ light, flowing chords of subtly transforming meters. “Dialogue” finally allows Mommaas and Hess to play entirely freely, without the pre-determined structure of a written outline, and their understanding of the other’s technique is evident as they spontaneously develop a tune by listening to the other and then elaborating upon it. (Bill Donaldson Jazz Improv 06)
Another is 3458, a memorable theme over shifting meters with some wonderful playing by Hess (a real find)~ Joshua Weiner, All About Jazz (US)2003 strong support from guitarist Rez Abassi, and pianist Nicolaj Hess, both serving as sympathetic collaborators here. Hence, Mommaas has aligned himself with good company. - Glenn Astarita, All Music Guide (US)2003
Improvisational art at the higest level... B Rabinowitch Politiken
With his totally masterful sense of rhythm he tracks the point where the music swings the most with the least effort. He also has the ability to let the music meet him and seize the possibilities that arise through that interaction -B Rabinowitch Politiken
This music breathes remarkably free thanks to Nikolaj Hess exclusive harmonic sense
The quartet's version of the music by Carl Nielsen is simply Danish music at its best -T Sjogren Pol