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Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen

The double bass came a long way in jazz between the 1930s and the 1960s, from plodding marker of the beat and the chord change to fully-fledged countermelodic, and sometimes even frontline instrument. The career of the Danish bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, who has died aged 58, was a product of that evolution and a significant contribution to it. In jazz circles, he was usually referred to simply as NHOP. He was a bass virtuoso, who made his unwieldy instrument sound almost impossibly agile. Like a finger-style guitarist, he could pluck the heavy strings with all four fingers of his right hand, where most bassists relied on repeated leverage from one finger, or two at the most.

The turn of speed this gave NHOP allowed jazz's classic “walking bassline” to be played at the most frenetic tempos, and over sustained periods behind soloists. Orsted Pedersen was thus able to hold down one of the most demanding jobs in mainstream jazz, as regular bassist to Oscar Peterson, one of the fastest pianists in the business. This was a tough enough task even with other musicians around to help spread the load, but NHOP often kept Peterson company in that most unforgiving of improvising situations, the drummerless duo. When he took over the job with Peterson, his predecessor Ray Brown observed that the newcomer was the only bassist he could think of who would be quick enough to keep up with Peterson.

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