“Solo Artist”, Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Mike Stern, Michele Camilo, Trilok Gurtu, Bireli Lagrene, John Scofield, Kenny Garret,, CMD & “the Nomads” and more.
In a world obsessed with bottom lines, Chris Minh Doky has created bottom lines that have perked the ears of jazz fans around the world. For more than two decades he has been recognized as an original master of the upright bass.
Technical brilliance delivered with personal passion prompted DownBeat magazine to write: “… there is a softness and crisp clarity that is very different from the sound others derive from the acoustic instrument.” Though written several years ago, those words remain valid today, as you will hear on Doky’s most recent album Scenes From A Dream.
Doky’s rare ability to perform with ample portions of creativity and dynamism–either as a solo artist or sideman–consistently place him in the top-5 lists of reader polls around the world. Carrying on the Danish tradition of spotlighting the bass as the lead instrument, his distinctive styling of each note reflects his roots in American East Coast grooves seasoned with the lyrical traditions of Scandinavia.
Whether fronting his own band or playing with the most prominent artists of the day, Doky’s bottom lines always seduce you with their compelling approach. His uncanny knack for being the music at times or complementing the group as a whole made him an integral part of the Michael Brecker Quartet from 2001 and the Mike Stern Band since the days Doky emerged as a player in the ’90s New York jazz scene.
A knight of jazz became the latest honor for Doky after Queen Margrethe II of Denmark in 2010 made him a knight in the Order of the Dannebrog for his contributions to the arts. Two years earlier the international Ben Webster Foundation gave Doky its eponymous award for his jazz accomplishments through the years.
Doky spreads the word of jazz in places other than on stage and record. He hosts regular jazz programs on the public broadcaster DR’s cultural TV channel and one of its radio stations. Since 2008 Doky has been artistic director of the DR Big Band. His creative input acts as the spark plug that has ignited new interest in the band and recruited new listeners.
Music was a family centerpiece when Doky entered the world in 1969, the son of a Danish mother and Vietnamese father. At the age of six he began playing classical piano and won several awards in local competitions. Fate stepped in one day in high school when he picked up an electric bass. Sparked by his love for groups like Earth, Wind & Fire, Doky began performing in different funk bands as a teen and got a taste for the stage as well as deeper understanding of music.
When Doky was 16, his epiphany came after listening to Miles Davis’ My Funny Valentine. He switched over to his signature instrument, the acoustic bass, and was soon courted to play in Copenhagen jazz clubs he wasn’t even old enough to get in to. Yearning to be closer to the root of the music he loved, Doky headed to New York shortly after his 18th birthday. He quickly landed studio and club gigs with other upand- coming musicians around Manhattan.
His bass earned him a reputation as an excellent sideman and one of the most innovative soloists to hit the Big Apple in years. The big break came when Mike Stern invited Doky to join his band in 1991. The word spread from New York to the greater world of jazz and soon Doky found himself playing with great musicians he’d listened to in the early years: Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Mike Stern, Michele Camilo, Trilok Gurtu, Bireli Lagrene, John Scofield, Kenny Garret and more.
When Doky joined forces with his brother Niels Lan Doky in 1994 to form the Doky Brothers, it was nothing short of a second coming of jazz to Denmark and the sound was heard far beyond her borders. Signed to Blue Note, the duo’s two albums drew a broader audience to jazz with an alluring balance of tradition and bold interpretation.
Minh, Doky’s first international solo album, raised his career to an even higher level in 1998. An extensive world tour followed, the first of many to come, either coaxing sumptuous notes from his beloved upright or letting go on his more assertive electric bass.
Scenes From A Dream is Doky’s latest creation, an album he calls a milestone that could not have made before now–when the time was right. Some moments his upright is sparse to allow room for the music; other times it fills the air with a lush and urgent tenderness. Doky had one intention: “To be in the moment,” which he shares with you the listener.
Clearly the work of Chris Minh Doky, the album moves in a fresh direction and is another testament to the versatility Doky has previously demonstrated on albums such as the jazz-funk Listen Up, The Nomad Diaries with its electronica-jazz fusion and the vivid expression of Cinematique. As it is with the previous 10 solo albums, the latest set marks a new chapter in an ongoing volume of masterful bass playing–that’s the bottom line.
“My amp is the connection between my instrument and the band & audience.” says Doky, “The Mini CMD 121P combo (gotta love the initials!) is perfect for my acoustic. Sounds full, strong and natural – yet it is light and very portable. It even has an XLR input for my DPA-4099 microphone, and the Little Mark Tube 800 head is unbelievable and just what I need as a touring musician. Warm and powerfull yet small and light! I hook it up to the New York 804 cabinet for the best possible match for my SLB200 upright electric – and with the Standard 104HR for optimal “oomph” with my electric. Thank you, Markbass! I love what your amps and cabinets do for me!”
photo: Dirk Hesse