Alex Riel was born September 1940 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and has since
the sixties remained firmly established as one of the most significant
and influential jazz drummers in Europe.
Over the years Alex Riel has played and recorded with an impressive
number of fine jazz musicians representing both the traditional and the
modern way. His very first impression of jazz drumming was that of Big
Sid Catlett and Zutty Zingleton and this early influence is still perceptible
in his playing. So is the influence of Danish drummer William Schiöpffe,
who played a central role on the European jazz scene of the sixties.
In 1965 Alex Riel released his first recording as a leader. This year
Riel also was chosen as the "Danish Jazz Musician of the Year".
The award was presented to him by no other than Duke Ellington assisted
by drummer Sam Woodyard. (video clips of this can be found on the internet).
In 1965-66 Riel was touring in Europe as a member of the Bill Evans Trio. One of these concerts with bassist Eddie Gomez and Alex Riel accompanying pianist Bill Evans has recently been released on a DVD called "Bill Evans Trio: The Oslo Concerts" (see DVD section on this site)
Also, footage of Riel playing with pianist Niels Lan Doky and bassist Gary Peacock on a tour in 1989 is available on video as “The Close Encounter Recording Session".
Trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and Alex Riel formed in 1967 the ”Riel-Mikkelborg
Quintet”. This group won first prize at The Montreux Jazz Festival
(Switzerland) in 1970 and later that year they performed at The Newport
Jazz Festival (USA).
As his discography shows Alex Riel has also been working quite a lot outside the jazz area. In the late 1960s he was a founding member of the legendary Danish rock group "Savage Rose," with whom he toured extensively in Europe and USA. In 1969 the band performed at the original “Newport Festival” in US, sharing the stage with James Brown, Jethro Tull and Sly & the Family Stone.
Alex Riel stayed with Savage Rose for five years - plus he rejoined the band temporarily in the 90s. During this time he recorded several albums with them, including the album “Triumph of Death” with music written for the Royal Danish Ballet.
Savage Rose is considered to be
Ever since the late 50’s Alex Riel has played as a sideman on several hundred jazz recordings with names such as Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Ben Webster, Kenny Dorham, Dexter Gordon etc (Please see the extensive “Recordings as a sideman” in the discography section of this site).
During the last decade he’s been releasing CD’s in his
The powerful live recording "The Riel Deal" from 1996 recieved a Danish Grammy for “Best Jazz Recording of the Year”, and a few years ago Alex introduced his very own trio on the cd “What Happened?” which recieved 6 stars reviews and topped the list in Japan for best sellling international record.
Furthermore Alex has been touring with his own “Alex Riel Trio”,
and played various studio jobs and concerts with names such as: Phil Woods,
Charlie Mariano, Lisa Nilsson, Stefano Bollani, Palle Danielsson, John
Taylor, Johnny Griffin, Jacky Terrasson, Andy Sheppard, Didier Lockwood,
Palle Mikkelborg, Pat Metheny a.o.
For several years Alex Riel played in various piano trios led by Danish
bass ace Mads Vinding. One of those trios featured pianist Carsten Dahl;
a constellation that turned out to be a huge success (their cd “Six
hands, three minds, one heart” won several Danish Grammys).
What characterizes the Dahl / Vinding / Riel trio is a unique interplay with room for serious conversation as much as pure musical fun – all delivered with an obvious virtuosity by all three involved who also seem to radiate a sheer joy of playing together. This is undoubtedbly one of the best European jazz trios around!
There’s another re-union that Alex Riel is truly enjoying being
a part of: SANTA CRUZ, the leading Danish fusion band of the 80s are back
That being said, Santa Cruz are not just playing the same tunes the same
way today. They are now being performed with a new musical approach and
challenged by new compositions by some of the bandmembers ... and the
output is smokin’! As Alex himself puts it “I love the energy
and drive of this band. That powerful sound of Poul Halberg’s electric
guitar sends chills down my spine!”
Stefan Pasborg is already a very well-known name on the Danish jazz scene where he’s long been praised for his great skills as a drummer and his original musical ideas and approach. With a musical upbringing that was highly influenced by his god father, Stefan is as familiar with classic jazz drumming as he is with avantgarde and rock.
And so, representing two generations of modern drumming, Riel and Pasborg have chosen to pay tribute to some of the Greats from earlier generations: Gene Krupa, Big Sid Catlett and Zutty Singleton, who’s way of playing never cease to amaze and inspire.
Part of a long drum duet with the two of them are included on Stefan’s release “Tripple point”. Besides, a recording of a recent performance in Copenhagen Jazzhouse is planned to be released in some format.
In 2004 Alex formed his own trio with Danish bass legend Jesper Lundgaard
and one of the new stars of the Scandinavian jazz scene, the young pianist
The trio’s second CD “The High And The Mighty” was released in May 2007 on Cowbell Music.