Monday, July 21, 2014

Marcel Loeffler - Jazz Accordionist Extraordinaire

The accordion is not a often featured or promoted instrument in jazz, although there have been notable exceptions. American bandleaders like Bennie Moten and Duke Ellington had accordion players added to their orchestras late 1920s in some of the band's performance and recordings, but at that time the accordion was generally not regarded as a genuine instrument fit for jazz among critics, rather just another novelty gem to catch the attention of the  public. However, in Europe things turned out a bit different compared to the American scene, maybe due to the fact
that the accordion is an European invention and has always been used in folk and popular music throughout its existence - the sound of the accordion is familiar to most Europeans and an accordionist was for a long time a normal ingredient in celebration of both private and public events among ordinary people.

Gus Viseur (1915-1974)
Photo tin public domain
The accordion hit the jazzscene in Europe with the emergence of American swing-jazz during the 1930s. Paris, France, became the center of one of the first 'cross-over' movements in jazz and popular music thanks to accordionists schooled in Musette and the popular music of the Parisian dance halls. Brilliant instrumentalists like Gus Viseur, Jo Privat and Tony Murena incorporated swing-jazz tunes and improvisation in their performance and were stars on the Parisian scene in the 1930s and 1940s, and their concept of swing and jazz was deeply influenced by the interpretation of the idiom presented by Gypsy guitarists like Django Reinhardt, who started his own career
accompanying Musette accordionists before becoming the star of stars on the European jazzscene. The 'cross-over' from Musette to swing-jazz seemed to be a natural development that resulted in a hybrid and specific European jazz-style - often referred to as 'swing musette' or 'Manouche'- thanks to the exchange of ideas and close co-work between Parisian accordionists and Manouche guitarists like Django Reinhardt. The swing musette movement lasted until the end of WW2 and the emergence of be bop at the new American jazzscene after the war.

Nevertheless, the swing musette style lived on among Gypsy jazz musicians, who absorbed the music and incorporated it in their repertoire, and even today this jazz-style is alive and considered a 'source Manouche', which also is the title of a CD presented here.

CD-front: Marcel Loeffler - Source Manouche
Le Chant du Monde,Harmonia Mundi, 274 1388
The shown CD by accordionist Marcel Loeffler, Source Manouche, is not a typical example of the swing musette style, but a contemporary and up-to-date evaluation and development of music associated with both the Manouche influence and inspiration from modern jazz with roots in be bop improvisation. According to his official profile, Marcel Loeffler's musical roots are both the melodious swing-style of Gus Viseur and Django Reinhardt in the 1930s as well as the be bop improvisation presented by accordionists like Art Van Damme a.o.

Marcel Loeffler
(Photo credit Edwige and Joël Souedet)
Extract of career profile at the official website reads: "Music has played an important part in Marcel Loeffler’s life from a tender age. Introduced to it by his guitarist father, he quickly showed a predilection for the accordion. His earliest stage experience was at the age of 8 when he accompanied his father and brother on the trap set. “It was at that time that I started listening to the great jazz accordionists like Gus Viseur and Art Van Damme. I spent sleepless nights trying to imitate them.” His experiences and his encounters led him to play the piano, synthesiser and awakened his interest in other musical genres. “I was inspired by World music. I love music from Central Europe, North Africa, American jazz and good old French songs". Some of these influences are evident in his first solo album, “Vago”. The richness of Marcel Loeffler’s music undoubtedly comes from this fusion, this palette of different colours and an acute sensitivity. His roots are indeed manouche jazz, but Marcel quickly went on to broaden his horizons by closely following the work of musicians such as Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock, and by his irresistible fascination for sound." - A more detailed profile of Marcel Loeffler's career until the release of the Source Manouche CD shown above is to be found here.

Source Manouche ensemble (Photo copied from Marcel Loeffler's web-ablum, here)
The Source Manouche CD was recorded in 2005 and released by the Le Chant du Monde, Harmonia Mundi label. The CD contains fourteen tracks of music performed by the group of musicians shown at the photo above. Two compositions by Marcel Loeffler, 'Swing Suspens' and 'Ma Reference', introduce the musical atmosphere and inspiration in the first couple of tracks with Loeffler's accordion accompanied by the rhythm section composed of Gautier Laurent (double bass), Cédric Loeffler and Josélito Loeffler (rhythm guitar) and Yorgui Loeffler (lead guitar). There is one more composition by Marcel Loeffler, 'Pont de Venise', in track eight and with the same set-up of personnel. Invited guest performer Biréli Lagrène contributes on el-guitar in his own 'Fiso Place' in a duo version with Loeffler's accordion in track three, and Biréli Lagrène is also featured in the modern jazz standard 'All The Things You Are' in track six, which also adds another invited guest performer, accordionist Marcel Azzola, who further participates in his own 'Double Scotch' in track eleven. Vocalist Lisa Doby is added as singer in a swinging version of the traditional spiritual 'Josphua Fit The Battle of Jerico' in track ten, and Yorgui Loeffler's composition 'Ruby' is featured in track nine. Further, instrumentals rooted in the Manouche jazz tradition like three compositions by Django Reinhardt are performed: 'Douce Ambiance' (track four), 'H.C.Q. Strut' (track twelve) and 'Ou est-tu, mon amour' (track thirteen) and a swing standard like 'Them There Eyes' (track five) is a regular part of the Gypsy jazz standard repertoire. There is also a version of Tony Murena's 'Passion' in track seven, and the CD ends with a solo version by Marcel Loeffler of a traditional 'La ballade Irlandaise' in track fourteen. 

In all, a varied program that points to the breadth of the musical inspiration that is the reason for the title of the CD, Source Manouche. Every track has the accordion in focus and shows off magnificent playing by all musicians involved. Marcel Loeffler is a contemporary virtuoso on his instrument accompanied by a staff of musicians that supports his playing and contributes with excellent accompaniment and solo spots througout.

The Source Manoche CD is highly recommended as a splendid example of Marcel Loeffler's virtuosity as a performer of great jazz, and the CD is still available for purchase at Amazon and other retailers at the internet.

To give you an impression of Marcel Loeffler's virtuosic playing, I'll insert a couple of video performances from YouTube. Here's first a live-performance of Loeffler's 'Swing Suspens', the opening track of the Source Manouche CD

Next, to end this presentation of Marcel Loeffler, here's a video recording of a live-performance from a festival in Strassbourg 2007 featuring Loeffler accompanied by musicians from the Source Manouche ensemble


The accordion may be considered a rare bird in jazz, however, a tradition with roots in swing-jazz of the 1930s and influence from the Gypsy version of the style that brought the accordion to fame on the European jazzscene in the 1930s and 1940s is still alive and gets an up-to-date version in the 2005 CD by accordionist Marcel Loeffler 
appropriately titled Sorce Manouce, a higly recommended example of Loeffler's musical virtuosity as well as a fully contemporary contribution to the evaluation and development of the Gypsy jazz idiom.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ukulele - Sweet & Melodious

Ukulele (source: Wikipedia)
The ukulele originated in the 19th century as a Hawaiian interpretation of the machete, a small guitar-like instrument related to the cavaquinho, timple, braguinha and the rajão, taken to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants. The instrument became a very popular one in Hawaiian culture, and a majority of Hawaiian songs involves the ukulele. In Hawaiian, ukulele literally means "flea (uku) jumping (lele)." It was named as such because when plucked, the high pitch of the strings brings to mind the image of a jumping flea. There are currently four sizes of ukulele: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone.The ukulele can be played with simple or elaborate strums, as well as fingerpicking. (source: Wikipedia)

Part of music sheet front
The handy, four-stringed instrument also became popular outside Hawaii and was soon adopted by the mainstream American popular culture as a frequently used tool by Tin Pan aley crooners and songbirds as well as by movie stars of the 1920s and 1930s performing light entertainment or comedy in Holywood films. However, in Hawaii the instrument has always been recognized and respected as a serious musical instrument that needs study to bring out the pinnacle of the instrument's natural limitations.Below I'll introduce a representative of the young generation of the Hawaiian ukulele musicians who has earned a degree of virtuosity on his instrument that combines the beauty of original music from Hawaii with the clearest musical expression.

Herb Ohta Jr. played the traditional Hawaiin tune "Ku'u Pua I Paoakalani" in the video. Herb Ohta Jr. is recognized as a true virtuoso of his instrument and he has released several recordings that prove his outstanding musical and technical abilities. Herb Ohta Jr. is the son of another famous Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso, Herb Ohta Sr. or Ohta-San as he is often named. Ohta-San took part in the 1960s and 1970s revival of traditional Hawaiian music, often associated with musicians who participated in concerts and recordings with the locally famous group The Sons of Hawaii, founded by ukulele legend Eddie Kamae in the late 1950s. Herb Ohta Jr. was taught ukulele by his father at an early age and has established a successful career as a performer and recording artist in his own right. You can learn more about Herb Ohta Jr. at his official website, here

CD-cover - Lele Music Productions, LMP CD 1005
The CD shown above, 'Ukulele Nahenahe (- which in English means 'sweet and melodious ukulele') is a nice examaple of the virtuosity of Herb Ohta Jr. The CD was released in 2010 by Lele Music Productions and is still available - you can buy it at Herb Ohta Jr.'s webshop, CD Baby, Amazon a.o..Herb Ohta Jr.s ukulele is the solo voice throughout the eleven tracks of the CD that contains examples of original Hawaiian tunes and ends with a splendid interpretation of the wellknown evergreen 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow'. In some tracks the ukulele stands alone, but other tracks also have accompaniment by a rhythm combo composed of Jon Yamasato (guitar), Nathan Aweau (bass) and Jeff Au Hoy (steel guitar). The music is magnificent and beutifully excecuted in the hands of Herb Ohta Jr. - the CD is an uplifting musical experience that brings a wonderful sense of peace and joy in your heart and soul, highly recommended.


The ukulele is rightly associated with Hawaiian music and culture, although the small instrument often has been used in other fields of music and entertainment. A true virtuoso of the Hawaiian ukulele style is Herb Ohta Jr. who recorded the CD 'Ukulele Nahenahe in 2010. The CD is a magnificent example of the beuty of Hawaiian music performed by Herb Ohta Jr. with the clearest musical expression - an uplifting musical experience that enchants the listener with a wonderful sense of peace and joy.

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Music Goes Round And Around

The Music Goes ‘Round And Around. 1935.
Lyrics by Red Hodgson, Music by Edward Farley and Michael Riley
Sheet music front
The Music Goes Round and Round was originally recorded on 26 September 1935 by the composers, Eddie Farley and Mike Riley, with a band credited on the record label as Eddy-Reilly and their Onyx Club Boys. Since Eddy-Reilly combines the first name of one musician-songwriter with the second name of the other, and each are spelled incorrectly, it seems likely that Decca made multiple errors. Never mind, here's the music

Movie ad of 1936
The song was the musical interlude for the Columbia movie "The Music Goes 'round" in 1936. The New York Times wrote: "If we really wanted to be nasty about it, we could say that this Farley-Riley sequence is the best thing in the new picture. At least it makes no pretense of being anything but a musical interlude dragged in by the scruff of its neck to illustrate the devastating effect upon the public of some anonymous young busybody's question about the workings of a three-valve sax horn. Like the "March of Time," (source: Wikipedia)

Edythe Wright (voc), Tommy Dorsey (tb)
The song was recorded by Tommy Dorsey and his Clambake Seven feat.vocalist Edythe Wright and became a hit in 1936.

It has since been recorded by many other artists and has become a pop and jazz standard. A beloved example from days when entertainment in fact was entertaining and rather innocent (well...), here's Betty Boop's performance of the tune with voice-over by Helen Kane and music by Cab Calloway

The Music Goes 'Round And Around is also the title of the latest CD by the legendary and inevitable Dutch Swing College Band.

CD by Dutch Swing College Band (DSCMusic 2014001)
The CD was recorded earlier this year in Germany and has eighteen tracks of well arranged and superbly played standard jazztunes, seven of them have guest vocal contribution by singer Margriet Sjoerdsma. The line-up of DSCB is: Bob Kaper (clarinet, alto saxophone), David Lukács (clarinet, soprano, tenor, baritone saxophone), Keesjan Hoogeboom (trumpet, voc), Maurits Woudenberg (trombone), Ton van Bergeijk (banjo, guitar, voc), Adrie Braat (double bass), Anton Burger (drums). More info about the CD is available here

Dutch Swing College Band (promo photo)
July is the time of year for jazz festivals, this year the DSCB is in Denmark on July 5h, 6th and 7th, then continues in Germany on July 10th, 12th and 18th - more info here

The music goes 'round and around - and comes out right here


According to Thomas Hischak in The Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia, the 1935 jazz number "The Music Goes Round And Around" is "arguably the most successful nonsense song in the history of Tin Pan Alley". It is about the operation of a French horn. Written by Ed Farley and Mike Riley with lyrics by Red Hodgson, it was introduced by Riley and Farley's band at a New York night club. In one month it sold over two million copies of the sheet music. It has since been recorded by many other artists and has become a pop and jazz standard. Even today, of course, the music goes 'round and around, i.e. as documented at the latest CD by the Dutch Swing College Band - a recommended collection of recently recorded jazz standards to accompany your summer holidays and/or to get you in the right mood for the seasonal jazz festivals.

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Musette With Lammy Bruyns Combo

People, who visit Paris, France with time on their hands, probably will take a break at one of the city's many cafés, have a glass of wine and enjoy the ambiance of the place that may include musical entertainment and performance by an accordionist and ensemble playing the kind of music, which the locals will identify as musette.

The musette accordion has had a revival in contemporary entertainment. The influence of the great players of the past lives on and the music is also well taken care of by the Dutch accordionist and singer Lammy Bruyns and her combo that excells in both traditional musette, swing-musette and French chansons.

Lammy Bruyns
 Accordionist Lammy Bruyns has won several prizes in Holland and other countries. After her classical training she played in the “Dutch Accordion Ensemble”, but was later also active in the entertainment sector e.g. in “The Fourengo’s”, made recordings with pop singer Linda Ronstedt and founded the group Pardouce”. In 2011 she came into contact with Georg Lankester – guitarist in the Django quartet named  “Quatre Tickets de Swing” and with him and two other musicians she formed a new group which se called “Lammy Bruyns Combo”. This combo has specialised in the French Musette as well as the Gypsy Swing as created by the legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt (1930/40).

Lammy Bruyns combo
Georg Lankester, a regular contributor to this blog, is a Django-style guitarist and brings next to his swing rhythm some solos.  Recently the rhythm group changed, since rhythm guitarist Arthur Siero now replaces Martin Ackermann. Jan Miedendorp de Bie the excellent bass player is, like Arthur, experienced in the Gypsy Swing. In March 2014 some first recordings were made in a Deventer studio – since two rhythm men were unable to attend, the four tracks were recorded with Lammy, Georg and bass player (and studio owner) Joris Bijleveld. The complete combo will make more recordings in the course of 2014.

To end this small presentation of Lammy Bruyns and her combo, here's a live-performance of the quartet recorded a couple of years ago - Enjoy this 'film noir' of the Lammy Bruyns Combo on stage


The French musette originated at the dawn of the 20th Century in Paris, where numerous accordionists of local fame made this style of music popular in the dance halls of the city (- named 'bals-musette'). The influence of jazz and swing in the 1930s and 1940s had a profound importance on the development of the musette and a hybrid genre often named 'swing-musette' evolved with the contributions by Gypsy string wizards like Django Reinhardt a.o. Today musette is still associated with the accordion, and a modern example of the vitality of this music is well demonstrated by the Dutch accordionist Lammy Bruyns and her combo.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

1 X 0

There has always been a tight association between music and soccer in Brazil, to this day Brazilian soccer is often referred to as 'samba football' in the media, although it was a choro music celebrity, who linked the association of soccer and music from the start. The popular media never are too accurate in their record of what really is the case, unfortunately. Thus, to redress the undeserved oblivion of the association of choro and soccer in Brazil, below follows the documentation of the first registered Brazilian composition that celebrates soccer and its players.

Benedito Lacerda (flute), Pixinguinha (saxophone), c. 1946
"1X0" (Um a zero) is a well known and popular choro composed by Pixinguinha and recorded for the first time in 1946 as a co-work with Benedito Lacerda on a 78 rpm disc (Victor 800442A). Lacerda plays the melody part on flute, Pixinguinha contributes second voice and fill-ins on tenor saxophone accompanied by Lacerda's conjunto regional.

The title of this choro has a special background, the music was composed as a tribute to the Brazilian soccer team that won the 1919 South American championship and its first international soccer title in a match with Uruguay with the result 1-0 in favour of the Brazilian team (- thus the title, which in Portuguese reads 'um a zero').

The 1919 Brazilian soccer team
The single goal which secured the Brazilian team victory and the championship was scored by Arthur Friedenreich, the first character in a line of famous Brazilian soccer players.

Arthur Friedenreich (source: Wikipedia)
Arthur Friedenreich (1892-1969) was the son of a German immigrant and his wife, the daughter of a black freed slave. Due to his dark tan Arthur Friedenreich became the first black professional soccer player in Brazil. He started his career influenced by his father, playing for SC Germania, a Brazilian soccer team in São Paulo composed of German immigrants. After playing with a succession of São Paulo club sides from 1910 onwards, Friedenreich made his debut with the national team in 1914. He played twenty-two internationals, including wins in the 1919 and 1922 editions of the Copa América, scoring ten goals. On Brazil's 1925 tour of Europe, he was feted as the King of soccer (- and nicknamed 'The Tiger'). He also has a claim to the highest scoring record, but FIFA cannot prove these goals because of faulty record-keeping.

Arthur Friedenreich secures the victory of 1-0, 1919
As mentioned, Friedenreich was the first black professional soccer player in Brazil. He had to fight for his career both inside and outside the arena, because at that time soccer was dominated by whites and blacks were generally not accepted. He faced many barriers because of racism, and he could not always attend the same places where white players were. However, his scoring of the single goal in the 1919 match was a turning point that secured him accept and a  deserved place in the Brazilian soccer's Hall of Fame. And it was to honor this first black star in a line of legendary Brazilian soccer players that Pixinguinha composed his 'choro vivo', "Um a zero" (1x0).

Multi string virtuoso Garoto (Anibal Augusto Sardinha)
As a prelude to the alleged repeated success of the soccer World Cup 1950 in Brazil, where Brazil again was to meet Uruguay in the decisive final, Garoto (Anibal Augusto Sardinha, 1915-55) recorded his version of "Um a Zero" as a tribute to the Brazilian team. Unfortunately, this time Brazil lost the championship with the result 2-1 in favour of Uruguay. However, the music recorded by Garoto forever stands out as one of the best recorded versions of Pixinguinha's choro

Pixinguinha's "Um a Zero" is the first registered musical composition that celebrates soccer in Brazil and honors its players. Although the music wasn't recorded before 1946 and copyrighted 1947, the score was composed at the time of the event it celebrates - Pixinguinha is said to have attended the audience at the legendary 1919 match between Brazil and Uruguay, and to express his enthusiasm for the result he went straight home and composed the music.
The photos documenting the 1919 match betwen Brazil and Uruguay inserted above are copied from this source. The story of Arthur Friedenreich and inspiration for this entry owes thanks to this source.

There has always been a tight association between music and soccer in Brazil, to this day Brazilian soccer is often referred to as 'samba football' in the media, although it was a choro music celebrity, who linked the association of soccer and music from the start. Pixinguinha's choro " Um a Zero" is the first registered Brazilian composition that celebrates soccer and its players. The background of the title is documented in this entry that also celbrates the first Brazilian star in a line of legendary Brazilian soccer players, Arthur Friedenreich.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ray Ventura (1908-1979) – piano player and band Leader - part 2

The Frenchman who combined Jazz with Entertainment
The War-Years in South America and the Post-War Era
Georg Lankester

In my publications on famous European band leaders from the Thirties/Forties of last century, Ray Ventura should certainly be mentioned. Going deeply into the French jazz scene, I discovered how many important French and Belgian jazzmen joined his orchestra. He was a great organiser and always managed to engage the best musicians of his time.In a previous blog I gave an account of Ventura's career before WW2 - below follows the second part of my article focusing on the War-years and the post-War period.

Away from the war scene
In 1940 when France was more and more occupied by the Germans,  thousands of people moved away from Paris in order to find free areas. Ray was among them and after a lot of trouble he ended up in Lyon, still free from Germans. He happened to find there several of his band members and decided to form an occasional orchestra, again under the name “Ray Ventura & The Collegians”. His first band was established 10 years before and had given him a lot of popularity, an advantage.

Ray Ventura  (source: unknown)

And again the excellent musicians and showmen like Coco Aslan and Paul Misraki.were gathered around him. Moreover he recruted players such as Pierre Allier, André Ekyan and Adrien Terme. I can add to this that Micheline Day, Paul’s girlfriend was singing in the his orchestra as well.
They performed frequently in the South of France and sometimes in Switzerland. However, the occupation was ongoing and the anti-Jewish propaganda became more and more stronger. In Marseille they experienced serious incidents so that Ray and some of his fellow-musicians of Jewish origin in secret decided to leave France. But how?

Micheline Day and Coco Aslan ( source: Les grands orchestres de Music Hall en France) 

Thanks to a miraculous inspiration and with financial support of a benefactor, a certain Mathalon, Ray got visa for all to leave the country. Singer Micheline, who worked in Nice, was - despite the ban to bring English text - still singing in this language. She was then no longer allowed to perform in the ‘Alpes Maritimes’ and pursued till Cannes. Threathened she finally accepted the advice of her friend Paul and took the decision  to join the others and also  to leave for Rio de Janeiro.

Ray Ventura and his orchestra in Casino de la Urca ( Rio de Janeiro) (1942) ( source: Les grands orchestres de Music Hall en France)

In November 1941 after a last performance in the Cahors, the almost complete band went to Madrid via Toulouse. At the end of the month they boarded on a Spanish ship on its way to Brazil (35 days sailing). First there was some fear for German submarines, but they safely arrived in Rio.
Ray now formed a ‘war orchestra’ (which included singer/guitarist Henri Salvador) and he soon got  successful performances in the most important Brasilian towns. Then in 1942 the band travelled to Urugay where they presented a big show in the Grand Theatre of Montevideo followed by other theatres and cabarets. Since the inhabitants of this country were very fond of the French culture, the band met a lot of enthusiasm.

Ray Ventura and his orchestra arrive in Buenos Aires ( juli 1942)  ( source: Les grands orchestres de Music Hall en France)

Then the orchestra left for Argentina where it arrived in July 1942. This country was neutral, there was plenty of food and no shortage of money. The band could take advantage of these circumstances and was soon playing in the popular cabaret “Tabaris”. Although the audience was crazy about the Tango, produced by many artists – in fact competitors -  they yet met a lot of interest in their kind of music. They were playing month after month and Ventura even concluded a contract with Odeon, which company made a lot of band records.

Ray Ventura and band members with guitarist Henri Salvador ( Buenos Aires) ( 1943)  ( source: Les grands orchestres de Music Hall en France)

Apart from this other activities took place. Bass player Louis Vola, who formed part of the famous Hot Club quintet with Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, founded a similar group and even recorded for Victor Argentina. 

Below a recording by Ray Ventura and his orchestra,  Ménilmontant, recorded in Argentinië (1942) with Coco Aslan ( Odeon 45812)

The Ventura band switched now from Odeon to a smaller record company called “Syncopa e Ritmo”. Further other small formations (the band within a band) held sessions with musicians like Henri Salvador, Pierre d’Hellèmmes, Pierre Allier and Max Mirlirot. 
All were at ease and successful. And as to Micheline, she married  an Argentinian which fact was in favour of the band too. Misraki created lots of songs and also worked for the film industry. He became a celebrity,  admired in all South American countries.Though the band members played with diferent groups, the complete Ventura band remained active and still had many performances. It was only around 1954 that the band broke up.

The new Ray Ventura orchestra ( December 1945)  ( source: Les grands orchestres de Music Hall en France)

The last episode

After the liberation Ray and Paul travelled to the United States. Paul was soon  involved in the film industry and would stay in Hollywood for a long time. Ray went back to Europe, first to Belgium and then on to his native country. Once back in France he formed a new band again which included several dedicated band members like Henri Salvador, Guy Paquinet, Gérard Lévèque, Marcel Croustier, Max Hugot and Max Elroy.
Although the taste of the audience had changed a bit, Ray was yet successful in his performances; several film recordings were made as well. His orchestra can be seen in the following movies: “Mademoiselle s’amuse”(1947), “Nous irons à Paris” (1949) and “Nous irons à Monte Carlo”(1951) – all these produced by Ray himelf.
The next years he was more and more passionated by films and starting from 1954 he left all music behind him. Only once in a while he played with an occasional band and recorded for his own label “Versailles”. However, new successes failed to occur and gradually all was in decline. His enthousiasm and his role was over! A few years later he left France and settled in Palma de Mallorca where he eventually died on March 30, 1979.

Les Collégiens, post-war period, undated  ( source: Les grands orchestres de Music Hall en France)

Ray Ventura did not invent “Jazz en scène” himself. An American, an Englishman and Grégor in Paris succeeded long before. But during the Thirties he perfectionated this kind of music considerably, which is proven by many of his records and film recordings. Other band leaders such as Fred Adison, Jo Bouillon and Jacques Hélian never have been able to match the Ray Ventura band.
Some examples of his recordings: I’m afraid of you (1928), Good for you (1930), St. James infirmary & Saint Louis Blues (1932), Just an idea (1933), La-mi-re-sol (1937), I got rhythm (1938) and Louise (1939). 

Previous: Ray Ventura (1908-1979) - piano player and band leader - part 1
Nederlands: part 1 - here              part 2 - here     

Georg Lankester

Ray Ventura: One of the most important European bandleaders of the last century. During World War II he triumphed in South America, and when the war was over, he threw himself into the film business .... its heyday of the thirties had already passed (Georg Lankester) 

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ray Ventura (1908-1979) – piano player and band leader, Part 1

The Frenchman who combined Jazz with Entertainment

The Pre-War Years
by Georg Lankester

In my publications on famous European band leaders from the Thirties/Forties of last century, Ray Ventura should certainly be mentioned. Going deeply into the French jazz scene, I discovered how many important French and Belgian jazzmen joined his orchestra. He was a great organiser and always managed to engage the best musicians of his time.

Trip to New York; Le salon du "Paris"  Ray Ventura featured on bassax (1929) (source: Les Grands Orchestres de Music-Hall en France - Jacques Helian)

A fast career

Ray Ventura - usually called ‘Ray” - was born in Paris on April 10, 1908. He grew up in comfortable circumstances and already, as a youngster, showed interest in new music styles. In 1924 he discovered jazz music in the casino of Biarritz where he heard the band of Léo Poll. Being well-off he soon bought American jazz records as well as scores. By 1926 the enterprising boy, backed up by fellow students of his high school, founded a band called “The Collegians”, more or less in the style of Paul Whiteman and Jack Hylton. But also musicians such as Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington and their bands inspired him

The Collegians on board the ship to New York (1930) (source: Les Grands Orchestres de Music-Hall en France - Jacques Helian)

The next year Ray’s formation could be heard at the so-called ‘surprise parties’ which were frequently organised, particularly in the Parisian quarter “Passy”. These were lively sessions with guest players like Guy Paquinet, Gérard Léveque, Max Hugot, Max Ellroy and others. Gradually American musicians joined them, stimulated by the newly founded ‘Hot Club de France’ of which the organisers invited American stars to perform in Paris. Clarinettist/saxophonist Danny Polo was one of the first and many others would follow.

It should be stated that earlier, in 1928, “The Collegians” already made their first record for Columbia – those were followed by recordings for the record company Odéon. The line-up of those days included trumpet player Ray Binder and saxophonist Edouard-Stanton Foy. A few years later the band switched for their recordings to the Decca company and this cooperation would last till 1935. In 1929 Ray and his fellow musicians – without any contract – travelled to the States in order to promote their beloved music and to take advantage of the possibility to play for the radio. Once back in France Ray was absorbed in jazz entertainment and started to write and publish about it in the Grégor magazine. In those days Grégor was a successful band leader in Paris (NOTE his band included Stéphane Grappelli for some time).

Paul Misraki (source: Les Grands Orchestres de Music-Hall en France - Jacques Helian)

Around 1932 several new musicians came to join “The Collegians” such as trombone player André Couzard, violinist George Effrosse and piano player/composer Paul Misraki. But also the Arslanian brothers formed now part of Ray’s orchestra, of which Krikor acting as “Coco Aslan” would become quite known. However, difficult times arrived because of the economic crisis with lots of consequences.

Ray Ventura et ses Collegiens in Geneve (oktober 1931) (source: Les Grands Orchestres de Music-Hall en France - Jacques Helian)

Financial problems and a solution

Since most people could no longer afford to visit jazzclubs the musicians had less income. That’s why Ray had to look for a different audience. Stan Foy, who had been a member of the Jack Hylton orchestra, suggested that the Ray Ventura band should adopt the same approach. This opinion was not commonly shared. Was the Hylton band not too commercial? Ray hesitated, but at the same time he realised that a concession undoubtedly was the only solution to survive. So it was finally decided to use the French approach since this was now  not evident for the audience. So far the band had mainly produced some background music in cabarets next to its jazz repertoire.

Coco Aslan (source: Les Grands Orchestres de Music-Hall en France - Jacques Helian)

They now wanted to act as ‘eye catchers’ and bring their own show. Doing so a new sort of entertainment was born called “Jazz en scène” in which Coco Aslan played an important role as a showman and Paul Misraki composed new French songs.

(source: Les Grands Orchestres de Music-Hall en France - Jacques Helian)

Already in July 1930 the renewed orchestra of Ray Ventura made some recordings of French songs, very successfully. Later the band was invited to perform in the London “Palladium”. Even in ’33, when Hitler was about to seize power, they made a tour through Eastern Europa and Italy. And with saxophonist Noël Chiboust on board and a special repertoire managed by their communicative leader the formation balanced in an elegant way between jazz and show whereby the musicians became real stars.

l' Empire ( juni 1931) (source: Les Grands Orchestres de Music-Hall en France - Jacques Helian)

In February 1934 their posters could be seen in the Casino of Paris. But Ray’s band with several star soloists experienced that they were too expensive which fact resulted in serious financial problems. However, a solution was found by the exceptional creativity of Misraki.

He composed a song called “Tout va bien, Madame la marquise” and this song became a top hit in France so that Ray’s financial situation changed to the better.

The fact that the band was much more professional became evident in its presentation. The repertoire included now more French songs and sketches in order to entertain the audience. Next to domestic tours the band travelled to Belgium, Holland, England and even Spain. They participated in cabarets, radio broadcasts and films like e.g. “L’amour à la Américaine’(1932),”Feux de joie”(1938) and “Tourbillon de Paris”(1939). All these special performances made Ray a celebrity.

Ray Ventura et ses Collégiens in the film: Feux de joie (source: Les Grands Orchestres de Music-Hall en France - Jacques Helian)

Sometimes during the Thirties some fellow band leaders were invited such as Fred Adison and Jo Bouillon (the latter was Josephine Baker’s husband.). The shows of the orchestra included some acts which had to do with the threats of the war like e.g.’The band is going to strike’ (in those times  people and companies sometimes did strike against the occupiers).

Further excellent jazz musicians from France and Belgium joined the orchestra. In 1936 Gus Deloof, Philippe Brun, Alix Combelle, André Ekyan, Loulou Gasté (husband of singer Line Renaud), Louis Vola, Jerry Mengo, Josse Breyre and Guy Paquinet formed part of the Ventura band.

The successful leader even established his own publishing house, however, through the war he unfortunately had to end this activity.

(To be continued)


Ray Ventura

Ray Ventura (1908-1979) : pianist en orkestleider del 1 (nederlands)

Georg Lankester

One of the biggest French band leaders of the twentieth century was undoubtedly Ray Ventura, who in the thirties with his collégiens  scored hit after hit with his orchestra and made ​​a big show around each occurrence. In two parts Georg Lankester gives an account of his career. The Frenchman who combined jazz and entertainment in the thirties is set in the spotlight.

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