Thursday, May 28, 2015

Het Jazz Festival van 1948 in Nice - deel 2

Georg Lankester continues and concludes his essay on the first International Jazz Festival of 22 to 28 February 1948, Nice (France). First part of Lankester's essay is accesible hereThe text is in Dutch, a translation into English is to be published later.


Festival program 
Amerikaanse overmacht
Het was duidelijk dat de opzet van Pananssié voor een Amerikaans spektakel zorgde, maar er bekende Fransen ontbraken. Denk bijvoorbeeld aan blazers als Alix Combelle, André Ekyan, maar ook anderen. De enige Franse inbreng vormde het orkest van Claude Luter, zoals bekend spelend in de New Orleans traditie, zeer door Pananssié bewonderd.

Er ontstond bij de mede-organisatoren onenigheid over de geringe Franse deelname en op het allerlaatste moment werd toen besloten om  Django en Stéphane met hun kwintet als mede-representanten van de Franse jazz uit te nodigen. Ze zouden bij de finale op 28 februari in de immense ballroom-zaal van Negresco optreden, wat door de RDF op de radio zou worden uitgezonden in het programma ‘Nuit de Jazz. De musici moesten dus in allerijl per trein van Parijs naar Nice reizen.

Django was er eigenlijk wel trots op om te kunnen deelnemen aan dit internationale festijn waar zoveel Amerikanen optraden. Het bewijs hiervan is dat hij later een compositie lanceerde met de toepasselijke titel “Festival 48”.

De ego’s van de twee ster-solisten
Hun optreden zou echter bepaald geen succes worden en…het boterde ook niet zo tussen de beide solisten. Er was tussen de twee musici nog altijd sprake van enige rivaliteit en die manifesteerde zich bij dit festival opnieuw.

Django was in 1947 in topvorm. Na zijn mislukte Amerikaanse tournee had hij zich volledig  herwonnen en werd weer overal gevraagd. Ook qua opnamen was het een  succesvol jaar, waarin hij ettelijke nieuwe composities uitbracht  en met verschillende musici in de studio speelde. De gitarist maakte bijna 120 opnamen, zoals gezegd, in tal van combinaties. Zo verraste hij de wereld met nummers als “Manoir de mes Rêves”, “Crépuscule”, “Artillerie lourde” (n.a.v. de oorlog), “Belleville” en nog diverse andere composities


Wat Stéphane betreft moeten we evenmin vergeten dat hij in Engeland vanaf  het begin van de oorlog overal optrad en vaak met gerespecteerde musici als de pianisten Arthur Young en George Shearing. Hij had grote bekendheid gekregen als violist en entertainer.

De beide solisten wilden zich dus bij dit festival elk doen gelden als belangrijk Europees jazz-artiest. Ze hadden daarbij als begeleiders: Joseph Reinhardt, Challin Ferret op gitaar en Emmanuel Soudieux bas, dus min of meer een formatie als in vroegere tijden
Alhoewel er aan het begin nog wel enige hilarische momenten waren (zie foto’s gemaakt tijdens hun aankomst bij het station), was de stemming later binnen bepaald gespannen.

Een lauwe ontvangst
Op de aankondiging van het Hot Club kwintet volgde slechts een mager applausje van het publiek. Dit vergrootte de spanning tussen de musici en vooral Django was geïrriteerd. Hij wilde  laten horen dat hij nog altijd de grootste gitarist was. Maar ook Grappelli wilde zich natuurlijk doen gelden.

Helaas is het mij onbekend welk repertoire er die 28e februari door het kwintet werd gebracht, maar toch is er iets van bewaard gebleven, Via privé opnamen (overgenomen van de radio), weliswaar van slechte kwaliteit, zijn de nummers “Swing ‘42” en “Nuages” te beluisteren. Een zeldzaam en eigenlijk historisch document!
Allereerst komt hieruit naar voren dat Django op een elektrische gitaar speelt en Stéphane te ver van de microfoon staat. Alles klinkt hard en je voelt een zekere kilte  We horen het aftellen en dan een gespannen Django die, bijna aarzelend, “Swing ‘42” m.i. langzaam inzet. Omdat de gitaar veel harder klinkt dan de viool, is het beginduet weinig harmonieus. Django’s solo vertoont soms Bebop-trekjes. Stéphane is in zijn improvisaties slecht te horen en lijkt niet echt op dreef. Het slot (twee maal de eindmelodie) verloopt merkwaardig, omdat Stéphane de tweede keer niet meer is te horen. Na opnieuw een  aankondiging volgt “Nuages” waarbij de viool amper hoorbaar is en Django er nogal laat bijkomt. Tijdens de gitaarsolo daarop is er veel geroezemoes in de zaal. Dan soleert een weinig geïnspireerde Grappelli met daarbij harde, bijna venijnige akkoorden van de gitaar. Het klonk bepaald niet als in vroegere tijden en de slechte versterking verergerde de zaak nog.

De reactie van het publiek was veelbetekenend. Een nauwelijks te horen applausje viel hen ten deel en dat was het!  Django’s gezicht vertoonde na afloop dan ook sporen van enige vertwijfeling, zo werd opgemerkt. De media waren uiterst kritisch en oordeelden dat het kwartet op de oude tour speelde en dus niet modern genoeg was. Zo oordeelde ook Boris Vian die in het verleden lovend over de formatie was  geweest. Hij schreef in ‘Jazz Hot’ dat de gitarist nog altijd hetzelfde bracht en weinig was geëvolueerd!


Al met al dus een schril contrast met de traditionele bands die lof kregen toegezwaaid van de gehele pers. Die schreven volop over de Amerikaanse bands en ook “Luter & ses Lorientais werd geprezen.

Toch nam het evenement voor Django nog een ietwat gunstige wending. Hij deed in de late uurtjes volop mee met jam-sessions van de Amerikanen waaronder Louis Armstrong.

 Verdere tegenslag en lichte stijlaanpassing
Terug in Parijs,op de 10e maart, maakte het kwartet een serie opnamen in Studio Pelouze, waarvan gezegd kan worden dat het interessante titels betrof, inclusief de nieuwe compositie “Festival 48”. En er is beslist al sprake van een wat modernere stijlopvatting.



Daarna vertrokken de musici naar Engeland om in “Hackney” een concert te geven. Maar…. hun instrumenten en persoonlijke bezittingen bleken uit het hotel te zijn gestolen. De ritme-sectie vertrok daarop en werd in allerijl vervangen door Engelse musici. Django bleef er vrij stoïcijns onder; Stéphane schafte zich onmiddellijk een tweedehands pak aan.
Hun optreden verliep aanzienlijk beter dan in Nice, wat bleek uit een recensie van het alom bekende magazine “Melody Maker”. Dat rapporteerde dat Django een ieder met zeer bijzonder gitaarspel verraste en er, net als bij de gitarist, in Stéphane’s improvisaties Bebop-invloeden te ontdekken waren. 

Voorzichtige eindconclusie
Wellicht was Dizzy’s optreden en dat van andere Amerikanen in Nice tóch van invloed op het kwintet geweest? Het Jazz-Festival 1948 zou daarom kunnen worden beschouwd als een (kleine) mijlpaal voor het kwintet.
Hugues Panassié
En wat tenslotte de Hot Club de France organisatie betreft kwam het, niet lang na het festival, tot een definitieve breuk tussen Hugues Panassié en Charles Delaunay, aangezien eerstgenoemde zich uitsluitend bleef toeleggen op de traditionele jazz.

Georg Lankester
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Jo
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Het Jazz Festival van 1948 in Nice - deel 1

The Nice Jazz Festival was founded by Hugues Panassié and lasted from the 22 to 28 February 1948. It featured a repertory of traditional jazz, swing, and bop music and was the first international jazz festival. Georg Lankester writes an extended essay about the festival. The text is in Dutch, below follows the first part of the essay, the second part will be published later as well as a translation into English.

Een wereldprimeur

Hugues Pannasié
Begin 1948, toen de grootste ellende van de oorlogsjaren langzaam wegebde, kwam Hot Club de France–president Hugues Panassié op het idee om van 22 t/m 28 februari (dus meteen na het carnaval) een Jazz Festival aan de Riviera te organiseren en wel in Nice. Hij baseerde zich daarbij op het eerdere succes van het filmfestival te Cannes en de ideeën van het comité dat feestelijkheden in de stad Nice organiseerde.

Het zou een absolute première worden, want nooit eerder had een dergelijk festival in de wereld plaatsgevonden. Zelfs de Amerikanen hadden zoiets nog niet georganiseerd.

Maar Pannasié’s initiatief, aangekondigd in het magazine ‘Jazz Hot’, was vooral bedoeld om de traditionele jazz goed naar voren te halen. Want…. ..wat was het geval? Vanaf het begin van de jaren ’40  was in Amerika een nieuwe jazzstroming op gang gekomen, de Bebop. De ‘swing’ was min of meer over z’n hoogtepunt heen.

Charles Delaunay
Secretaris Charles Delaunay (door wiens inspanningen Django Reinhardt bekendheid had gekregen) was bijzonder geboeid door de nieuwe stijl, anders dan Panassié die zelfs de muziek van Django al modern vond. Er tekende zich dus het begin van een conflict af.

Terwijl  Panassié zijn festival sponsorde en musici als Louis Armstrong met z’n ‘All Stars’ band had uitgenodigd, alsmede andere groten als Earl Hines, Barney Bigard, Baby Dodds, Jack  Teagarden, Rex Steward en Mezz Mezzrow, kwam Delaunay met het 17 man tellende orkest van Dizzy Gillespie op de proppen. Bebop trompettist Dizzy was kort vóór het festival door Charles uitgenodigd en nu ontstonden er bij jazzfans twee kampen: traditionele- of moderne jazz.
Dizzy Gillespie, 1948
Dizzy was, vóór hij naar Frankrijk kwam door veel pech achtervolgd. In Parijs verzorgde hij een serie optredens in de befaamde Salle Pleyel. Maar Panassié, die het eerste concert bijwoonde,  was uiterst negatief en oordeelde glashard dat dit geen jazz was. Bij volgende optredens kwam het tot rellen tussen vóór- en tegenstanders en moest de gendarmerie er zelfs aan te pas komen.


In de maand voorafgaand aan het Festival  speelde Django in het ABC cabaret, vlakbij de Hallen. Dizzy ging er op een avond na zijn optreden heen. Hij trof de gitarist samen met bassist Emmanuel  Soudieux. Django was blij verrast, want hij had de trompettist tijdens zijn  bezoek aan Amerika in 1946 al ontmoet en de twee musici waren goed bevriend geraakt en bewonderden elkaar. 
Dizzy Gillespie & Django Reinhardt
Spontaan kwam het die nacht tot een jam-session waarvan Soudieux zich herinnert hoe geweldig beide musici om beurten soleerden en wat een plezier ze eraan beleefden.

Delaunay regelde ook een optreden voor Dizzy in Marseille plus – als eerder vermeld – deelname aan het grote jazz-evenement in Nice.

Festival program
Jazz en entertainment

Nu iets over het eigenlijke festival: Om zoveel mogelijk publiek naar dit gebeuren te trekken had men de eerste dagen zalen waar, op de muziek van beroemde orkesten, kon worden gedanst, terwijl er later die week concerten konden worden bijgewoond.

Hotel Negresco
Het waren vooral de Amerikanen die in grote Negresco zalen de danslustigen vermaakten. Maar ettelijke bandleden hielden – tot genoegen van veel Fransen - na afloop op andere plaatsen jam-sessions, zoals bij “Monte-Christo” of bij “Christies”. Die veelal  bekende Amerikaanse muzikanten werden met bewondering bekeken en met alle égards door het personeel behandeld. Vooral de drummer van Armstrong’s orkest, Sidney Catlett en zangeres Velma Middleton zorgden voor verbazing van de Negresco staf als ze de duurste drankjes bestelden of om 4 uur in de ochtend zin hadden in sardientjes in olijfolie.
Hotel Negresco: l-r: Louis Vola, Barney Bigard, Django Reinhardt, Earl Hines, Stéphane Grappelli, Sidney Catlett, Arwell Shaw
En er was natuurlijk enorme aandacht en lof voor “Satchmo” en in iets mindere mate voor de bekende Franse artiest Boris Vian. Aardig om te vertellen is nog dat er ook jonge Europese jazzmusici waren als Humphrey Lyttlelton en Toots Thielemans die – zoals we weten - later grote furore zouden maken.

Tijdens  de ‘Nuit de Jazz’ was er ook nog een ‘Tour de Chant’ met Fransen als Yves Montand, Suzy Delaire en de uit Nice afkomstige Henri Betti; dit alles trok natuurlijk extra veel  publiek. De zaal bood daarvoor ruimte aan 600 bezoekers, waarbij elke plaats 5000 francs kostte.

Georg Lankester

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Jo
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Monday, May 11, 2015

Kevin Breit - Ernesto And Delilah

The Upper York Mandolin Orchestra, c. 1915
Mandolin orchestras were very popular in the early 20th Century and were commonplace in many towns and cities, even several schools had one. The stimulus to create mandolin groups often came from travelling mandolinists and teachers. Immigration from Europe to other parts of the world resulted in the concept spreading rapidly, with movements beginning quite early in America, Japan and Australia. An example of such a mandolin orchestra is the Candian Upper York Mandolin Orquestra, shown at the photo above.

Thomas Dooley III conducting the UYMO (photo:Cathy Merenda)
The Upper York Mandolin Orchestra was founded in 1909 by Thomas Dooley, who was an Irish immigrant with a passion for mandolin orchestra music. Dooley met many  musicians interested in being a part of the orchestra, so he set up weekly sessions in his home, often going through the night and into the morning. It wasn't too long before these informal sessions would turn into concert performances throughout the province of Ontario. His son, Thomas Dooley Jr., also joined the orchestra and continued the directorship after his father passed away in 1956. With the birth of rock and roll, membership decreased drastically, but Dooley Jr. wouldn't let the orchestra cease. Eventually, the orchestra performances became infrequent but always well attended by mandolin orchestra enthusiasts. After the death of Dooley Jr. in 1979, the orchestra took a 16 year hiatus. In 1995, however, Thomas Dooley's youngest son   decided to recreate his grandfather's legacy and the Upper York Mandolin Orchestra was reborn and is still active today under the directorship of Thomas Dooley III. (- info excerpted from the web of UYMO, unfortunately no longer accessible).

Kevin Breit (photo: Martina Breit)
Canadian mandolinist and long time fan of the mandolin orchestra tradition, Kevin Breit met with Dooley in 2009 to discuss a possible collaborative project. This proposal led to the successful recording of a CD titled 'Field Recording', released 2013 and containing material composed and performed by Kevin Breit accompanied by the Upper York Mandolin Orchestra (- you may listen to this collaborative work in streaming audio at Bandcamp, here). Kevin Breit and the UYMO continue the collaboration on the just released 2-CD set,'Ernesto and Delilah', shown below

Ernesto And Delilah (Poverty Playlist, 2015)
The double CD set contains two distinctly different albums, the 'Ernesto' disc is instrumental and features arrangements of Brazilian composer Ernesto Ciari's works by the UYMO and Kevin Breit. The 'Delilah' disc is a folk roots album of songs written by Kevin Breit and performed with vocalist and actress Rebecca Jenkins accompanied by the UYMO. The instrumental disc contains eleven works by the mysterious composer Ernesto Ciari and is certainly the most interesting in my point of view, as this is a first time recording of the compositions by Ciari.

Ernesto Ciari, c. 1971
Some info about Ernesto Ciari is quoted here, excerpted from the website of UYMO (- no longer accessible):

Ernesto Ciari (1938-1972) was born in Rio de Janeiro. His father, Romero, was a doctor, an educated man of Portuguese extraction, an author, an amateur astronomer and musician. Ernesto was attracted to music, but had no formal training. After a few abortive harmony lessons, he immersed himself in music by illicit observation from the top of the stairs of the regular musical evenings at his house arranged by his father. He learned himself to play the piano, the guitar and the mandolin. When his father died suddenly in 1948, he earned a living for his family by playing in cinema and theatre orchestras in Rio. - Around 1958, Ciari started explorations of Brazil's "dark interior", absorbing the native Brazilian musical culture. After this period, he gave up any idea of conventional training and instead absorbed the musical influences of Brazil's indigenous cultures. His earliest compositions were the result of improvisations on the piano and mandolin. - Ciari played with many local Brazilian street-music bands; he was also influenced by the cinema and Ernesto Nazareth's improvised tangos. For a time, he became a mandolinist in a Rio opera company, and his early compositions include attempts at Grand Opera. Encouraged by Arthur Napaleo, a pianist and music publisher, he decided to focus his attention fully on composition. Plagued with deep depression, he would disappear for weeks without any contact with his family and friends and would eventually reappear, as if he had stepped out for a stroll around the block. Ciari's writing was sporadic but at the same time focused and intense. - Ernesto Ciari is largely unknown and the tragic circumstances of his death loom larger than his creative output. Ernesto took his life on what would be the premier of his most ambitious work, "O Círculo da vida". 

The eleven featured compositions by Ciari at the 'Ernesto' CD are arranged by Thomas Dooley III for mandolin orchestra and have Kevin Breit as guest performer together with Cyro Baptista on percussion and Gregoire Maret on harmonica. The music is a strange mixture of different influences from Brazilian popular music, classical tradition and other fields difficult to identify. The rhythmic pulse of the music, however, sounds more American than Brazilian compared to what is usually performed in Brazil. Nevertheless, a fascinating soundscape is created at the disc and the complex music is well performed by the UYMO and Kevin Breit directed by Thomas Dooley III.

You have the opportunity to listen to (- and buy) the 'Ernesto and Delilah' double cd-set at Bandcamp, here. - The CDs including other recordings by Kevin Breit are also available for purchase at his official website, here

Inserted photos are copied from the Ernesto and Delilah CD set (Poverty Playlist, 20015)
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Jo
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Friday, May 1, 2015

Les Loups Revisited

Les Loups ( original photo courtesy by Erik Host)
Oscar Alemán teamed with Brazilian guitarist Gastón Bueno Lobo c.1925, they formed a duo that was named Os Lobos (- indicating G.B. Lobo's primacy of the duo), later the Portuguese word was changed into Les Loups.The duo had its professional debut in Rio de Janeiro 1926 (- more info, here), they were billed as Hawaiian guitarists and were featured in various performances together with other artists at different venues and even were presented in a live radio program. The debut of the duo was a success with the Carioca public and was followed by a short tour of Brazil early 1927. Later that year Les Loups were brought to Buenos Aires after joining Argentinian comedian Pablo Palitos, who introduced the duo in Buenos Aires and helped arranging exposure of Les Loups. The duo performed in various venues in Buenos Aires, was presented in radio and finally had the important luck of signing a recording contract with the prestigious Victor label. From December 1927 to December 1928 Les Loups recorded 16 sides for Victor as a duo and featuring violinist Elvino Vardaro as Trio Victor they recorded 8 sides more in this formation from September 1928 to January 1929 (- discographical details are available at Hans Koert's indispensable online discography, here).

The 16 duet recordings of Les Loups for Victor are the debut on record of Oscar Alemán, but this chapter of Alemán's career has mostly been neglected by critics and historians, who have engaged in Alemán's career and recorded output. Critics still seem to categorize Alemán as just another jazz guitarist and a clone of the Django Reinhardt 'school' of swing. But this was not the way it started, as Les Loups performed as Hawaiian guitarists and took advantage of the 'Hawaiian' hype that swept the world in the early decades of the last century.

The musical repertoire of Les Loups comprised tangos, waltzes and a few fox-trots performed in the 'Hawaiian' way, which means that the melody is played using a slide or steel bar by the lead guitarist while the other guitarist provides elaborate accompaniment using the insturment in a conventional way playing chords, fill ins etc. and supporting the rhythm. G.B. Lobo had the leading role playing the melody with a steel bar while Alemán provided supporting accompaniment. The Victor recordings by the duo are magnificent examples of a great teamwork and interplay between the two guitarists, and it's a shame that these recordings never have been re-issued - maybe that's a part of the background for neglecting this division of Alemán's recorded output by most critics?

Among the recorded tunes by Les Loups the famous tango 'La Cumparsita' (- recorded August 1928) had its debut on record in the version by the duo. Another famous, early tango was 'Guitarra que llora' that was composed by G.B. Lobo (- and elaborated in partnership with Alemán). This tango was recorded by Les Loups c. May 2nd 1928 and issued on a Victor 78' rpm disc (Victor 80839, mx BAVE- 44058A-2)

Victor 80839-A, Guitarra que llora
The audio of the Victor recording of 'Guitarra que llora' has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted here to give you an impression of the great interplay between Lobo and Alemán


This was the initial recording of 'Guitarra que llora', but other artists also recorded this tango by G.B. Lobo and Oscar Alemán after it had added lyrics by Enrique Cadícamo and was published as sheet music

Original sheet music frontpage
A contemporary of Les Loups was tango singer Augustin Magaldi, who recorded his vocal version of 'Guitarra que llora' for Victor shortly after the initial recording by Les Loups.

Augustin Magaldi
It has earlier been assumed by tango discographers that Magaldi's recording of 'Guitarra que llora' had featured Les Loups as accompanying guitarists, as the recording was made on a date when Les Loups also happend to be in Victor's studio in Buenos Aires (August 25th, 1928), but this assumption cannot be confirmed neither by audible review nor by available info in Victor's files (- a discussion regarding this a.o. is available here). Most likely the accompanying guitarists with Magaldi's vocal are his regular accompanying guitarists in 1928, Diego Centeno and Ángel Domingo Riverol. Anyway, here's Magaldi's version of 'Guitarra que llora'


By coincidence I found a recently recorded version of 'Guitarra que llora' uploaded at YouTube and performed by a Belgian trio named Les guitares magiques. This contemporary version revisits the original version by Les Loups and is a magnificent re-take of the tune that generates a hope for more from this talented Belgian trio. It's a sheer joy to learn that contemporary musicians finally have experienced the lasting quality of the music originally recorded by Les Loups.

Les guitares magiques (YouTube)
I have not much info about Les guitares magiques, but here are a few details extracted from the info added with another uploaded video by the trio: "Slide masters Raf “Lazy Horse” Timmermans and Gijs Hollebosch usually accompany singer-songwriters. They met in early 2012 and gigged together a few times. Soon it became clear they had to share their passion for slide music. Digging deep into the Hawaiian style of playing slide guitar, Raf and Gijs soon discovered a whole unexplored world of forgotten music. Together with double bass player René Stock they built a new repertoire. It is Hawaiian, but it is also much more." 

Enjoy 'Guitarra que llora' as played by Les guitares magiques from Belgium, a great tribute to the original recording of the tango as played by Les Loups in 1928


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Jo
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Monday, April 20, 2015

Charlie Ventura - Bop For The People

Bebop or bop is a style of jazz characterized by a fast tempo, instrumental virtuosity and improvisation based on the combination of harmonic structure and sometimes references to the melody. It was developed in the early and mid-1940s. This style of jazz ultimately became synonymous with modern jazz. The term "bebop" is derived from nonsense syllables (vocables) used in scat singing; the first known example of "bebop" being used was in McKinney's Cotton Pickers' "Four or Five Times", recorded in 1928.

In the 1940s, the younger generation of jazz musicians created a new style that came out of the 1930s' swing music. They partially strove to counter the popularization of swing with non-danceable music that demanded listening. Minton's Playhouse in New York served as an incubator and experimental theater for early bebop players. Part of the atmosphere created at jams like the ones found at Minton's Playhouse was an air of exclusivity: the "regular" musicians would often reharmonize the standards in order to exclude those whom they considered outsiders or simply weaker players.

Bebop differed drastically from the straightforward compositions of the swing era and was instead characterized by fast tempos, asymmetrical phrasing, intricate melodies, and rhythm sections that expanded on their role as tempo-keepers. The music itself seemed jarringly different to the ears of the public, who were used to the bouncy, organized, danceable tunes of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller during the swing era. Instead, bebop appeared to sound racing, nervous, erratic and often fragmented. While swing music tended to feature orchestrated big band arrangements, bebop music highlighted improvisation. Typically, a theme (a "head," often the main melody of a pop or jazz standard of the swing era) would be presented together at the beginning and the end of each piece, with improvisational solos based on the chords of the tune. Thus, the majority of a song in bebop style would be improvisation, the only threads holding the work together being the underlying harmonies played by the rhythm section.

Pioneers of bebop jazz included musicians like Dizzy Gillespie (tp), Charlie Parker (as), Thelonius Monk (p) and Budd Powell (p), who were influenced by the preceding generation's adventurous soloists, such as pianists Art Tatum and Earl Hines, tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young and trumpeter Roy Eldridge. Another bop pioneer neglected by hardliners and almost forgotten today was sax player Charlie Ventura, who attempted to popularize bebop for a larger audience by naming one of his 1940s ensembles Bop For The People.

Charlie Ventura (1916-1992)
Charlie Ventura came from a large, musically inclined family. His first instrument was C-melody sax. He switched to alto before eventually settling on tenor. Ventura left his day job at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1942 to join Gene Krupa's band. He became a featured soloist with Krupa, playing with the drummer from 1942-1943 and 1944-1946.
Gene Krupa and Charlie Ventura
Ventura achieved considerable popularity while with Krupa, winning a Down Beat magazine poll as best tenor saxophonist in 1945. The same year Ventura started recording under his own name fronting smaller ensembles, below I'll insert some examples. - The first session under his own name was recorded March 1st, 1945 for the Sunset label in Los Angeles, the line-up was a sextet featuring Howard McGhee (tp) Charlie Ventura (ts) Arnold Ross (p) Dave Barbour (g) Artie Shapiro (b) Nick Fatool (d). Four sides were cut, and one of the recorded tunes was 'Tea For Two'. that has some bebop inspired soli by both McGhee and Ventura


At the same session also was recorded a version of 'I Surrender, Dear' that shows off Ventura's inspiration from tenor sax players like Coleman Hawkins and Chu Berry, his version continues the lyrical tradition first presented by these musicians, I think


On August 24th, 1945, Ventura recorded for the Savoy label in New York, this time in a quartet setting. Personnel comprised Charlie Ventura (ts) Arnold Ross (p) John Levy (b) Specs Powell (d).

Dark Eyes
One of the tunes recorded for Savoy in this August 1945 session was the shown 'Dark Eyes' that had a radical interpretation, Ventura's solo has some of the hailed characteristics attributed 'real bebop', I think


From 1946 Ventura had his own big band, now extended with a vocal duo that contributed bebop singing to the sound of the orchestra. The vocal duo comprised Jackie Cain and Roy Kral.

Jackie Cain and Roy Kral
Ventura continued recording for smaller labels for some time, a session recorded for the National label in 1946 included a bebop inspired tune composed by Roy Krall featuring the vocal duo, 'Euphoria'

Euphoria, recorded 1946 for National
Listen to the first edition of 'Euphoria' that later was recorded in an extended live-version 1949 from a Jazz at The Philamonic concert, probably better known


In 1947, Ventura signed a contract with RCA Victor, which at the time wanted to capitalize on the emergence of bebop. An RCA executive purportedly told him that they wanted the word "bop" in the band's name. Ventura came up with the phrase "Bop for the People," which implied an accessible form of the music. Ventura formed a big band in 1948, but soon cut it down to eight members, retaining Cain and Kral, who were crucial components of the band's sound.


April 7th 1949 Ventura's orchestra recorded 'For Boppers only', again showcasting the bebop vocals of Cain and Kral. The orchestra comprised Conte Candoli (tp,vcl) Bennie Green (tb,vcl) Charlie Ventura (ts,bar,vcl) Boots Mussulli (as,bar) Roy Kral (p,vcl) Kenny O'Brien (b) Ed Shaughnessy (d) Jackie Cain (vcl)


The Bop for the People band worked through 1949, but in the end Ventura's stab at making a commercial success of bebop failed. During the early '50s Ventura led another big band; formed a highly acclaimed group called the Big Four with bassist Chubby Jackson, drummer Buddy Rich, and pianist Marty Napoleon; briefly ran his own night club in Philadelphia; and also worked again with Cain and Kral. Ventura's health was not the best, yet he continued to work with Krupa into the '60s. After the '50s, Ventura recorded commercially only once (in 1977 with pianist John Bunch), but he still remained active. He worked in Las Vegas (with comedian Jackie Gleason), and fronted various groups in the '70s and '80s, before dying of lung cancer in 1992.

Above info extracted from two articles, here and here.
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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com


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Saturday, April 11, 2015

André Ekyan (1907 – 1972) – A French Saxophone Player, Part 2 (1940s)

Georg Lankester, expert in pre-WW II French jazz history, continues in this entry the story of André Ekyans career, this time focusing on the war and post-war years – the 1940s.

First part of the story (1930s) is available following this link, here 

André Ekyan, a ‘sought after’ musician

In the first year of the war (1940) our alto-sax player formed a new group named “Swingtette” in which we find guitarist ‘Matlo’Ferret. This formation played frequently in the “Moulin Rouge” and moreover made various fine records for “Odéon”.

Due to the fact that the relationship between André and Django was quite good and their musical feelings also matched, a series of new recordings was organised in February. André’s fine sax playing, accompanied by Django, was now completed with guitarist Pierre Ferret and bass player Emmanuel Soudieux, also ‘masters of strings’.They recorded swinging versions of ‘Margie’ and ‘ Rosetta’, as well as ‘Sugar’ and ‘A pretty girl is like a melody’.Those records, supervised by Delaunay, were released by “Swing” (Sw 98 & 194).


André was also the leader of a small formation  called “Kit Cat” which performed in a luxary place at the Champs Elyssées, an illustration of his popularity.

Swing, Sw 127
One year later, in September 1941 two more records with the new Hot Club quintet followed viz. the titles ‘De nulle part’ (‘Out of Nowhere’) and the exciting ‘Hugaria’ in wich sometimes  influences of Hawkins in André’s playing are noticable.These two  tracks for “swing’were released as Sw 127


Outside Paris

Shortly afterwards Ekyan remained in Switzerland because he now joined the popular Ray Ventura orchestra. This French band which had firstly toured through the South of France, went to Switzerland in order to escape from th German occupation. At the end of 1941 Ventura even left Europe to settle in South America till the war was over.

Django Reinhardt, Andre Ekyan, Ralph Schecroun, Alf Masselier and Roger Paraboschi in Rome (1950)
Back in France, André now became the leader of a formation in Baulieu, where he would remain till 1950 when Django invited him to join his new quintet which was going to play in  Italy. In April and May of that particular year this quintet performed in Rome where also several recordings were made. 


 Note: in  those  sessions André was alternating alto-sax with clarinet and….these  were historical sessions because it was the last time that  the two men played together. Django died in May 1953 !

In the Fifties, André performed often in ‘Maxim’s”, however, the music performed there  gradually had a somewhat lower level. Therefore he decided to travel through Europe and so it happened.

André Ekyan's orchestra at 'Maxim's'
He then played in a lot of  countries, but often in Spain. Unfortunately it was in the town of Alicante that he died on 9 August 1972 because of a tragic traffic accident.

André Ekyan (1907-1972)
Summary

Considering André Ekyan’s impressive activities and successes one can certainly speak of an important jazz musician, not only for France, but in general since he also played with a lot of great American jazzmen. 

Worthwhile to mention is that he produced a soft tone on clarinet which created a sometimes  melancholy atmosphere, fitting in so well with a musician like e.g. Django Reinhardt. In his alto-sax playing one can hear some influences from the Chicago jazz (Frank Trumbauer) and – later – from Benny Carter. Producing a warm tone, sometimes calm, in other moments excuberant and fast, he could inspire other jazz musicians. Because of his technique and creativity, this artist belongs to the best European saxophonists of last century.

Some recommended records: China Boy ‘French Hot Boys’(1932),Crazy Rhythm, ‘Coleman Hawkins All Stars (1937), Margie with Django Reinhardt (1940)

Georg Lankester
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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com


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