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8/3/09

The Night I Taped Brownie





This morning, when I heard that a Xanadu album, International Jam Sessions was recently reissued, it immediately took me back 56 years, to November 11, 1953. A few days earlier, it was announced that Lionel Hampton would bring his big band to Copenhagen for two concerts at KB Hallen. I had just been appointed director of the Storyville Club (more on that in a future post) and I had a new friend in Timme Rosenkrantz, a Danish Baron with a great sense of humor and an abiding love for jazz. Timme spent much of the 1930s and all the war years in New York, so he knew just about all the musicians, from Billie Holiday to Errol Garner (whose first recordings he captured on a portable cutting machine—more about Timme in yet another post). I told Timme of our plans and that we would love to have some of Hamp's people down for a session after the last show. He felt sure that would be no problem, so we gambled and rented Forsvars- brødrenes Hus (Copenhagen headquarter for the Danish military veteran's association) for the night. This was a hall larger than our usual one, and it was located a short cab ride from the Richmond Hotel, where Hamp and the band would be staying. Then we whipped up some flyers, spread the word, and crossed our fingers.

As it turned out, this was the Hamptons' 17th wedding anniversary, and Gladys had planned a big party at the Richmond. It was to commence around midnight, and Timme and I were the only outsiders invited. I guess it was a nice affair, but all I can recall is a huge decorative ice arrangement and an enormous cake plus a grand entrance by Gladys. I was unable to really enjoy any of it, because I knew that a large group of people were guzzling Tuborgs and Carlsbergs as they anxiously anticipated the promised delivery of jazz stars for an all-night session. I recall running behind Timme at the party, trying to get him to arrange something, but his mind was on the musicians and, especially, the liquid refreshments.

I finally managed to corner Hamp and muster up enough courage to extract from him a promise that some members of the band would come with me when the party was over. It was around 2 a.m. (now November 12th) that GIadys' romp finally began to fizzle out; the musicians were tired of looking at each other, word had spread about this jam session with free booze and plenty of Danish girls, etc. As we were leaving to board three Volkswagen bus cabs, Hamp took the seat next to me and said that he wanted to come along, but that he wouldn't stay long. I was in heaven.

A gadget freak, I was the first and, then, only guy in Copenhagen jazz circles to have a tape recorder. It was a large, heavy B&O (their first reel to reel model) and I had already used it to record the Ken Colyer Band in Copenhagen and Humphrey Lyttelton's in London (subject for a future post) The recorder was already at the place and my ribbon mic was set up for action.

I don't recall everybody who came along, but I wrote down the names of Gigi Gryce, Clifford Brown, Anthony Ortega, Jimmy Cleveland, Quincy Jones, and Clittord Scott. Then, of course, there was Hamp himself who not only stayed but played piano. Ot the Danish musicians I recall that Jørgen Ryg, a trumpet player who became a screen actor (his playing later improved measurably) and Max Brüel (baritone sax) actually played, but that awful drummer must have been Danish, as was the pianist, Jørgen Bengtson. There were actually two drummers on Indiana, the second one sounding considerably better than the first one, but both were probably Danish. The bass player was, I believe, the excellent Erik Moseholm. Hamp told me it was all right to record his men, but that I had to switch the machine off when he played. When he seated himself at the upright, I merely closed the lid. Twenty years later, when I confessed to him, Hamp grinned and said he would love a copy of the tape. I gave him one, but a fire in his apartment crudely "erased" it.

Hamp is not heard on Indiana, however, and the rest of that reel remains unissued. The session continued after the tape ran out, until about 7 a.m. With only one microphone, a crude, unscientific setup, and a large room filled with jubilant beer drinkers, it's a miracle anything was recorded at all, and an even greater miracle that the tape didn't get lost during my nomadic days.

I have for a long time had in mind to search the tapes for something like an errant Quincy note (there were many, actually) or a Brownie cough. I would present such material for Phil Schaap to drool over—only kidding!

I should point out that the depicted CD is not available—it is my own little burn with a LightScribe label. I might also note that the B&O tape recorder is the very same model I used to lug around, and that I think the reissue cover is an abomination.

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