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11/12/10

A 1953 jam session emerges from the closet



As I post this, Veterans/Armistice Day, November 11, 2010 is coming to a close. Exactly fifty-seven years ago, I was backstage at KB Hallen, in Copenhagen with a new friend, the amiable Baron Timme Rosenkranz. On stage was the Lionel Hampton orchestra, a big band about which there had been much advance buzz, it being said that some of the young sidemen were extraordinary. Earlier that day, Timme called and invited me to go with him to a post-concert wedding anniversary party scheduled to begin around midnight at the Richmond Hotel. Lionel and Gladys had been married for 17 years and she had called for a celebration. "She will probably serve hot dogs and beer," said Timme, half jokingly and knowing what a penny-pincher she was. 

The Hamptons. He made the money, she called the shots.
The buzz regarding the band turned out to be correct, but not so Timme's prediction. The party was actually a nice one, complete with a huge decorative ice arrangement and an enormous cake that was brought into the room dramatically, although not with as much fanfare as Gladys herself. Oddly enough, Timme and I were the only outsiders present, but, as far as I was concerned, that just made it more special. When I think back, I still wonder how I so quickly went from being the shy guy seated in the dark back corner at jazz lectures to running around with the esteemed "Baron of bounce" at Lionel Hampton's party.

I should have been in seventh heaven, but I was unable to really enjoy myself, because I knew that a large group of Tuborg and Carlsberg-guzzling jazz fans were assembled in a hall not so far away, anxiously anticipating the promised delivery of jazz stars for an all-night session.

Timme Rosenkranz
You see, I had gone out on a limb earlier in the day when Timme called about the party. I thought this would be a great opportunity for a jam session (musicians still had them in those days), so I asked him if he thought some of Hamp's musicians might conceivably agree to come to the Storyville Club that night. Timme said something about musicians always looking for a good time, and offered to herd them down there. "There," was the Storyville Club, but not at its regular location—we gambled and rented Forsvarsbrødrenes 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 but a short cab ride from the Richmond Hotel, so I whipped up some flyers and spread the word to spread the word. Now, as we were a couple of hours into November 12th and the anniversary cake dwindled down to the last crumbs, it was time to get busy and round up Hamp's sidemen. I ran behind Timme, reminding him of our mission, but his mind was on the musicians and what was left of the liquid refreshments.

As I've said before, the naked soon learn how to spin new threads, so, when  GIadys' romp was finally fizzling out, I mustered up enough courage to corner Hamp and extract from him a promise that some members of the band would come with me to the club. The musicians were tired of looking at each other and, as word spread about a jam session with free booze and plenty of Danish girls, I saw instrument cases and overcoats being grabbed. Now Timme got into the act and soon we were off in three Volkswagen bus cabs. At the last minute, Hamp slid into the seat next to me and said that he wanted to come along, but that he wouldn't stay long.

Clifford Brown
I guess many back and forth phone calls were made by Storyville members that day, because the place was packed when we arrived. I had already set up my B&O recorder, next to the upright piano, and placed the microphone on the small stage. Hamp was greeted with loud cheers and he ended up staying for two or three hours. In fact, he also performed. When he saw my tape machine, he told me that it was okay to record "the cats," but that I had to switch the machine off when he played. When he surprised us all by seating himself at the upright, I merely closed the lid of the recorder. Twenty years later, when I told him of my deception, Hamp grinned and said he would love a copy of the tape. I made him a dub, but a fire in his apartment crudely reduced it to a lump of mylar.

don't recall everybody who else came along, but I wrote down the names of Gigi Gryce, Clifford Brown, Anthony Ortega, Jimmy Cleveland, Quincy Jones, and Clittord Scott. Of the Danish musicians I recall trumpeter Jørgen Ryg participated, his playing later improved measurably, but he had great success as a standup comic and film actor. Baritone saxophonist Max Brüel also played, as did Erik Moseholm, a fine bassist, and pianist Jørgen Bengtson. The drummers (you hear them both on Indiana) didn't quite have it down, but one of them was considerably better than the other.

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.

Be prepared for chaotic sounds with good and bad intertwined, and please let me know what you think of these recordings and my posting of them.

The above text is a fleshed-out version of my original post, which was made in August of 2009, when I started this blog. At that time, I did not know how to include audio or video files, so I have relegated that one to the deep recesses of my archives.


Addendum: Timme Rosenkrantz was truly an unforgettable person to those of us who had the good fortune of knowing him. He was a witty, delightfully eccentric Baron (the real thing) who often wrote of his addiction to jazz and those who performed it. Timme's writing has now been  translated into English and lovingly assembled by Fradley Garner. The book, Harlem Jazz Adventures, is due out by the end of 2011 and you can keep up to date on it by going to The Jazz Baron

Here is Perdido:


Here is All the Things You Are



Here is a link to more.

8 comments:

  1. Very fine. Thank you for both the reminiscences AND the music.

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  2. Dear Chris,
    I'm still in New Orleans with lots of music, too many down and out people, nice weather etc. Sorry that I didn't make it to the Apple. I mentioned you to Bruce Reaburn today.
    All the best and take care: Per Oldaeus.

    ReplyDelete
  3. thanks, chris, for posting this historical jam session and your recollections of it! i wonder a little bit that no one is commenting here! in bob weir´s clifford brown discography are the running times of "perdido" 15:23 and "all the things you are" 18:07. so this are obvious wrong timings. he also writes that "indiana" 10:51(as issued on xanadu) is an edited extract from a 40 minutes tape. you write that we can hear the complete 24 minutes in the near future. so bob weir is wrong with the times? and unfortunately no brownie on the other tracks. but thanks a lot for this unique recordings. the sound is very good (to my ears).
    keep boppin´
    marcel

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  4. Thank you for the comments.

    Per, I envy you being in New Orleans, but the down and out doesn't sound good. We have them her in New York, too, however.

    Marcel, It was an extract from a 40-minute tape, but not a 40-minute version of "Indiana."

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  5. Maybe that this is the correct personnel?

    Clifford Brown, Art Farmer (tp) Jimmy Cleveland, Ake Persson (tb) Arne Domnerus (as, cl) Lars Gullin (bars) Bengt Hallberg (p) Simon Brehm (b) Alan Dawson (d) Quincy Jones (arr, cond) -- Stockholm, Sweden, November 15, 1953

    ReplyDelete
  6. Brew, this was Copenhagen, November 11, 1953 (technically Nov. 12, since it was way past midnight when we started. None of the Swedish players you mention were there and the only trombonist present was Jimmy Cleveland. Did you not read my recollections of this night?

    BTW whatever happened to your blog?

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  7. Hi Chris --

    Thanks for the info. Oh, yes, I've checked the date, but later on ;) -- My blog is back, but on WordPress.com. Feel free to click on my name, and you'll see my new blog in all its swingin' glory. -- I wished I had more time at hand. But, as you know, as a musician who has quite a few projects running, you won't spend so much time online.

    Keep up your great work. The interview with Pres is great.

    ReplyDelete