Monday, July 18, 2011

Jazz, that international music

July is well under way, which means that American jazzmen are working hard... mainly in the European circuit. The three jazz festivals in my old backyard, Getxo, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and Donostia-San Sebastián, Marciac in France, the trade fair that is the North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreux... and very many others are a vital part of the workload of many jazz artists from across the pond.

The history of jazz beyond the East and West coasts of America is almost as old as the music itself. By the 1930s, a decade when Buck Clayton had a gig in Shanghai (!), live jazz played by its greatest stars was hardly news any more in Europe.

And what about jazz played by non-Americans? Django was probably the first foreigner to have some sort of impact in America, both via his recordings and his concerts with Duke Ellington which, although they were not a complete success, they were not the complete failure the official history of this music tells us.

But, what if we take the US out of the equation? When did non-Americans get access, look for and enjoy non-American jazz from other countries?

A few weeks ago, I got a 3-CD set from Svensk Jazzhistoria, the mammoth series on Jazz in Sweden. The esteemed Roberto Barahona, director and producer of Chilean radio jazz programme Puro Jazz got wind of it and asked me whether that set included the tune "What's New?" played by a flutist that drove him crazy the first time he heard it when he was a kid, back in Chile, sometime in the mid-1950s.

Since this wasn't in my 3-CD set, he asked his compatriot and Chilean jazz über-collector Pepe Hossiason, while I consulted with Swedish jazz historian Jan Bruer, and both came up with the same answer: Philips P 10950 R.

Jan Bruer:
[T]his 10"LP [was] issued in Europe as Swedish Jazz, Philips P 10950 R, recorded 1955-56. One side of the LP is a ballad medley with five soloists in five different titles. Rolf Blomquist plays "What's New" on flute, he was best known as a tenor saxophonist in Arne Domnérus band and the Harry Arnold Swedish Radio Big Band.

Hossiason produced the actual artifact, as released in Chile:

In short, this music comes from three sessions recorded in Stockholm on December 7, 1955, and April 10 and 20, 1956. The first two as "jam sessions", and the last under "Bengt Hallberg All-Stars". Hallberg, by the way, was the pianist on Stan Getz's original recording of "Dear Old Stockholm" fiver years earlier. Ake Persson (trombone) and Arne Domnerus (alto sax) are also among the musicians involved.

So, this is 1956 or 1957, with no internet, no e-mails, no mp3 file-sharing, very fewer transatlantic flights than today, costly international phone calls, and records with a size of... well, either a 12-inch or, in this case, 10-inch flat square. And yet, made-in-Sweden jazz was deemed apt to be commercialized in Chile or even Singapore. Just take a look at the map:

This, below, is a clipping from the Singapore Free Press of January 23, 1957, p. 13

And Jan Bruer adds that this LP may have been shipped to Australia too.

This is just an example, but it'd seem that jazz was going places earlier than some of us thought.

1 comment:

Jazzbo said...

Very interesting and illuminating ! great stuff.. I agree that there really has not been much study of how jazz went to other parts of the world and why the musicians from America took jazz to other places. THe film Finding Carlton -Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India tells another interesting story. see