Monday, July 28, 2014

Helge Jacobsen - A Danish Jazz Guitar Pioneer

Helge Jacobsen
(Photo copied from music sheet)
Helge Wilhelm Jacobsen (1916-1987) was a Danish jazz guitarist, vocalist and bandleader, who had his main career as a musician from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s. He started his professional career as a guitarist with Svend Asmussen (1937-41), then joined the orquestra of Borge Roger Henrichsen (1941-45) and thereafter lead his own groups until the mid-1950. He recorded with various Danish bands during his career, besides Asmussen and Roger Henrichsen he also participated in recordings with Leo Mathiesen, Cecil Aagaard, Kai Ewans, Peter Rasmussen a.o.. He further took part as a studio backing guitarist in recordings of various vocalists in the 1940s, i.e. Kordt Sisters, Ingerlise Rune, Raquel Rastenni a.o., and he also recorded some sides under his own name. From the mid 1950s he gradually concentrated on art painting and worked as a guitar tutor.

Helge Jacobsen (source: YouTube)
In Danish Jazz reference literature Helge Jacobsen is only left little space, however, he is considered a pioneer of the electric jazz guitar in Denmark, as he was the first guitarist to use an amplified guitar on stage and in recordings from around 1940. He has several solos on electric guitar with Roger Henrichsen's orquestra and you can also find some with Asmussen, Mathiesen and Rasmussen. Anyway, as it was often a common practise at the dawn of the amplified/electric guitar in jazz, like other guitarists Helge Jacobsen switched between acoustic and amplified guitar. Paradoxically, as a pioneer of the electric/amplified guitar his only two solo recording sessions under his own name in the 1940s were played on the acoustic jazz guitar. He recorded a session in 1940 with a trio contributing solo guitar work and vocal on two sides, one of them a version of I Can't Give You Anything But Love, the other side had a version of Little Coquette - both sides showing off great chord style and single string guitar in addition to his vocal and a competent rhythm combo backing. The next time Helge Jacobsen recorded solo guitar under his own name was in November 1944, and this session is in focus here.

Part of  printed music sheet (JL collection)
When I cleared some boxes recently, I found some sheet music which I acquired long ago. Among them were transcripts of Helge Jacobsen's two original compositions, Fantasy i A and Improvisation from November 1944 and released on sheet by Kleinert's Music Publishers, 1945. Transcripts were made by Hemming Hartman, a colleague of Helge Jacobsen, who participated as a bassist in the recording of the two titles. The recordings were made in Copenhagen on 26. November, 1944 and released by the Odeon label on a 78 rpm shellack disc ( Odeon D 923, mx Kpo 4366-1 and Kpo 4367-1) according to Danish jazz discograpical info, while Tom Lord's discography states the year as 1943 without precise date. The Danish discogaphical info probably is the correct listing, if you take the year of release of the sheet music in account. On both sides of the Odeon disc Helge Jacobsen (solo guitar) is accompanied by a rhythm combo composed of Jorn Grauengaard (rhythm guitar), Hemming Hartmann (double bass) and Erik Frederiksen (drums). Unfortunately, the disc has never been re-issued on LP or CD, but YouTube has the audio from the original disc in two videos. Here is first Helge Jacobsen's Fantasi i A

The flip-side of Odeon D 923 had the recording of Helge Jacobsen's Improvisation, also uploaded at YouTube and inserted here

These two examples of Helge Jacobsen's guitar work are essential and show a remarkable and mature mastering of both chord style and single string guitar. His style of playing is not so easy to put in one of the usual categories, however, some sequences in  Improvisation remind me of Albert Casey (- the guitarist with Fats Waller) and the chord style progressions seem to be inspired by the Swedish chord style guitarist Folke Eriksberg (- known from the Svenska Hotkvintetten, a popular Swedish string swing ensemble making several recordings from late 1930s until 1942). Whatever label you would like to put on Jacobsen's guitar style, in my ears it's first and foremost his own, probably developed from listening to records of the swing orquestras available at the time and from exchanging ideas with other musicians on the job and in rehearsals. It's a pity that a record label not yet has taken the initiative to release a selection of Helge Jacobsen's work as a guitarist before his name and contribution to the Golden Age of Jazz in Denmark are forever lost in oblivion. He definitly ranks at the same level as other Scandinavian fellow instrumentalists like Robert Normann, Sven Stiberg and Folke Eriksberg - pioneers of the jazz guitar in Scandinavia. And we are still some fans of swing jazz guitar, who are well aware of the fact that Helge Jacobsen participated as a rhythm guitarist in the famous Danish Jamsession recording December 1938 featuring Oscar Alemán and Svend Asmussen a.o.

Among Scandinavian pioneers of the jazz guitar the Danish guitarist, vocalist and band leader Helge Jacobsen is an almost forgotten figure whose contributions to the swing guitar output of the 1940s' Golden Age of Jazz in Denmark are underrepresented compared to  contemporary re-issue productions of fellow instrumentalists of that period. To correct this injustice this blog entry introduces two essential recordings by Helge Jacobsen under his own name - two essential guitar recordings of the 1940s and excellent examples of Helge Jacobsen's consept of the swing idiom.

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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 in 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 two compositions by Django Reinhardt are performed: 'Douce Ambiance' (track four), 'H.C.Q. Strut' (track twelve) and 'Ou est-tu, mon amour' (Lemarchant and Stern) (track thirteen) and a swing standard like 'Them There Eyes' (track five) are regular parts 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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