Thursday, February 04, 2010

Svend Asmussen: Just call me Mussen

Svend Asmussen: Just Call Me Mussen ( English) Svend Asmussen: Noem me dan maar Mussen ( Nederlands)

Rhythm Is Our Business: 1950s radio recordings reissued
Hans Koert

Svend Asmussen is still one of the most popular swing violin players of Scandinavia, although he is now in his 90s. He still performs and makes records, like Fit As A Fiddle or Makin' Whoopee and Music, which
was recorded and released last year by Arbors, (ARCD 19390)

Storyville released an album with rare 1950s recordings by Svend Asmussen and his Quintet, titled Rhythm Is Our Business ( Storyville 101 8389 )

Svend Asmussen - 1950s ( Svend Asmussen Archive)

Svend Asmussen, born in Copenhagen, February 1916, is one of the last living jazz musicians who played or recorded during the 1930s with artists like Josephine Baker, Fats Waller and Oscar Alemán and if you have the two double LP's Dansk Guldaler Jazz ( EMI J 9-10 and J 11-12), a Danish Jazz anthology, no one could fail to notice that Svend is present on more then half of the tracks. His first recording was with his Asmussen Sextetten in November 1935.

The liner notes of the album contains a small anecdote: Sam Woodyard, the drummer of Duke Elington once said about Svend's playing: Man, you play your Ass off. Svends reply was: From now on then my name is only Mussen!

Svend Asmussen Quintert - Rhythm Is Our Business ( Storyville 101 8389)

Rhythm Is Our Business contains music from the first decades in the postwar period. The recordings on this reissue were all recorded in Germany in the 1950s and that is rather remarkable if you know remember that Svend had been in German imprisonment during the war. When the war was over, Svend refused to perform in Germany during the first years, but when he finally decided to play in Hamburg, early 1950s, for a show on German Television, it became a great success. He hated to perform on the other side of the border: Alle producenterne var altid Hr. Doktor et eller andet, og der blev råbt og skreget hysterisk i studierne. (= All the producers were Herr Doctor something or other, and they were always shouting orders in the studios.), but it was a country with a lot of new opportunities: Til gengæld var de økonomiske muligheder ti gange større i Tyskland end i Skandinavien. ( = The economic possibilities there were 10 times better than in Scandinavia ) - he said in his biography June Nights.

Svend Asmussen and his Sextet ( late 1950s) ( photo courtesy: Svend Asmussen archive)

The compilation opens with the title song in which he introduces the members of the quintet: Max Leith on piano and vibraphone ( I know Lionel Hampton drives you mad - but listen to Max he ain't so bad), Jørgen Ingmann at the guitar, Poul Gregersen on bass and Erik Frederiksen drums ( although his name is not mentioned on the record). During this period Svend was a sought after artist in Scandinavia and very popular as an entertainer. During this period he started to sing and the music of his quintet reminds me, thanks to the use of the vibes, a bit to the Miller Sextet, a Dutch swing group from the post-war period, popular in Holland. The second half of the CD contains tracks from the late 1950s with a sextet, featuring Max and Jørgen from the previous recording sessions on piano, vibes and guitar and Frank Jensen and Preben Oxbøl in the rhythm section ( again one name seems to be missing, but it could have been Erik Frederiksen again). The Swe-Danes ( early 1960s) with Svend, Babs and Ulrik.

The CD ends with some duo recordings featuring Svend on the violin and Hans Ulrik Neumann as a kind of overture to the known Swe-Danes trio featuring Svend, Ulrik and Hildur Nilsson, better known as Alice Babs, the Swedish first lady of jazz ..... the Scandinavian Rita Reys.

Love to show you a fragment of a duet performance of Svend Asmussen with Ulrik Neumann: Menuet in G.

Although this kind of comical duets were very popular on TV or stage to the common man, the duets on the album are more "seriously".

The information on the album is not very clear and it took me some times to find out that these reordings are made for German radio programs. Svend himself wanted to have these recordings released and that's how we can enjoy these rare tunes now. The two dozen tracks on this Storyville album show Svend Asmussen at one of the periods in his live, being a singer, a comedian and an entertainer ( and he still is ..... remembering our meeting a few years ago) that he was very popular and recorded for the general public. It remembers me to my youth, when this kind of entertainment was popular in TV shows. Nowadays I like Svends more contemporary style of playing, which is much more jazzy and still swing like hell .................
Hans Koert

Svend Asmussen is one of those musicians, although in his 90s, who is still active nowadays. These records, mentioned today, were special selected by him - showing him during his most popular period as one of the star entertainers of northern Europe. It is strange that his fame never spread around the world as he is one of those artists that played their part in jazz. If you don't want to miss contributions about Svend or other icons of jazz on the Keep Swinging blog, you should receive its weekly news letter: Please ask for it: register.

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