Friday, April 02, 2010

Ger Van Leeuwen: a forgotten jazz piano player

Ger van Leeuwen: Een vergeten jazzpianist.(Nederlands) Ger Van Leeuwen: a forgotten jazz piano player ( English)

Tuney Tunes: A promising, young musician (1949)
Hans Koert

A few weeks ago I found in a shop specialized in recycled goods in Middelburg, in the south west part of The Netherlands, a bunch of old 78rpm records - Parlophones, Deccas, Columbias, His Master's Voice, Polydors, Tempos and Omegas - most 1940s and 1950s stuff with US big bands and German Tanzorchester. I selected a couple of records and suggested to pay a few Euros for it. Neem heel de stapel maar ( = Please take them all), the woman said, Dan ben ik ze maar kwijt (= I love to get rid of it .... ). So I walked to my car with two dozens of 78s for a couple of Euros. Most of the records were in a worse condition and not very interesting to listen to, but one record caught my ears, although the band didn't promise me a lot of Jazz ...... : Kwartet Ger Van Leeuwen.

KWARTET GERT VAN LEEUWEN: G. van Leeuwen (p.) G. Daalhuisen (b. ) - C. v.d. Berg (dr. ) K. Bruyn ( tenorsax) ANOTHER JUMP (Quick tempo) - DU 1005-1 (December 1952) ( Hans Koert collection)

When I played it, I was really surprised - although I expected to hear one of those numerous early 1950s popular tunes a dime a dozen, I listened to a great jazz quartet playing bebop jazz. A reason to learn more about this Ger Van Leeuwen? Who was that man and what other records did he made? Today I love to share with you some research about his early career in the first post-war years; later I'll tell you about the records and his career as a composer, arranger and studio musician in the Dutch radio bands starting in the 1950s.

Ger Van Leeuwen ( 1919 - 2008) (photo from Tuney Tunes, March 1949)

Ger Van Leeuwen was born in Amsterdam in 1919. At seven he got piano lessons, but when he was twelve he wasn't motivated anymore to continue and stopped it. With some friends, like Jan-Jaap Clinge Doorenbos and Rob Field he founded his first dance band.

KRO-Dansorkest (early 1948) (photo from the NJA Bulletin no. 20)
He had learned to play the tenor saxophone and 17 years old he was invited to play in the Blue Ramblers directed by Pi Scheffer, where he played f
or two years. In the mean time he studied the piano again with Han Beuker. In 1937 he became a student in the Economics, but in 1943, due to the German occupation, it became impossible to continue and finish it. He earned some money making arrangements for Dick Willebrandts, who had his own orchestra during the war in The Netherlands. When the war was over he worked for the Entertainments National Service Association , the E.N.S.A,, an organisation that provided entertainment for British armed forces in Belgium and France. He found a job as tenor saxophone player in the Lex Van Spall orchestra and, after the band was broken in February 1947 he started in the Klaas van Beeck K.R.O.-dansorkest as a piano player. He made his record debut with the Ramblers in June 1946, when he recorded Bouncin' in Bavaria and Rue de Radis; the latter is to be found as a bonus track on the recently released and discussed album: The Ramblers in Brussel ( 1945-1946). When Henk Orthman, bass player of the Klaas Van Beeck orkest, founded his own Rhythme-sextet he asked Ger to join as the piano player and arranger. Ger played the piano, most in the piano style of Nat King Cole, which he adored, hoewel niemand hem er ooit op zal betrappen, dat hij Cole klakkeloos imiteert (= Although nobody will ever catch him out copying Cole's music indiscriminately) ( from: Ger van Leeuwen - In de Schijnwerper by A. Kop Jr. ( Tuney Tunes - March 1949) The members of this Rhythme-sextet Orthman were Ger Natte clarinet - Piet Baan guitar - Ger Van Leeuwen piano - Henk Orthman bass and Gerard Van Bezeij drums. Jannie Bron, a promising Dutch singer was responsable for the vocals.

Love to tell you more later about the Omega-78 rpm record and his career during the 1950s and 1960s.

Hans Koert

Old 78rpm gramophone records are almost vanished from junkshops and jumble sales and if you find spome, the quality of the records might be worse. But sometimes you can find a hidden treasure inside a pile of records - one which seemed to be uninteresting, happened to surprise you .... like the Kwartet Ger Van Leeuwen. Keep swinging loves to share this kind of treasures with you. If you are anxious to learn more about Ger's career in music, just read the Keep Swinging blog. Don't miss it, so register and ask for its weekly news letter.

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