Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jan Menu and Jasper Soffers in Porgy en Bess Jazz Club: The Dutch Songbook

Jan Menu en Jasper Soffers in Porgy en Bess met het Dutch Songbook ( Nederlands) - Jan Menu and Jasper Soffers in Porgy en Bess Jazz Club: the Dutch Songbook (English)

Release concert of the Dutch Songbook album in Terneuzen.

Hans Koert

On the 24th of October, 2010 Dutch baritone saxophone player Jan Menu and piano player Jasper Soffers performed at the Porgy en Bess Jazz Club in Terneuzen, in the southwest of The Netherlands. In the packed jazz club the Jan Menu-Jasper Soffers Quartet ( featuring Jan Menu on baritone and soprano saxophone, Jasper Soffers at the piano, Clemens Van Der Feen at the double bass and Hans Van Oosterhout drums) presented their latest album entitled Dutch Songbook.

Jan Menu & Jasper Soffers: Dutch Songbook ( Dig Diz Music 1001)

When I first heard about their plans to compile an album with compositions of Dutch popular songs from the past, few objections raised in my head. I remembered some Dixieland albums from the past like the 1968 album Dixieland Festival by the the Dutch Circus Square Jazz Band with tunes like The Tower Top of Bommel ( = In die grote stad Zaltbommel ...) and each time when I find this album at a junk store I feel an inner surge to buy a copy of it, to use for a ritual burning. Jan and Jasper had the idea to make an album with Dutch compositions for some years, inspired by the American Songbook. Het idee werd eigenlijk geboren in café De Tollebol hier iets verderop (= The idea was born in the Tollebolle bar down the street), Jan explained, waar vooral Nederlandse muziek werd gedraaid. ( = where only Dutch music was played). The album Dutch Songbook, the final product now presented, contains ten tracks with great jazz tunes played in a way that justice the original compositions. Don't worry Jan, Jasper, Clemens and Hans - this album Dutch Songbook don't deserves a ritual burning ............ I will keep it within' arm's reach. Jan Menu ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Ik ben niet uitgegaan van de originele liedtekst - daar blijf je anders maar in hangen (= I didn't start with the original song texts, as you can't get rid of it while playing), Jan Menu explained. Ik ben begonnen met het akkoordenschema op te schrijven en dat was ons vertrekpunt. ( = I started to write down the chords of each composition and that was our start.). We zijn gewoon begonnen te spelen en hier zijn we terechtgekomen. ( = We just played and this is where we landed. )

Jan and Jasper decided to translate the titles of the tunes in the English part of the booklet into English too - I've adopted that, although I don't think it shouldn't have been!
Hans van Oosterhout en Clemens van der Feen ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
Jan Menu and his men started the release concert with the tune Net Als Toen ( = Like In The Old Days), a tune originally written by Guus Jansen and Willie Van Hemert and the price winning song in the 1957 European Song Contest by Corry Brokken. Dat is ook het jaar dat Porgy en Bess werd opgericht (= That's also the year Porgy en Bess was founded) Hans Van Oosterhout noted, although too young to know this from his own experiences. Jan had organized a beamer to share some historical fragments of the selected tunes - the audience enjoyed the fragments as if they were invited, net als toen (like in the old days), to uncle Jan, who showed slides of his latest trip to the Achterhoek ( a popular 1960s holiday destination in the eastern part of The Netherlands). No kidding, the dated fragments, like a tv-appearance of Dutch vocalist Greetje Kauffeld, who dreamed in the 1950s from an international career singing in LA and Las Vegas with Ray Brown, Herb Ellis and Oscar Costa-Neves or Donald "The first black man in Dutch show-bizz" Jones, who came to Holland with the Perez Prado band, illustrated once more, that Jan and Jasper had done a great job not copying the originals, but creating complete new tunes. For Hans Van Oosterhout, whose drum set was situated in front of the projection screen it was a weary afternoon, as he had to leave his stool each time the beamer was used. ....... He did a good job playing the role of the joker of the family, who has to run for his life, each time the beamer was used.

Jan Soffers ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
Jan handed the first copy of the album Dutch Songbook to Trudy Van Tol, the manager of De Tollebol, where it all started and Maja Lemmens, the living personification of Porgy en Bess since its beginnings more then fifty years ago.
Jan Menu ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
In the first set the quartet played the Annie M.G. Schmidt classic De Twips, a name which refers to an energetic dance presented in the 1960s Dutch TV-soap series Ja Zuster Nee Zuster; Ik Zou Jou Het Liefste In Een Doosje Willen Doen ( = I'd Love To Put You In A Little Box), a tune composed by Cor Lemaire and sung by Donald Jones and Greetje Kauffeld's version of Wat Een Dag (= What A Day) - all three part of the album. Jan linked the Dutch Songbook to the better know American Songbook with tunes like Disney's Someday My Prince Will Come.

Hans van Oosterhout ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert

The second set started with Margootje ( = Little Margot), a tune made popular in the mid 1960s by Wim Sonneveld, Dutch cabaret artist and singer and the tune De Veerpont ( The Ferry) originally sung by Drs. P ( = Heinz Polzer) - with a great Jan Menu at the saxophone. Veel Mooier Dan Het Mooiste Schilderij ( = Much Prettier Than The Most Beautiful Painting) is one of my favourites with a great start by Jasper Soffers soloing in a Tristano-style and by Clemens Van Der Feen with a great bass solo. Jan subtitled the well known Connie Stuart tune Wat Voor Weer Zou Het Zijn In Den Haag ( = What Would The Weather Be Like In The Hague) in Wat zouden ze hier in Den Haag weer van denken ( = What would they think in The Hague about that) referring to the modern styled Coltrane-nic improvisations and the more traditional jazz scene of the political capital of The Netherlands.

Most tunes selected were originally from the 1960s and 1970s, as if no more decent compositions were made after that period. Het moderne Nederlandse repertoire is veel minder melodisch ( = The modern Dutch repertoire is less melodic), Jan explains uit: Om de één of andere reden zijn er weinig pakkende melodieën meer verschenen, waar je iets mee kunt (= It seems that, for some reason, but few compositions can be used); Het Laatste Wonder ( = The Last Miracle) van Erik De Jong, aka Spinvis, seems to be the exception that proves the rule and was added to this Dutch Songbook. It was recorded during the quarter-final Holland - Brazil on the 2nd of July, 2010; not a real convenient moment I guess, but Clemens, however, who had a great role in this tune, did a good job - his bass sounds very inspired.

Clemens van der Feen ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

The set was finished with Pappie Loop Toch Niet Zo Snel (= Daddy Don't You Walk To Fast), the opening track of the album, sung by Dutch rock-star Peter Koelewijn, but originally a hit made by Mr. Las Vegas, Wayne Newton. Jan apologized for that: Het is het enige nummer op de plaat dat uiteindelijk geen Nederlandse compositie bleek ( = It was the only tune selected that happened to be not an original Dutch composition). We spelen dit als laatste nummer, maar als je nu de plaat koopt, dan zul je thuis merken dat we met dit nummer zijn begonnen ....... (= It's our final tune for this concert, but if you buy the album, you'll learn at home that this one is actually the starter, so ....... ).

Jan Menu ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
This Dutch Songbook album by the Jan Menu-Jasper Soffers Quartet is, although its cover is a bit frumpy, a great addition to the Dutch jazz discography - The Dutch Songbook is no longer restricted by some dated examples in the Dixieland style, but a serious subject for next generations ................
It seems only a matter of time, but once foreign jazz bands may swap roles and make albums dedicated to the Dutch song!

The album will be soon available at the Dig Diz Music site and can be order at this email address

Hans Koert

Everybody has heard about the American Songbook; it inspired generations of jazz musicians. But what about the Dutch musical heritage? Do we have a Dutch Songbook? Jan Menu and Jasper Soffers wondered that, put their heads together and selected almost a dozen Dutch tunes that should be part of their Dutch Songbook. If you listen to the album, you wonder .. Why wasn't this done before? The arrangements sound fresh and new and I think that it's only a matter of time, but once foreign jazz bands may swap roles and make albums dedicated to the Dutch Songbook! Keep Swinging hopes to registrate that - if you don't want to miss it ask for its newsletter or follow it at Twitter: KeepSwinging.

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