Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jean Robert: The Belgian Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit

Jean Robert: The start of his musical career. (English) Jean Robert: De start van zijn muzikale carriere (Nederlands) Jean Robert: The European Hawkins ( English) Jean Robert: De Europese Hawkins ( Nederlands) Jean Robert: The Belgian Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit (English)Jean Robert – De Belgische Boeuf Sur Le Toit (Nederlands)

The Jean Robert archive
Hans Koert

One of the most important saxophone players of Belgium must have been Jean Robert. Although he played on numerous bands and record sessions, during more then 40 years in music, he seems now complete forgotten by the younger generation. Thanks to his grandchildren Michelle and Bas I can share with you some photos from Jean Robert’s own personal scrap books. Today the period he was part of the Jean Omer Orchestra performing in the Boueuf Sur Le Toit up to his dead in 1981.

Jean Robert ( photo courtesy: Jean Robert archive )

In 1938 Jean Omer founded a cabaret, dance hall, Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit, named after a famous French night club with the same name, which was founded in 1921. Jean Omer performed here with his own swing band, featuring Jean Robert. This band is to be heard in a series recordings for Decca, recorded in December 1940 as the Swing Orchestra from “Boeuf Sur Le Toit”. Listen to a tune, titled The Blue Room, arranged by Benny Carter.

Anne Xhoffleer was one of the stars, that sung in the Boeuf Sur Le Toit, located at the Naamse Poort, (or Porte de Namur) but also the concert by Coleman Hawkins, November 1938, is remembered as a very special one. Jean Robert was part of the Freddy Johnson Trio that played at the Negro Palace in Amsterdam around that date, so Jean Robert probably wasn’t present. When the German occupied Belgium the club continued its activities and Jean Robert continued as a member of the club's house band. Even in the news papers, the club was promoted: Ingeval van alarm voor bommen-werpers is er geen veiliger schuilplaats dan in “Le Boeuf Sur “Le Toit” aan de Naamse Poort te Brussel. (= In case of an air-raid warning by bombers, the Le Boeuf Sur “Le Toit” at the Naamse Poort in Brussel is a safe place to hide.Fud Candrix ( photo courtesy Jean Robert archive)

During the war jewish musicians were not allowed to play in public orchestras and jazz music was forbidden, but that didn’t mean that you couldn' enjoy swing music in clubs and theatres. English tunes got German, French or Flemish ( = Dutch) titles. A lot of Belgian and Dutch jazz musicians found a job in one of the numerous German “orchester”, who still played “swing-music”, although the German officially had forbidden that. Jean Robert played several times in Germany in the Berlin Delphi Palast while on tours with the band of Jean Omer. Other Belgian bands to be found there were the Fud Candrix orchestra and Jeff De Boeck and his band.

Jeff De Boeck ( photo courtesy Jean Robert archive)

These concerts in the Delphi-Palast in Berlin became legendary concerts. Jean Robert performed now and then in Berlin in German bands too, like Adolf Steimel und seiner Tanzorchester and the orchestras of Albert Vossen, Willi Stech, Willi Stanke, Meg Tevelian Tanz-Orchester. Henry Segers ( photo courtesy Jean Robert archive)

Henry Seghers was the piano player of Jean Omer and Willi Stech. After the war, fall 1944, Seghers played in the Ernst Van’t Hoff Orchestra in Brussels.
Between November 1942 and the summer of 1943 Jean Omer seems to have been present at recordings by Charlie and his Orchestra, the controversial German band, that was used for propaganda. In this band, Dutch and Belgium musicians who were playing in Germany, like members of the Orchestra of Ernst Van’t Hoff and Stan Benders, had to play in this band. A way to survive this horrible period! During the last year of the German occupation (1944) there were but few possibilities to play in public.

Front of a program of the Boeuf sur le Toit ( photo courtesy: Jean Robert archive)

After the war they picked up the thread and Jean Robert continued to play in the Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit that was reopened, although they put the helm over – no more dancing and big band swing, but vaudeville and cabaret. The Boeuf Sur Le Toit house band ( 1961). ( (Jean Robert in the front row third from the right) (photo courtesy: Jean Robert archive)
In the Jean Robert archive a program book is found from a large festival production, subtitled Trois Spectacles Differents. ( = Three different performances) produced by Peter Bruccato, in which Jean Robert is responsible for the music. The date of this production is unknown.
A meeting of the producers of the club. Jean Robert ( second from the rights) and Jean Omer ( second from the left) ( others: Pierre Jenesco ( ballet) and Pierre Bruccato and Maurice Charles producers) ( photo courtesy: Jean Robert archive)
The Jean Omer Orchestra ( photo courtesy: Jean Robert archive)
The orchestra of Jean Omer accompanied an unknown vocal trio. Jean Robert is to be seen just behind the right vocalist.

One of the Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit revue performances ( photo: Jean Robert archive)
In 1967 Jean Omer had to close Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit, because the building had to be pulled down. At that time Jean Robert had been moved to The Netherlands where he found a job at the public networks. The name Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit disappeared forever, but the concept was continued by Jean Omer in the La Nouvelle Gaity jazz club, later renamed as Chez Paul au Gaity. Jazz music and vaudeville became a successful commercial concept. In 1982 it’s all over and it’s curtains for the club.
Jean Robert ( photo courtesy Jean Robert archive)
In the 1960s Jean had moved to Hilversum in the center of The Netherlands, to find a job in the radio bands of the public networks. In Hilversum, the place where the radio and TV studios were, he became an arranger for studio bands, like het Vara Dansorkest. His arrangements have been recorded in the Varagram album Vara Dansorkest - Muziek uit Studio I. He was arranger for TV-programs, like the
Adèle Bloemendaal show.
Article "De Belgische Coleman Hawkins is overleden ( = The Belgian Coleman Hawkins has passed away) (1981) (photo courtesy: Jean Robert archive)

He passed away in Hilversum “in his sleep” in Hilversum, February 1981.
Hans Koert

One of the best record releases with a survey of Belgium jazz is the 2CD Jazz in little Belgium ( The collection Robert Pernet). It contains almost 50 tracks from the complete Belgian jazz history and an extensive illustrated and informative booklet. ( No English, sorry – only a French and a Flemish version exists). A must !!
According this contribution, it contains: ( no downloads)

Porte de Namur - 10066 1/2 GD
test recording Brussels, 2nd of October, 1943
Jean Omer clarinet, alto sax and director - Louis Dehaes, Fernand Debray, Georges Clais trumpets - Roger Squinquel, Josse Beeckmans, Henri Vandenbosch trombones - Henri Van Coile, Vic Bayens bass sax, alto sax, clarinet - Joseph Clerkx tenor sax - Henri Segers piano - Frank Engelen guitar - Jean Delahaut bass - Gaston Bogaerts drums.

Embraceable You - 5032-1
Recorded in Brussels ca. February-Martch 1947
Yetty Lee ( = Henriette Saussin) vocal - Jean Robert tenor sax and director - Jules Van Dijck trumpet - Willy Techy trombone - Oscar Saintal alto sax - Jef Van Heerswingels tenor sax - André Gijssens bass sax and alto sax - Marcel Picavet piano - Jean Berry guitar - Jean Le Cam bass - Peter Brucato drums

Love to thank Michelle and Bas for sharing photo's from their grandfather's archive - photo's which need some identification. Please
contact us if you can identify musicians and bands.

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