Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nobody Knows You: Music for a radio play

Vreemd Is Het Wel: Muziek bij een hoorspel ( Nederlands) Nobody Knows You: Music for a radio play ( English)

It's Mighty Strange: VOSKUIL ON MUSIC
Hans Koert

A lot of books that have been written will finally end into the irregulars trade, but some become bestsellers and maybe they turn into a film. Such a book, that has become a bestseller is "Het Bureau", written by J.J. Voskuil. (1926-2008)In the book Voskuil described the day-to-day worries of the Meertens Instituut. The Meertens Institute ( as read on their website), established in 1926, has been a research institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, KNAW) since 1952. We study the diversity in language and culture in the Netherlands. Our focus is on contemporary research into factors that play a role in determining social identities in the Dutch society. J.J.Voskuil wrote seven books and it became a very popular series. These books didn't turn into a film, up to now, but as a radio play, a rather old fashion medium in The Netherlands too. The first program was transmitted on the 5th of April 2004 and the last one was in May 2008. There were 475 programs made.
The music used in the radio play was released on a CD titled Vreemd Is Het Wel! and it is played by the Bo Van Der Hunk Quintette. ( Basta 3091482).
The theme of the radio play is the 1949 Blue Note Sidney Bechet version of Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out. At the end of the book the leading character Maarten Koning names the tune as the one that should be played at his funeral. The tune, originally recorded by Jimmie Cox in 1923, became famous by Bessie Smith (1929) and, much later, by Rod Stewart ( 1988) and Eric Clapton (1992). The quintet that plays the music features Menno Daams on trumpet, Robert Veen on soprano saxophone and baritone, Chris Hopkins at the piano and Hammond, Louis Debij on drums and Gert-Jan Blom on bass and numerous vintage instruments like musical saw, Omnichord and phonofiddle. The name of the band, the Bo Van Der Hunk Quintette sounds, of course, like Beau Hunks Quintet, the well-known retro-orchestra that is known for its reissues of the Laurel and Hardy soundtracks; the band that re-recorded the Raymond Scott musical legacy and the recordings with Al Gallodoro of the Paul Whiteman Saxophone Soctette and numerous other reissue projects.
Listen to a recent concert by the Beau Hunk Quartet playing a selection of LeRoy Shield Laurel and Hardy recordings ( Dash and Dot", "Good Old Days" and "Give Us a Hand" )

The album contains more then 20 tracks, all fragments or related tunes around the same theme "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" with titles like Vreemd is het wel; Down and Out; I'm gonna hang on to it till that eagle grins; And as for friends you don't have any or Wie ziet je zitten als je nergens ben. Some fragments are solos by Gert-Jan Blom on bass, Hohner Guitoret ( what-ever-that-may-be), musical saw or Omnichord ( a small organ). Huub Van Der Lubbe translated the texts of the song Nobody Knows You .... in Dutch as Wie ziet je zitten, als je nergens bent.

The characters in the book and in the radio play have all been working at the Meertens Institute for years and one of the characters in the book is Stanley Graanschuur, who was administrator at the Volksliedarchief ( = the Archive of Dutch folk songs) between 1969 and 1974. In real life his name was Nedly Elstak, who was a well known Dutch jazz trumpet player.
Nedly Elstak ( 1939-1989)
He played the trumpet in the sound track of a short film, titled Jasper en het rokertje by hippie, ( we called them provo's in those days) Robert Jasper Grootveld. Jasper has always fought against the tabacco industry - in the film you can see him writing the word kanker ( = cancer) on street advertisement posters for cigarettes.

Mind that Nedly Elstak isn't playing on this Vreemd Is Het Wel album ( It was recorded in July 2004, while Nedly passed away in 1989), but if you like to hear more of this neglected jazz musician, please try to find yourself a copy of the CD Nedly Elstak - trumpeter released by the Dutch Jazz Archive and BVHaast ( NJA 0102).
If you love to have all recordings by the Beau Hunks, you should try to find this collectors item and maybe you're a huge fan ( like me ) of the series Het Bureau by J. J. Voskuil, this record is a must-have !
Hans Koert

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Blogger Jo said...

Thank you, Hans, for this background story of the strange sounding item you forwarded as a 'surprise' pre-Christmas present. Now I'm beginning to see the light, although the Dutch speech definitely is a hard shell to crack, at least for me!
A Happy New Year - an thanks again!

11:57 AM  

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