Thursday, May 12, 2011

Jimmy Wormworth: the 1956 Student Cruise Program and stay in Holland

Jimmy Wormworth, jazz drummer, remembers his Dutch 1956 and 1957 tours.
Hans Koert
( Thanks to Jimmy Wormworth and Faith Gibson)

Last year, after more then 50 years, we finally can enjoy the great J. J. Johnson Quintet concert at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, scheduled on the 17th of August 1957. Thanks to the late Dutch jazz promotor Lou Van Rees, who taped the complete set with the J. J. Johnson Quintet, featuring J.J. Johnson on trombone ( and the vintage Trombonium), Bobby Jaspar on tenor saxophone and flute, Tommy Flanagan at the piano, Wilbur Little on double bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Thanks to the reviews of the main program and the lenghty liner notes by Bert Vuijsje, Dutch jazz journalist, it seems as if each minutes of that great concert has been recorded now. But what about that first set, when six (!) young Americans, in fact five American students and a Dutch double bass player, tried to entertain the audience, that came for J. J. Johnson, waiting in expectation of the things to come.

Was that first set recorded? Did someone made photos from the band on stage? ............. These and some more questions, were asked me some years ago by the, then 18 years young alto sax player, George Braithwaite, better known as George Braith. I had to tell him that nothing had left, until I got into contact with Faith Gibson, a US born jazz vocalist, now living in Germany, who introduced me to her friend Jimmy Wormsworth, the former leader of that American Jazz Sextet.
The SS. Waterman, one of the cruise ships of the Holland America Line.
Thanks to Faith, who interviewed Jimmy about these first tours as a musician, and dozens of unique photos from his archive, this period, preceding their 1957 Concertgebouw concert, could be reconstructed.

I love to introduce you to this American Jazz Sextet in three contributions:
The 1956 Student Cruise Program and stay in Holland - The 1957 American Jazz Quintet in Holland and The American Jazz Sextet, the opening performance of the Amsterdam J. J. Johnson concert (August 1957)

Faith Gibson and Jimmy Wormworth (photo courtesy: Faith Gibson)
Jimmy Wormworth was born as James E. Wormworth III in Utica, New York, August 1937. He raised in a musical family as his father was a drummer too and his uncle Dick Mariani played the tenor saxophone. In 1956 and 1957 he travelled to Europe (the period described in these blogs) and back in the US he developed in the 1950s as sought after drummer with musicians like Nellie Lutcher (1958), Lou Donaldson, Mal Waldron and the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross vocal group. He recorded with great names like the before mentioned as Lou Donaldson and with Charlie Rouse, Al Haig, J.R. Monterose, Tardo Hammer and John Marshall. With the latter he will perform on the 4th of June, 2011 in Hoorn ( in the nothwestern part of The Netherlands) with the Dutch Boy Edgar award winning tenor saxophone Ferdinand Povel. Leonard Feather labeled Jimmy in his 1960 edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz as one of the most promissing drummers of the New York scene.

Jimmy Wormworth at Fat Cat Jazz & Billiards club in Greenwich Village/NYC( photo courtesy: Holly Wormworth)

When Jimmy had finished his study he was invited to join a Student Cruise Program at the Holland America Line, which had a regulary connection between New York City and Rotterdam. A Student Cruise Program - which left New york after the colleges had set up in June and returned the students to the US end of August and they were left alone in between in Europe to do what they wanted to do, Jimmy told in the interview.
Jimmy at the deck of one of the Holland America Line ships ( 1956 or 1957)
Jimmy remembers his trip at the SS Waterman, a former trouper used to transport soldiers to the Dutch East Indies, later rebuild and sold to the Holland America Line. On board of the ship they had to perform for the passengers. When they arived in Rotterdam, they were a couple of weeks off duty, before they had to returm to New York somewhere in August. The leader of the group was banjo player Donn Andre, who lives now just outside of Washington DC. He seems still active in his Catatonic Five, the name of his 1956 dixieland band. He played for years in the Southern Comfort, a Washington DC based band and during his work at the US Embassy in Copenhagen he was part of the Danish Louisiana Jazz Band. The US students had to tide over their stay in Europe by themselves.
They didn't pay us anything for that - those guys came from well-to-do families and we were able to foot our expenses basically. They performed with that Catatonic Five a few gigs in Holland. Jimmy remembers a gig at a hotel, called Zuiderzee, but we basically played, maybe a month maybe two weeks, at the Pia Beck's club in Scheveningen and so we were based in The Hague. We didn't work pretty much except from the job in the Pia Beck's club, the name of I can't remember ( = De Vliegende Hollander). That's were I met Al Levitt and the Canadian bassist Lloyd Thompson, who was also working with Pia Beck;
the rest of the times we just became tourists and travelled around to Italy and Germany.
The Vliegende Hollander night club was located at this square in Scheveningen.
Pia Beck tells in her memoirs De Pia Beck Story (1982) that she met Lloyd Thompson and drummer Al Levitt in Toronto (Canada) and, thanks to Lou Van Rees, who could arrange permissions for the two musicians to play in Holland, she coud bring them to her club in The Netherlands to play with her band. The Dutch news papers, did not thank her for that: Pia schijnt een hekel te hebben aan Nederlandse musici. (= Pia seems to hate the Dutch musicians guts), the news papers wrote.
The Millers (1950s)
Jimmy told that he stayed most of the time in The Hague traditional jazz scene, performing with their Catatonic Five and they loved to listen to the Millers Sextet in Scheveningen. We became friends with them, but also with the young bebop musicians Rob and Ruud Pronk who had their own sextet and Nico Bunnik, who was on the eve of a great internatinal career in Paris, to play with great names like Barney Wilen. He would become a sought after pianist in The States during the 1960s were he played in the bands of Charles Mingus, Zoot Sims, Chet Baker, Milt Jackson and the Bobby Hutcherson - Howard Land Quintet. He would return to Holland in the 1970s and passed away, December 2001.

In the summer of 1957 Jimmy got the opportunity to return to Holland with his own Quintet - more about that later.

Thanks to Jimmy and Faith for the interview and the great photos.
Hans Koert

Last year the Music Centre the Netherlands, the former Dutch Jazz Archive, released the album J.J. Johnson - What's New, a registration of his August 1957 Amsterdam Concertgebouw concert - a great album. The openng performance of that concert was an unknown group of young US students, labeled as the American Jazz Sextet. This concert was unrecorded. Jimmy Wormworth remembers this concert and his first trips to Holland as a young jazz musician and loves to share with you his photos and remembrances of that period. In three contributions the Keep Swinging blog loves to publish his retrospect.

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All links to the Jimmy Wormworth 1956-1957 recollections, with his trips to Holland (1956-1957) Alle linken naar de blogs met herinneringen van Jimmy Wormworth reizen naar Nederland in 1956-1957

English links: Jimmy Wormworth: The 1956 Student Cruise Program stay in Holland - Jimmy Wormworth: The 1957 American Jazz Quintet in Holland - Jimmy Wormworth: The American Jazz Quintet in Paris (1957)- part one Jimmy Wormworth: The American Jazz Quintet in Paris (1957)-part two The American Jazz Sextet: The 1957 J. J. Johnson concert
Nederlandse link: Jimmy Wormworth: Het Studenten Cruiseprogramma en zijn verblijf in Nederland (1956) - Jimmy Wormworth: Het American Jazz Quintet in Nederland (1957) - Jimmy Wormworth: Het American Jazz Quintet in Parijs (1957)- deel 1 Jimmy Wormworth: Het American Jazz Quintet in Parijs (1957)- deel 2 Het American Jazz Sextet opent J.J.Johnson concert.

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