Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jimmy Wormworth: The American Jazz Quintet in Paris (1957)-part two

Le Chat Qui Pêche (Paris)(1957) - Open all night - every night.
They aren't musicians, it's just a bunch of noise (Philly Joe Jones quotes the club owners).
Hans Koert

In August 1957 Jimmy Wormworth and his American Jazz Quintet were invited to perform at Le Chat Qui Pêche, a jazz cellar in Paris. They loved to sit in, in clubs like Saint-Germain to listen to other jazz men, like Kenny Clarke, Lucky Thompson and Nico Bunink.

George Braithwaite ( = Braith) and two so-called groupies (photo courtesy: Jimmy Wormworth)
Jimmy remembers the Dutch piano player Floris (Nico) Bunink, he named
himself Nico since his 18th birthday, who lived in Paris since 1956 and who had found his own place inside the French jazz scene. He played in the Quintet of Barney Wilen up to 1958, in which Al Levitt played the drums. Nico and Al Levitt became friends and you can imagine how Jimmy and his friends were in luck to be able to meet those great jazz men in clubs like the Chat Qui Pêche and the Club Saint-Germain. We never played in the Club Saint-Germain - we only sat in after we played in the Chat Qui Peche, Jimmy told me. The Club Saint-Germain was on the left bank and during the 1950s great US musicians played in the club, like Lester Young and Miles Davis (late 1957) and Kenny Clarke even lived there for some times around 1958. Jimmy remembers that he and Nico became good friends. We became quite close.....very close friends.

George Braith with a Parisian groupy (photo courtesy: Jimmy Wormworth)
Nico left Europe for the States in 1959, where he became for a short time, a member of the Charles Mingus band, when Mingus heard him playing at Minton's Playhouse. When Jimmy had returned from his European trip they would look out for each other. We hung out in NYC, a lot, whenever he was here!! Jimmy remembers that Nico's brother, he doesn't remembers his name anymore, had a motorcycle and toured with him along all highlight of Paris: He had a motorcycle, a BMW, I think. I remember the motorcycle, because he took me on it, to see the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, on the Rive Droite ( the right bank of the river Seine) and the Montmartre neighbourhood, Place Pigalle, etc. Although Jimmy's second son was named Nico, Jimmy loves to refute that he wanted to honour Nico Bunink: Everybody asks me if I named my son after Nico Bunink, but that's not true; it was just another name I suggested to my wife and she liked it.

A fan whose name sounded like Jean Plaisir ( photo courtesy: Jimmy Wormworth)
The Le Chat Qui Pêche was founded around 1955 in the Rue de la Huchette in the Latin Quarter; the cellar nightclub was run by a woman named Madame Ricard, who had worked in the French Resistance during the war. The Chat was just a small, one-floor club at that time and not yet as famous at it would become later.
Madame Marie-Thérèse Ricard (right) with critic Maurice Cullaz and two unknown at the groudfloor of Le Chat Qui Pêche. (photo courtesy: Chenz)(Thanks to Brownie)

I was told that we made her club so successful, because there were many bus tours coming to hear us, that, after us, Madame Ricard hired many famous American jazz musicians, so that she had the funds to add another floor in the club. Jimmy continues: I don't know if that's true, but I think it was the late Al Levitt, who told me that, because he stayed in Paris, after we came back to the USA. Others have similar recollections about Le Chat Qui Pêche. The cellar club was extremely popular but “terrible looking”, remembers Louis Victor Maily, a writer for Paris’s Jazz Hot magazine. Open all night every night.
Le Chat Qui Pêche is now a restaurant.
It was a popular place to play for US musicians where they found a second home, where they could play the kind of music they really liked, there by making lots of new friends in modern jazz, or Hard bop as it came to be know later, Bernie Newman writes in the liner notes of Donald Byrd Quartet "Au Chat qui Peche" 1958 ( Fresh sound FSCD-1028). US musicians liked the appreciative European audience, as it was quite different from what they were accustomed to in New York. Referring to Philly Joe Jones in Notes For Notes, the book with interviews by Art Taylor, who played in 1958 for three month in the Chat Qui Pêche, the owners of the club didn't really like the music they played; they only wanted to make money ......... Like the people who run the Chat Qui Peche, they don't care whether you're playing well or not. It's how much money they earn. They'll accept all the money and be smiling because they're making money, but deep down inside they say: They aren't musicians, it's just a bunch of noise. The club lasted up to 1970 when Madame Ricard sold her license; today it seems to be a restaurant with the same name.

Al Levitt and Jean Plaisir - August 1957 (Photo courtesy: Jimmy Wormworth)
Jimmy says to remember that the played the whole month of August in Le Chat, which means that they had to leave for Amsterdam to be at the J. J. Johnson concert at the 17th of August and returned, possible the next day, to Paris. Fact is that they had to be back in time to embark at the HAL Line ship to New York which left from Rotterdam. I haven't found the cruise schedules for that year, but I found out that the HAL ship De Zuiderkruis left Rotterdam on the 2nd of September, 1957 and arrived in New York City on the 21st. Fact is, Jimmy remembers, that I had my 19th birthday celebrated in Le Chat Qui Pêche (14th of August): Al Levitt got me very drunk for the 1st time in my life, and I was so sick that I couldn't play at the Chat, that night!
Hans Koert

In a later blog I hope to inform you about the American Jazz Sextet concert as the opener of the Amsterdam J. J. Johnson concert (August 1957)
Thanks to Jimmy and Faith for their recollections.
Le Chat Qui Pêche was one of those numerous 1950s Parisian venues were jazz men could play. Madame Ricard ruled the cellar club and gave the musicans elbow-room. The US musicians liked to play there; the audience was quite different from what they were accustomed to in New York. Jimmy Wormworth and the his American Jazz Quitet (+ one) performed there during the month of August 1957 and met great musicians like Nico Bunink, the Dutch piano player that would make a career in the US playing with Charles Mingus, Zoot Sims and Stan Getz, to list some, but stayed fully underrated in his homeland. The Keep Swinging blog shares Jimmy Wormworth's recollection of this period and if you don't want to miss any contribution, follow it at Twitter (#keepswinging) or ask for its free newsletter. (

Oscar Aleman Choro Music Flexible Records Hit of the Week-Durium Friends of the Keep Swinging blog Keep Swinging Contributions

(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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Blogger Unknown said...

This is so interesting. I have dined at Le Chat qui Peche twice now, but never realized it had such a deep jazz history. I wish I had known that when I was there two years ago. I would've appreciated it so much more. Thanks for the research you did!

6:15 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was in Le Chat qui Peche in 1958 and listened to the Donald Byrd Quintet. A wonderful night of jazz, but from memory, I am sure that the band played on the ground floor rather than the cellar. As an aside I actually served in the bar for a short period in the absence of the bar woman!! The memories of youth!
Colin Phillips.

2:53 PM  

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