Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The American Jazz Sextet: The 1957 J. J. Johnson concert

The opener at the 1957 J. J. Johnson Concertgebouw concert.
It was hard for these young guys to hold themselves near so much famous talents
(Ton Van Der Horst in De Volkskrant)(Aug. 1957)
Hans Koert

In the summer of 1957 the American Jazz Quintet, enlarged to a Sextet thanks to Dutchman Thijs Chanovski, who was asked to play the double bass, were part of a vaudeville show that toured Holland. Thijs Chanovski remembers, that he spoke to Lou Van Rees, the Dutch producer and promoter of jazz concerts who had scheduled a concert by J. J. Johnson and his Quintet at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam , the 17th of August, 1957.
The 1957 concert programme ( source: Dutch Jazz Archive) (click on the picture to enlarge)
Thijs told Lou Van Rees that he played with the American Jazz Quintet, a group of young US jazz musicians, who played like the Jazz Messengers, a group founded by pianist Horace Silver, Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Doug Watkins and drummer Art Blakey, who would become the leader of the band, when Horace had left the group to form his own group. This young group was very popular, although records must have been rare in Holland, as it never had visited these regions. They visited Holland in November 1958 when Lou Van Rees could rope Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers for concerts at the Kurhaus in Scheveningen (The Hague) and the Concertgebouw ( Amsterdam). Lou Van Rees offered, three weeks before the actually concert, the American Jazz Quintet (+ Thijs Chanovski) the opportunity to play as the opener of the J. J. Johnson concert. When the Dutch vaudeville tour had finished (late July) the American Jazz Quintet (Thijs didn't join the group) left for France for a series of concerts at
Le Chat Qui PĂȘche in Paris.
Jimmy Wormworth with the concert poster. ( photo courtesy: Jimmy Wormworth)
Jimmy and his American Jazz Sextet ( the quintet was enlarged with a French bass player) had a great time in Paris and had to return to Holland to be in time for the actual concert scheduled at 11.30 p.m. on Saturday night the 17th of August, 1957. They opened the concert of the J. J. Johnson Quintet, which featured J.J. Johnson on trombone (and the trombonium, a kind of upright valve trombone), Tommy Flanagan at the piano, the Belgian reed player Bobby Jasper, double bass player Wilbur Little and drummer Elvin Jones. But the audience, who came for this quintet had to wait until the break at midnight, to hear the jazzlegend.
Fragment of the review in the magazine of De Haagse Jazz Club ( photo courtesy: Dutch Jazz Archive) (click on the photo to enlarge)
In the meantime the American Jazz Sextet, again with Thijs Chanovski on bass, had to entertain the audience for a short half-an-hour set. According to the critics, Bert Vuijsje says in the liner notes of the album J.J. Johnson - What's New ( Jazz at the Concertgebouw), the recently released concert registration, that they ... did not made a great impression.

The magazine of De Haagse Jazz club published a review of the J. J. Johnson concert in its stencilled magazine, typed, by Bob Leenart and he says about the American Jazz Sextet: Na een kort optreden van de American Jazz Sextet, een combinatie van jeugdige musici, spelend in de stijl van de Jazmessengers (sic), maar helaas nog te veel onevenwichtig, traden Jay Johnson en zijn musici aan. ( = After a short performance of the American Jazz Sextet, a combination of young musicians, playing in the style of the Jaz (sic) Messengers, but, sorry to say, rather unbalanced, Jay (Jay) Johnson and his music started to play.).
Barry Rogers (photo courtesy: Carel De Vogel)(source: Disco discussies)Rhytme, a Dutch jazz magazine, just mentioned the presence of the American Jazz Sextet as the opener of the evening and De Volkskrant, a Dutch morning paper, a good authority, wrote: Voor de pauze trad een groep Amerikaanse studenten op onder de naam 'The American Jazz Sextet', waarbij vooral leider-slagwerker Jimmy Wormworth en trompettist Sal Amico zeer verdienstelijk werk leverden. ( = Before the intermission a group of American students performed as the American Jazz Sextet, in which both leader-drummer Jimmy Wormworth and trumpet player Sal Amico did a good job.). De algemene indruk van het sextet was beslist niet overweldigend, maar het was voor deze jonge musici dan ook niet eenvoudig zich naast zoveel beroemd talent te handhaven. ( In general the sextet didn't impress, but mind that it was hard for these young guys to hold themselves near so much famous talents. (Ton Van Der Horst in Jay Jay Johnsons trombone bracht publiek in verrukking (De Volkskrant) ( 19th of august 1957).
Barry Rogers and Roland Ashby ( photo courtesy: Carel De Vogel) ( Source: Disco discussies).
A few years ago, George Braith, contacted me. I had made
a blog on the 17th of august, 2007 about the fact that J. J. Johnson visited the Concertgebouw 50 years ago (mind that this article was written four years ago) and asked me if I could tell him if photos or recordings had left of that concert. Peter Verbruggen was one of the photographers who was a the concert and he made a great photo from Bobby Jaspar and Jay Jay Johnson during the concert. Peter told me, being asked, four years ago, that he didn't remember that he made photos from the American Jazz Sextet, as it was no common practice to do so. Thijs Chanovski, however, told me that he remembers to have one photo from this part of the concert made by Ed van der Elsken, who also joined this concert. I hope he can share it with us later.
George Braith(waite) (photo courtesy: Carel De Vogel) ( source: Disco discussies)
Thanks to the Dutch Jazz Archive I was pointed to a photo page in the Dutch Disco discussies, entitled Het gezicht van de Jazz (= The face of Jazz).

On this page four photos by Dutch photographer, Carel De Vogel, who was also present at the J. J. Johnson concert. He made a great photo from Elvin Jones, but what about these four anonymous photos? The text says that these photos are impressies van onbekende jazz-musici ( = impressions of unknown jazz-musicians). Jimmy Wormworth, however, confirmed that three of the four photos were members of his band; only the fourth ones, a probably Malaysan lady, was unknown to him. It's great that these three photos have been discovered, but up to now we don't know when Carel took these pictures, but probably somewhere during the summer of 1957 somewhere at a concert of the American Jazz Quintet / Sextet. Both Jimmy as Thijs couldn't remember that they played for closed curtains during the opening of the Jay Jay Johnson Quintet, so it seems to be unlikely that these photos were made during that concert - Thijs remembers that the photo he has, made by Ed van der Elsken, don't shows closed curtains.
The four onbekende jazz-musici. Who is the (? Malaysan) girl at the bottom right? (photo courtesy: Carel De Vogel) ( source: Disco discussies) (click on the photo to enlarge)
After the concert, Jimmy remembers, members of both bands left for the Sheherazade club at the Wagenaarstraat for a jam session. At that jam session also Dutch trumpet player Jerry Van Rooyen was present and Jimmy remembers Rob and Rudy (Ruud) Pronk and moviemaker, writer, journalist and photographer, Leo Klatser who was active in the cultural scene of those days. At a quarter past four even J. J. Johnson arrived to join the jam for the final 15-minutes. Jimmy remembers that he slept at the house of Leo Klatser, with a girl he had met that evening. Leo Klatser passed away in Amsterdam, October 2000. Jimmy remembers that they had to leave for Paris again, as they had to play in
Le Chat Qui PĂȘche in Paris for a dozen days. On the 2nd of September, the SS Zuiderkruis, one of the cruise ships of the Holland America Line left from Rotterdam for its trip to New York and it might be possible that Jimmy and his American Jazz Quintet boarded to return to the States. They must have entertained the passengers during their trip to New York.

J.J.Johnson: What's New. ( Series: Jazz at the Concertgebouw) (MCN 0903)
The Dutch Jazz Archive (part of the MCN) released the 1957 J. J. Johnson Concertgebouw concert in its series Jazz at the Concertgebouw albums. This J. J. Johnson album What's New contains 13 tracks played during this night concert - the American Jazz Sextet performance stayed unrecorded. (MCN 0903). The best way to order this J.J.Johnson album is by contacting Jan Brouwer of the MCN by

Thanks to Jimmy Wormworth and Thijs Chanovski for recollecting this period and Faith for her help to research this project.
Keep Swinging
Hans Koert
A dream came true ..... The members of the American Jazz Sextet, five US students and one young Dutch bass player, were invited to play as the opening performance of the 1957 Concertgebouw concert by the J. J. Johnson Quintet. Jimmy Wormworth recollections of this period have been published now in a series of blogs about his tours to Holland in 1956 and 1957. Keep Swinging loves to share these recollections of Dutch Jazz history with its visitors and if you don't want to miss any contribution, follow it at Twitter (#keepswinging) of ask for its free newsletter (
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(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 tamaeterai said...

Hi, My name is Tamae Terai from Osaka, Japan, I am so happy to find your weblog about J.J.s concert in Holland.

We are doing a jazz club "OverSeas" in Japan and have been giving lectures about Tommy Flanagan's life and music. Tommy, Elvin and Wilbur played the concert at Concertgebouw right after they had recorded "OVERSEAS".

It is really valuable information for all of jazz historians.

Thank you!

9:57 AM  

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