Jazz In Brussels - History Of Jazz In Belgium 1918-1930
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Belgian jazz journal Music (1924–1939) Its creator, Félix-Robert Faecq (1901–1992)
Charles Remue and His New Stompers Orchestra.
In the 1920s and even more in the 1930s, Brussels, Antwerp and Liège emerged as the three Belgian centers of development of the new music. In summer, coastal cities such as Ostend took over and attracted vacationers in search of the 'blue notes'. This situation would last until the beginning of the 1990s, when other centers emerged such as Ghent and Bruges, while Liège was in relative decline because of the departure of several of the local jazz musicians after the disappearance of a number of small jazz venues.
It was only after the First World War that jazz actually became popular in Belgium, which was largely due to the efforts of Félix Faecq and Robert Goffin. Félix Faecq was introduced to jazz music in the postwar period after meeting American and Canadian soldiers who liberated the country. Robert Goffin heard two soldiers sing ragtime songs like "Are you from Dixie?" and the song "Robinson Crusoe" ("What did R.Crusoe do on Friday with Saturday night?"). Goffin played music with some classmates of the Brussels law school in the local bars and dance halls. During that time jazz was also synonymous with dance music. According to Faecq it was only when she saw the original black bands that he and his friend Goffin realized that jazz was more than just dance music. Together they discovered jazz music through listening to the Mitchell's Jazz Kings and other black bands in the Alhambra theater. In that period Belgium was in fact the 'jazz capital' of Europe. There were also successful white jazz bands, such as "The Georgians" with Charles Remue - now considered a pioneer of jazz in Belgium. From 1920 on he led his "The Bing Boys." With this band and other bands such as The White Diamonds and The Stompers he introduced the Dixieland style in Belgium. The band that introduced 'jazz' in Belgium is the black New York jazz band "Mitchell's Jazz Kings". On January 24, 1920, they had several gigs in the Brussels Théâtre de L'Alahambra. This was the first time the word "jazz" appeared on a poster in Belgium.
In those days the "Mohawks Jazz Band" (among others) was active in Antwerp and many other groups also embraced the new music, especially in Brussels and Antwerp. They modeled themselves mainly after the U.S. or Chicago Dixieland style, characterized by collective improvisation. Dozens of orchestras brought the Roaring Twenties to Belgium. Faecq made sure that the first Belgian jazz records of the Gennett label arrived in Belgium via Chicago and London. In 1924 he also published (along with his schoolmate Paul Mayaert) "Music Magazine", which is possibly the first music magazine in the world with serious articles about jazz. Later it was renamed "Music" and then "Actualité Musicale". After a visit to New Orleans, Robert Goffin wrote the first article in a series about the world of jazz: Aux frontières du Jazz ("The frontiers of jazz"), which he would later develop into an eponymous book. It was a breakthrough for the popularization of jazz in Belgium, because the only other existing journal, La Revue Musicale Belge, of Marcel Poot did not talk about jazz but about marching music.
In 1927, The Jazz Singer, one of the first American sound films, was played in the cinemas, with Al Jolson as the leading actor. That same year, publisher Félix Faecq discovered jazz clarinetist and alto saxophonist Charles Remue and his "New Stompers" playing dance music with a jazz arrangement in a Namur dancing. He took the orchestra to London, were on June 17, 1927, they made recordings for "Edison Bell Studios". The first historical Belgian jazz recording had
become reality. The excellent musicians who were part of the recording sessions (such as Charles Remue and His New Stompers Orchestra) were jazz trumpeter Alfons Cockx, tenor saxophonist Gaston Frederic and the classically trained pianist Stan Brendus who would later become the founder of the first Radio Jazz Orkest (Radio Jazz Orchestra). They recorded fourteen songs that would become popular when they reached the homeland. Even from a European perspective it was pioneering work, because at that time, apart from Belgium, only France and England could draw on a few experienced jazz musicians. On that first Belgian jazz record, they covered some American hits from that era such as "Ain't she sweet" but Remue still managed to record more than half (7 out of 13) Belgian compositions. These included the popular" Wladivostok", "Slow Gee gee "Alahabad" and "Pamplona," all compositions by David Bee and Peter Packay.
In 1928, Peter Packay and his "Red Robins" recorded a new album at London's Edison Bell Studios. The composers, Peter Packay and David Bee, wrote several well received songs like "High Tension" and "Obsession". This duo also made records in the United States. Meanwhile, Faecq had become a central figure of the Belgian jazz, and almost all jazz musicians and composers of some renown eventually came to him. He also made good use of his contacts with London publishers to provide Belgian professional musicians with the latest jazz scores so that they did not have to rely on just hearing the records. After first having distributed the scores, Faecq became agent and publisher for the Stazny publishers in London and sold the original jazz scores in Belgium. His "Universal Music Store" became a kind of warehouse where Belgian jazz musicians could draw on.
In the 1920s, there were plenty of Belgian jazz musicians working in dance halls, cinemas, theaters, bars, cafes and 'cabarets chantants'. Musicians and bands could even be engaged for several weeks in the same venue. Belgian musicians also traveled abroad and made recordings. David Bee said in an interview: "For a decent orchestra at that time” (1928–30) “there was always work." Good jazz orchestras were indeed still a rare breed in Europe.
Jazz musicians also found work on the steamers of the Europe-America lines. David Bee, for example, was bandleader on the ocean liner Ile de France. Two American ships of the Red Star Line, the "Belgian Country" and the "Lapland", transporting passengers between Antwerp and New York, took care of a lot of Belgian musicians by offering them a contract. An additional advantage was that it gave them the opportunity to make international contacts and enabled them to visit the country where jazz originated.
The band that introduced 'jazz' in Belgium is the New York jazz band "Mitchell's Jazz Kings". On January 24, 1920, they had several gigs in the Brussels Théâtre de L'Alahambra. This was the first time the word "jazz" appeared on a poster in Belgium.
Gus Deloof & His Racketeers Pathé rec. 1931