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Jazz In Brussels - History Of Jazz In Belgium 1930-1940



At the end of the 1920s experiments were carried out with Belgian radio broadcasting, and in 1930 the NIR-INR (Nationaal Instituut voor de Radio-omroep - Institut National de Radiodiffusion) was founded. On the radio a lot of newly released American records were played. In 1932 Faecq founded the "Jazz Club de Belgique" and Goffin published his first jazz books. With his Jazz Club de Belgique Faecq organized an annual international tournament for amateur musicians. During this period the innovating music of Louis Armstrong reached Belgian listeners as well. Goffin immediately understood the genius of this musician and started to write about him, and later befriended his idol. Goffin wrote in his Aux Frontieres du Jazz about "the true genius of jazz" (Armstrong) and the "black jazz" that he had discovered. He also wrote a book, dedicated to Armstrong: "Louis Armstrong, le Roi du Jazz"(1947).

The early 1930s brought two Belgian trumpet players to the fore that took control of the Belgian jazz scene: Robert De Kers and Gus Deloof. In 1926 De Kers had taken over leadership of Packay orchestra. He then went abroad and after the disintegration of his group he founded the Cabaret Kings in Spain, consisting of one part black musicians, a few Spaniards and five Belgians. He continued performing with this group up to the Spanish Civil War in 1931. After he left, The Cabaret Kings remained active for another 20 years, with varying line-ups. A typical formation of that time consisted of the following musicians: trumpeter De Kers, saxophonists Jean Robert (nicknamed "the Belgian Coleman Hawkins"), Oscar Toussaint and André Geysens, bassplayer Fernand Fonteyn, pianist Henry Segers and... guitarist Toots Thielemans.

In the U.S.A. the swing era dawned in the 1930s with big bands and smaller combos that brought exciting swing dance music. A number of American orchestras came to Belgium. Their performances proved inspiring. In 1936, there were three major Belgian big bands: the band of saxophonist Fud Candrix, Stan Brenders and Jean Omer. Candrix would lead several bands and make a hundred records. Clarinetist Jean Omer formed his first orchestra in 1926 after listening to records of King Oliver and Louis Armstrong. In 1937 he opened his nightclub Le Boeuf sur le toit ("The Ox on the Roof") in Brussels where his orchestra "Jean Omer Jazz Orchestra" (with 16 to 18 musicians) performed alongside other jazz bands. The same year, pianist and composer Stan Brenders formed his own orchestra for the NIR-INR, officially named the Big jazz orchestra of Belgium (Het grote jazzorkest van België - Le grand orchestre jazz de Belgique). The rhythm section gained international fame and was even compared with that of Count Basie. This orchestra played several jazz compositions and film music in a typical American swing style.

In 1938, Hans Philippi founded the Antwerp Jazz Club (AJC).

In 1939 the 'Band battle' took place, an exchange concert with the famous Dutch band The Ramblers playing on the NIR-INR and the orchestra of Stan Brenders playing at VARA in Hilversum. Brenders, who played solid swing numbers, won the 'battle' in a convincing way. Later in life, Brenders would make a lot of recordings for radio and also had the opportunity to work with Django Reinhardt. He also acquired fame as a composer, with songs like "So Many People" and "I envy" performed by Nat King Cole. The "Symphonic Jazz Orchestra of Belgium" (Symfonisch Jazz Orkest van België - Orchestre Jazz Symphonique de Belgique) - with 40 musicians - was founded by him. Many new bands emerged as a result of the activities of these three jazz musicians (Candrix, Brenders and Omer) and for many musicians the great pre-war big bands and other ensembles ensured a fixed income. The arrangements were usually supplied by the aforementioned Peter Packay and David Bee. And then there was the classically trained musician Frank Engelen, an excellent guitarist but also a well respected composer and arranger. He wrote notable compositions such as 'Badinage', 'Bagatelle ', 'La Piste', 'Avondschemering' (Twilight) and 'Studio 24'.



Stan Brenders and his Orchestra: Raymond Chantrain, Paul D'Hondt, Eugène Vanderborght (tp) Jean Damn, Sus Van Camp (tb) Jeff Van Heerswingels, Louis Billen (as, cl) Jack Demany (ts, cl, vln) Arthur Saguet (bar, ts) John Ouwers (p) Chas Dolne (g, vln) Jim Vanderjeught (g, vcl) Arthur Peeters (b) Josse Aerts (d) - Brussels, October 1939 











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