Jazz In Brussels - History Of Jazz In Belgium 1960s
The 1960s saw the emergence of free jazz in the United States and the rise of the supremacy of rock. The popularity of jazz music after the golden days of swing was waning everywhere and now seemed to eclipse in favor of more danceable popular music. Most people did not like to hear bebop or freejazz, and jazz had become the music of a few insiders. Not only was the audience for jazz shrinking, but it also lost young jazz musicians who in previous periods had taken initiative, and now were more attracted to pop. Of course, besides showing interest in free jazz (also called "New Thing"), most Belgian musicians continued to play the older styles (New Orleans was especially popular in Flanders) and bebop (cool jazz included), while mainstream swing was still in demand.
Apart from Fred Van Hove (piano), Babs Robert (alt sax), José Bedeur and some others, the Belgian jazz musicians did not really participate in free jazz, which had more followers in Germany and the Netherlands. The orchestra of the RTB disappeared in 1965, but was taken over by that of the BRT, led by Etienne Verschueren. In the absence of employment in Belgium a lot of musicians were associated with orchestras abroad. Jacques Pelzer worked in Italy, touring with Chet Baker; Toots Thielemans worked in Germany and Sweden, composed his hit Bluesette, and then returned to the U.S. in 1964; René Thomas set up a new quartet with Jaspar, played with Pelzer and Lee Konitz at European festivals, before falling back into a lean period in 1966.
Still, despite these tough times for jazz, a few young musicians managed to get noticed: Jean-Pierre Gebler (bariton sax), Robert Graham (guitar), Marc Moulin (piano), John Linsman (trumpet), Robert Pernet (drums), Bruno Castellucci (drums) and Snowy Struvay (trumpet). New clubs opened: the Blue Note and Pol's Jazz Club in Brussels, the Jazz Inn in Liège, and the Jazz Clu Hnita in Heist-Op-Den-Berg.
Large outdoor gatherings called "festivals" were organized. Comblain-la-Tour is the oldest: the first edition took place in 1959.