This will be the first installment of a retrospection of jazz performances in Europe during the last half century or so. There are two reasons that occasion these writings. Initially, I'm going to several cities in Europe to research the great critical and popular reception that Clifford Brown received when he toured the continent playing in the first Lionel Hampton all-star band tour of 1953. This research accompanies other work in connection with a movie project based on a book I wrote about Brownie a few years ago (Clifford Brown-The Life and Art of the Legendary Trumpeter, Oxford University Press 2000). The other reason is more prolix.
Ever since the early years of jazz, writers, students and fans of the music have had to confront an infamous phenomenon: jazz has consistently had a hard core response in Europe that surpasses its appreciation by American audiences; An original art form developed by Americans that has always achieved a higher rung on the European aesthetic ladder than it has in the land where it was created.
I offer no quick responses or easy solutions to this question but hope, in the days ahead, to examine the issue in the context of my upcoming European sojourn.
In conjunction with my first stop in Holland, I recently visited with a notable Dutch jazz aficionadoJaap van de Klomp who lives in Utrecht, co-founded a jazz club in the 50's dubbed Persepolis, and compiled One Night Standan intriguing historical account (complete with amazing photos) of American jazz performances in Holland from 1947-1967. Jaap shared wonderful stories of stars such as Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong et al. and his book contains valuable facts surrounding performances in famous venues such as Amsterdam's Concertgebouw. His eyewitness account of Lionel Hampton's 1954 appearance at the Apollohal includes a description of riotous excitement for Hamp that rivals the reception that the Beatles received in New York a decade later. One Night Stand dutifully chronicles performances by Quincy Jones and his orchestra at the Theater Carre in 1959, which featured trumpeter Benny Bailey who died in Amsterdam just last week after spending most of his life there.
Jaap told of memorable times with Johnny Griffin, one of a host of stalwart beboppers who chose to live permanently in Europe during the 50's when the rock n'roll juggernaut in America practically exterminated jazz here. Jaap's association with important American jazzers some 40 years ago is still the cause of buzzing conversation in The Netherlands, a fact which underscores the historical importance of jazz for the Dutch people.
One Night Stand contains names and photos of Dutch jazz musicians who were sidemen with such immortals as Bud Powell, Chet Baker, Sidney Bechet, Miles Davis. Others were leading their own groups and opening for people like Stan Kenton, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. Out of these groups of leaders and sidemen came the early generations of Dutch jazzers and the love for the music that led to the present day jazz revolution in Holland. If you're interested in hearing the latest sounds from The Netherlands you might follow the lineups of Dutch musicians who regularly appear at Tonic- an important club on Norfolk St. in lower Manhattan. The sounds that emanate from the stage there immediately reveal a significant fact: Jazz is certainly no longer the private domain of American musicians; it has surely become an international art form and the probability exists that the next great achievement in jazz innovation will come from some place outside the U.S.