European Jazz Diary, Part 4

Nick Catalano By

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

During the initial Lionel Hampton tour of Europe in 1953, it was in Stockholm that a contingent of beboppers which Hamp had included in his tour at the behest of European producers and critics, began a secret rebellion.

At the outset of the three-month tour Hamp had decreed that no sideman in the band could do any independent recording. The beboppers, which included Clifford Brown, Gigi Gryce, Art Farmer, Jimmy Cleveland, Annie Ross and George Wallington and were led in their secret recording rebellion by Quincy Jones, began to sneak past Hamp's guards. Stockholm was the place where this notorious secret recording commenced and "Stockholm Sweetin' was one of their first recordings.

As I traipsed through the modern city of Stockholm in search of the cobwebs of those ancient days, I came across Stampen, by all accounts, the leading jazz emporium of present day Swedes. It is a large venue and does not restrict itself to mainstream Jazz performances, opting for "Swing, Dixie, Blues and traditional Rock'n'Roll to lure the younger audiences and capture considerable tourist business.

As I wandered through the club scenes in my sojourn, I continually looked back at Stampen as the venue that seemed to symbolize recent trends in programming. I recalled that in Holland the Bimhuis also featured alternative musics and that mainstream jazz often took a back seat as it does in the club scenes of many American cities. My next stop was Helsinki where I was constantly reminded that the Porri Jazz Festival wasn't the only such jazz event in this northern cultural mecca. One guide indicated that that there was a winter festival in some remote outpost where the people attended concerts after trudging for miles in snowshoes! And further, according to this same guide, that this "Snowshoe festival was superior to anything that Porri had to offer.

After stopping in St. Petersburg to check on the outpouring of ballet companies that have sprung up advertising themselves as "the St. Petersburg ballet company since the demise of the Soviet Union, I noted that jazz wasn't exactly on the front cover of the music publications in this town. This important center of so many strategic art forms is searching for a new avenue in which to funnel contemporary jazz figures. Because of monetary and political concerns the search continues.

One of the most intriguing cities to emerge following the dissolution of the Soviet empire is Tallin, the capitol of Estonia. When I had first begun to write music reviews in the late 80's, I came upon some new recordings from Arvo Part, probably the best known Estonian composer. Part acknowledged jazz influences in his work but thus far jazz has not taken root in this incredibly charming city. Upon learning my identity and the purpose of my visit, one of the city fathers urged me to produce a jazz festival and I told him that if there were any place in Europe that I would resurrect that part of my career, it would be Tallin.


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