Various: Cool Jazz From Holland, 1955-1957

Thoroughgoing collection focuses on the modern jazz scene in postwar Holland, including music from Pim Jacobs, Rita Reys and Harry Verbecke


As in Britain, postwar jazz in Holland was divided between the traditionalists, such as the Dutch Swing College Band, and the modernists. The latter tended to be ignored outside the country, with the exception of Rita Reys (described as Europe’s First Lady of Jazz at the 1960 Juan-les-Pins festival), and later eclipsed by the more improvised forms from the 60s onwards. This fine historic set redresses the balance.

Many Americans visited Holland whilst in Europe and their influence is apparent, the Dutch counterparts taking on board their ideas and approach. The material here is taken from Jazz Behind The Dikes (volumes 1-3) and several EPs; the details, dates and personnel are contained in a 28-page booklet, produced by the fastidious Jordi Pujol.

Often Dutch players were categorised as West Coast-influenced, but this isn’t always the case, as heard here. What is notable is the input by the piano players, Rob Madna, Frans Elsen, Pim Jacobs and Stido Alstrom.

The underrated Madna, a maths teacher who also worked at the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music, played with Dexter Gordon, Don Byas, Freddie Hubbard and others. His rhythmically dynamic approach, with touches of Bud Powell and even Dick Twardzik, is especially noticeable on Second Date, Stan The Wailer, First Fig and the spacious Universe, whilst there is more than a hint of Horace Silver on The Teacher. He’s also with some of the Wessel Ilcken groups.

The young Frans Elsen is featured with his regular group of the time, including guitarist Robby Pauwels and drummer Cees See, covering standards such as All The Things You Are and Autumn In New York, and original compositions. Elsen was to become a hugely respected figure on the international jazz scene.

The enigmatic Stido Alstrom’s tracks are all originals, and at times a slightly Garnerish flavour is present. Actually named Dits Sakkers, Alstrom was a lawyer whose brief foray into jazz included playing with Peter Schilperoort of the DSCB. The sextet numbers here have clarinettist Jan Morks.

Bassist and occasional trombonist Dick Bezemer is included on many of the recordings, in particular with drummer Wessel Ilcken, whose wife, Rita Reys, shows why she was so highly regarded. The slight accent and inflection in her voice makes her instantly recognisable and her pitch, diction and phrasing on It’s Alright With Me and But Not For Me are examples of her craft. These, with Gone With The Wind, I Should Care, My Funny Valentine and There Will Never Be Another You, were included on the album The Cool Voice Of Rita Reys (Columbia CL903), with material recorded in New York with Art Blakey’s Messengers.

There are other really satisfying contributions by altoist Tony Vos, tenor Toon van Vliet, and some good interplay from trumpeters Jerry van Rooyen and Rob Pronk on a lively arrangement of The Goofer, but the real treat is The Beauty Of The Ball by The Diamonds, with Harry Verbecke on tenor and composer Cees Smal on valve trombone.

As usual, a first-rate production from Fresh Sounds which helps fill a gap in European jazz history and shows how well this generation, whose formative years had been turned upside down during WW2, assimilated the modern music from the US.

CD1: Easy To Love; Indiana; Roxy; Royal Mixed; Sonny Boy; Static Test; You Hi To My Ho; Souvenir; First Date; All God’s Chillun; My Funny Valentine; A Dandy Line; Jean; Stido’s Extract; Herman’s Hanky; Nowhere; Wailing For Weelink; For Minors Only; I Should Care; There’ll Never Be Another You; Young Peter; A Rainy Holiday; Second Date; Stan The Wailer; Papernote; The Universe; All The Things You Are (79.05)
CD2: Dufti Chris; Mops; Autumn In New York; Gone With The Wind; Moonlight In Vermont; It’s Alright With Me; Ill Wind; But Not For Me; The Beauty Of The Ball; Bobby Tale; Lady Bird; Just A Kickshaw; The Goofer; Jeepers Creepers; First Fig; The Teacher; Like Someone In Love; Lady Elisabeth; Sem; Don’t Get Sad; Queen; Meditation; If You’re So Smart How Come You Ain’t Rich; Lemonade; School Days (79.14)
Rob Madna Qrt & Trio; Dutch All Stars; Rob Pronk Trio; Tony Vos Qrt; Wessel Ilcken Combo, Quintet & All Stars with Rita Reys; Stido Alstrom Trio & Sextet; Herman Schoonderwalt Septet; Frans Elsen Qrt; The Diamonds; Pim Jacobs Three. Various dates from 7 Jan 1955 to 5 June 1957.
Fresh Sounds FSR-CD1112