free web stats


Jan Persson on Jan Persson

On March 12, 1960, at 6.42 a.m. the deciding event occurred which, unknown to me at the time, meant that my career had once and for all been determined.

A 16-year-old paper boy, I was sitting at a staircase reading the day’s paper. This was something I didn’t normally do, but a big front page picture of a handsome black saxophone player had caught my eye. Closer reading of the article showed it to be a tribute to Charlie Parker of the 5th anniversary of his death. A whole new world opened to me that I never knew existed.

A quick decision that morning on the staircase: the jazz scene needed further investigation. Fortunately I was living in a city, Copenhagen, that had great opportinities. Jazz clubs were thriving. The big jazz tours, e.g. JATP, came through town. There was jazz on the radio, jazz on the evening news, and the weekly magazines had articles on the jazz culture. It was a very open environment, so thriving that a number of prominent American jazz musicians preferred to live in little old Denmark. Among the first were people like Stan Getz and Oscar Pettiford. Later came Kenny Drew, Wild Bill Davidson, Dexter Gordon, Al Heath, Stuff Smith and Ben Webster. Besides, there were a number of musicians that felt so at home in the Danish jazz environment that they frequently prolonged their stays by weeks and even months. And they mixed with the Danish musicians, across musical boundaries and styles. It was in no way unusual at 1 a.m. to see Dexter Gordon or Ben Webster sitting in with a Dixieland band. They were simply a natural part of the Danish jazz scene.

It was of course the establishment of the Montmartre jazz club in St. Regnegade that confirmed the reputation of Copenhagen as an important jazz city. Countless artists and bands played in that small room, which seated less than 200 people. And it wasn’t just for a night or two that you could hear Sonny Rollins, a Dexter Gordon, a Johnny Griffin, a Roland Kirk or a Bud Powell. Often these bookings lasted from 2-3 weeks up to three months. No one else would be crazy enough to book the New York Contemporary Five, including among others Archie Shepp and John Tchicai, for three weeks, a Cecil Taylor for two weeks – or Albert Ayler next to Don Cherry.
Naturally, these at times exclusive avant-garde conditions could not last. After several attempts to save the place, St. Regnegade was forced to shut down.

On the ruins of the old Montmartre arose another by the same name in Nørregade. The owner here, Kay Sørensen, better known as Jazz Kay, was the complete opposite of Herluf Kamp Larsen. He was the world’s best business manager, but less knowledgeable about music. Fortunately he had the best experts to run the place. Thus, on opening night, Jazz Kay was able to introduce Charles Mingus and his Quintet. This reasonable laid out style of the place. Every musician, known as well as unknown, sooner or later played at Jazz Kay’s. Oscar Peterson was persuaded by Jazz Kay’s great business skills to play for three days for the door, and Miles Davis played his first club gig for 21 years on the Montmartre stage.

But all good things come to an end. Jazz Kay is dead and the legendary Montmartre exists no more. What does exist are these photographs, all taken of musicians I admire and love. Musicians that have given me experiences great and small throughout the years. Musicians that, although not physically present, live on through their extensive LP and CD productions. Musicians that are still close to my heart.

Jan Persson
(Preface to Jan Persson, Jazz Portraits, 1996)
Stacks Image 1204

- Jan Persson