HARLEM KIDDIES 1940-45
CD 05001 Little Beat Records 2004, 24 tracks 72 minutes
Sweet Sue, Limehouse Blues, Argentina, Between The Devil & the Deep Blue Sea, One O'clock Jump, I Ain't Got Nobody, In A Little Spanish Town, Amigo, Honeysuckle Rose, Solitude, Tiger Rag, After You've Gone, Whispering, You Can't Be Mine, Once, Is Enough For Me, Do You Wanna Jump Children?, May-Fair Boogie, Bye Bye Blues, Alligator Swing, Baby Swing, Confessin', Flying Home, Ain't Misbehavin', Doing The New Low Down
'Who?' you may ask, as indeed I did when I first saw this CD. I knew that jazz had been hot in Denmark during the early 50s as I had myself at times endeavoured to acquire some of the excellent Storyville records from that period when I lived in England; but during the 40s? When Denmark spent much of its time occupied by Nazi Germany? Ok, I would have conceded that jazz would have been around, albeit under difficult circumstances, but recording the stuff during the war period? Well, I was wrong, not only was it around, but it was being recorded and this CD is living proof of that fact. Although the CD says 'Harlem Kiddies' the tracks are by a mix of groups (including Harlem Kiddies with a variety of line-ups), the common denominators are the brothers Jimmy and Jonny Campbell. The sons of an American father and a Danish mother, they started out as entertainers (tap dancing unicyclists anyone?) but, having found themselves stranded in Copenhagen when the Germans took Denmark over, concentrated on becoming professional musicians from 1940 onwards.
Two things strike you. The first is the wonderful quality of the recordings. Listening to the sound you would never have guessed that they were made under war conditions. I have a selection of British jazz records from the late 40s and early 50s and they don't even come near the clarity of sound on these recordings. I am very impressed. I know that, with modern software, much can be done with old tracks, but that is not what I am talking about. I also have CDs of cleaned up British tracks from the 40s & 50s and they just don't sound the same; it is all down to the quality of the equipment and the sound engineers when the recordings were originally made. The second thing that strikes you is the eclectic mix of music styles. Don't get this CD and expect to hear revivalist New Orleans jazz, for it isn't here. What you get is small group jazz, Latin American dance music and America dance music. Given the time and place it would be foolish to expect anything else, for to survive the boys had to play what would bring in the money and with a shortage of musicians around, they had to cover all styles the public demanded.
Going back to my own childhood and teen years, there used to be a radio show on the BBC Light Programme that started I suppose at 07:00 (a bit early for me in those lazy days) and finished at, I think 10:00. It was light music of all sorts and had a time check every 15 min and the weather every half hour. This CD reminds me of that programme, for on it you get music reminiscent of Nat Gonella, Dinah Washington, Ray Ellington, The Andrew Sisters, The Jazz Club of Paris and Edmundo Ross. I like it and have surprised myself in how often I have played the CD.
I must just give the following quote by vocalist Raquel Rastinni: 'Just imagine! There we were - three blacks and a Jewish girl - on stage in Munchen, while the Germans tore along in Copenhagen!' (drummer Kaj Timmerman's father was Congolese). Later things became too hot for Rastinni and at the time pianist and fellow Jew, Benny Schwartzmann, and they escaped to Sweden to avoid the escalating persecution.
Some amazing music from a very difficult time.
More information on the Campbell brothers and the CD can be got from http://littlebeatrecords.dk/English/littlebeatrecords.html
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