music: Chronologies
Recollections on early years

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"During the summers of 1942-43, many weeks were spent with our grandparents up in Hornbæk [a summer resort town north of Copenhagen], where I could listen almost any night to the jazz and dance bands that came out of Copenhagen but were employed there for the vacation season. Bands such as Svend Asmussen's, Niels Foss' and, in particular, Bent Fabricius Bjerre's, in whose band my old soccer team friend Pedro Biker played drums. So that through him, there was an occasion to visit with the band members also in the daytime.

The clarinet player in that band was Poul Hindberg, someone that I was very impressed with, and in late summer I told my grandmother that I would be very happy to have a clarinet, and not only did she consent to that but also told me that she would pay for lessons with Poul Hindberg. Those lessons began in back in Copenhagen, but in October of 1943 my family (on my mother's side, being Jewish) and I had to go to Sweden because of the German occupation of Denmark. On my back I had a rucksack, and the one thing I carried in my hands was the clarinet.

As we met up in Sweden with other Danish refugees, including friends I had already met and played with in Copenhagen, I was able to continue practicing and rehearsing with them as I started school in Malmö, but maybe even more so when I changed schools in order to go to Sigtuna, a boarding school north of Stockholm that had not only many remarkable athletic facilities but also some neat little music rooms. So with my Danish friends we played at a few school dances, and they also came up to Sigtuna to play.

Up at Sigtuna, "Buster" was the name given to my by my closest jazz friend, Olin Thyberg, apparently for my interest in listening at length to the clarinet player called Buster Bailey, who had played with the Fletcher Henderson band and later John Kirby.

But it was during the summer of 1944 that I was able to afford my first Sidney Bechet record, which I was able to buy from being a caddie at the Falsterbro Golf Course.

It was upon returning to Copenhagen after the war and meeting up with Terkild Vinding that my interest in the music of Bechet deepened, and a couple of years later resulted in Terklid, Timme Rosenkrantz, "Taxa-Ole" and I bringing Bechet up to Copenhagen.

In the late '40s, I began playing and rehearsing more under the musical direction of Dr. Terkild Vinding, who was a skilled piano player in different styles, increasingly with a preference for the older ways of playing. Since Dr. Vinding was also a busy psychiatrist at the time, during summer weekends when the band often had gigs in Rågeleje, at Rågeleje Kro [owned by Børge Birch, at whose gallery T.U. would, many years later, have a painting exhibit] and at private parties, and when Dr. Vinding couldn't join, Niels-Erik Lundsgaard filled in on piano.

This band was named the Delta Jazz Band (the name "Delta" coming from the Mississippi River Delta).

In the post-war years in Denmark, dance music and jazz music continued to be performed at either strictly commercial restaurants and/or nightclubs on the one hand, or at concert halls or school dances on the other hand. Having experienced jazz clubs in London and Paris that were forging a new style that was in between those two approaches, we were interested in making a Danish jazz club where it was possible to pay an entrance fee and not be obliged to pay for anything more (food or drink) but could just listen or dance. To introduce a kind of a space that was not there.

It was decided that we would try to make a club like that, which featured that kind of listen and/or dance approach. It had a board of directors, with Povl Eriksen as chairman, and also with Kurt Nielsen and Arnvid Meyer. This first club, called Blue Note, opened its doors in October of 1952. And so over the years we had the Blue Note Band, a Blue Note Quartet and several Blue Note Orchestras.

During those years I really listened to Johnny Dodds a lot, of course only on records [Dodds died in 1940] but, having met with Sidney Bechet on many occasions in Denmark, France and the United States, I thought very highly of him, still do, and considered him kind of my teacher, in the sense that Dr. Vinding was more of an overall mentor. And off of that, and with Terkild Vinding, Bechet was my teacher, even maybe our teacher.

When I began being more heavily engaged on the tennis tour, often leaving for longer periods of time, the Blue Note Orchestra continued with Arnvid Meyer in charge, and Henrik Johansen often substituting on clarinet. This band would by and by become the Arnvid Meyer-Henrik Johansen Orchestra (with John Darville on trombone). Simultaneously and on their own, Arnvid and Povl Eriksen and Klaus Albrectsen on clarinet had a Blue Note band going that played their own weekly dates but also could substitute at any time. Then it was around that time that we also traveled a lot with the Quartet, with Arnvid and Ole Christiansen on bass and Thor Selzer on drums.

In the late 1950s, inspired by Indian music in general and visits in particular with Indian musicians around London, Paris, New York, India and Pakistan, I took up an informal study of Northern and Southern expressions of Indian music. In the '60s, I began more formal training on tenor saxophone and flute (mainly approaching classical music on flute).

In connection with my activities traveling as a tennis player, or in connection with radio shows or writings, I came in touch with John Cage, who already had been a certain inspiration, thus getting the chance both in Copenhagen and New York to visit with him, and then through him also onwards to approaches to dance music like Martha Graham in New York, and Merce Cunningham, and again becoming acquainted with people connected with the Fluxus movement such as Nam June Paik, and classical musicians like the cellist Charlotte Moorman (at Judson Hall in New York), visiting with Lamonte Young in his New York studio, and Terry Riley in the Bay Area, and so becoming increasingly interested in cross-field approach."

– T.U., Jan. 13, 2005

  • Recollections on Blue Note years