Ga naar

My Timeline Paris 1963-1967



When There's Jazz,
There Is No Java ...

Quand le jazz est, quand le jazz est là,
la java s'en, la java s'en va ...
...elle écrase sa gauloise et s'en va dans la rue.

- Claude Nougaro

Paris, a beautiful city, great for paying a visit and admire many historical places, admiring the architecture, go to museums, have dinner in a small restaurant at Montmartre, and more.

However, things are different if you live in Paris where I was going to work and stay for several years. That is when you develop a different relationship. You learn to like the city and its inhabitants, you adept to their way of communicating which may seem cold and rude at times, especially tourists do complain, but this Parisian way is fast and efficient, and generally it has no mean meaning.

I arrived at the beginning of November, 1963. A few days later I had to report to the préfecture de police with my passport, two small ID pictures, and a certificate (déclaration) stating at what address I lived and who my employer was. In no time I had my carte d'identité which I had to carry on me and should show it when requested like everybody. But more important for me was that now I was a Parisian, so it felt, with all other Parisians.


On the Sunny Side of the Street
An old postcard with a narrow street in the 18th arrondissement, Montmartre, with the "basilica du Sacré Coeur" in the background.

I was completely new to this metropole, so I walked and walked and travelled by bus and metro to discover the plan of Paris, the various quartiers, the neighborhoods, avenues and places (squares) and all of that. I walked and traveled from Montparnasse to Montmartre, from Place d'Italie to Porte Clignancourt and beyond, from Neuilly to Vincennes, and to Porte Dauphine were I worked. I fully understood Yevgeny Yevtushenko's poem "Prologue" from 1955 and the verses "I want to ride through Paris in the morning, hanging on to a bus like a boy." For Yevtushenko it had been a dream flowering for many years when imprisoned by the Soviet system before he came to Paris in 1963 also. For me it was reality then as I actually was picked up at one time by the driver of an empty bus who had finished his late night shift and saw me walking along Avenue Georges Mandel in the early, dark hours of the morning.

Paris... the name evokes vivid visual memories, smells and sounds for everybody. The smelling metro, hot and cold, thundering through the city's abdomen. Or line No. 1, le métro à pneu, clicking while riding on rubber wheels, speeding like a "lettre pneumatique" from Neuilly to Vincennes. One level down the stations of the RER, part of the tube smelling like a public toilet. When I lived in Paris they were building the first line of this Réseau Express Régional.

When going out at night in the Quartier Latin it was important not to miss the last metro to Étoile. From there it was not too far to Rue de la Pompe, and just a short distance to Rue des Acacias where I later had rented a studio. It also happened that at a very late time a bus driver would pick me up when he had to return his bus to the garage. So I did not have to walk the last mile. Most busses were of the old fashioned, rectangular type with an open balcony at the rear. That made traveling a delight, especially in summer.

Saint Germain often meant a "hamburger à cheval" - a hamburger with a fried egg on top - in L'épicerie, Rue des Saints-Pêres, or was it Rue Saint-Benoit? The joint was always packed to the brim with students and travelers from abroad as well, but it seemed that there were always a few unoccupied seats; you and your friends were always invited to join one of the small groups sitting elbow to elbow at the small round tables.

Zizi Jeanmaire danced with Roland Petit's Ballet her famous and amusing "Mon truc en plumes" in the Théatre du Trocadéro, housed in le Palais de Chaillot. In the same complex was "la cinématèque française", Place du Trocadéro. There we viewed the great films of the great cinematographers like Serguei Mikhaïlovitch Eisenstein. Le Cuirassé Potemkine and the episodes of the magnificent Ivan le terrible with the compelling music score composed by Sergei Prokofiev.

Paris had many large and smaller cinemas, about 256 at the time. They were advertised in Pariscope, the weekly program that listed everything that was happening in Paris. Especially the cinéma on Avenue MacMahon, the earlier mentioned cinématèque, and there was Empire Cinérama, Avenue Wagram which had its Russian counterpart Kinopanorama on Avenue de la Motte Piquet. In contrast was the small Studio Opéra that featured the cartoons of Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Brother Rabbit, Daffy Duck and other funny and famous characters.

My friend Irene was a far better pianist than I am. We often went to play in a studio of Salle Pleyel, which you could rent by the hour. Our favorite shop was Piano Hamm at Rue de Rennes? There we tried these wonderful concert grands before we were kicked out by a severe lady manager or some other official. We both loved the Grotrian Steinweg in The Living Room. And we loved the Hungarian Restaurant Le Tokay with live gypsy music.

On the Champs Elysées we saw "West Side Story" in the original version but we had to wait for years to see "Porgy and Bess" despite the fact that it was produced years before. 'Porgy and Bess' was never shown as far as I can remember. The movie theater that had bought the rights for playing Sam Spiegel's movie continued showing West Side Story with great success. There was no hall that showed Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge in Gershwin's masterpiece. Could be that the Gershwin Estate had already started a law suit to forbid the screening of the movie.

In every epoch Paris is filled with famous and not so famous stars, musicians, painters, designers.
Singer/actress Mae Mercer had rented the small studio above mine in Rue de la Pompe (where I lived before moving to Rue des Acacias). She was busy to further her career which had more or less begun with her appearance in "Le glaive et la balance", the movie with Anthony Perkins and Jean-Claude Brialy. Before going to the night club Blues Bar (owned by Maurice Girodias) were she was performing, she always broke an "empoule buvable" with 1000 mg. of Vitamin C to boost her stamina. She later returned to the US and continued her acting carreer. You should see her act as assertive servant Hallie in that fantastic Don Siegel movie made a few years later The Beguiled.

Practically every Wednesday we played in the "Loterie nationale" to contribute to the funds of Les gueules cassées, Les mutilés de guerre and many other institutions, while hoping to become millionaires.

Loterie Nationale

Music has always played an important role in my life. Not only classical. Important was jazz music too, maybe unintentionally, maybe it became significant more or less naturally evolving from big band music I listened to when I was a kid, and the exploration of contemporary and less contemporary styles. And Paris always had - and still has - a lot of jazz to offer.
When Ella Fitzgerald came to sing in the Théatre des Champs Elyssées, and Duke Ellington and His Orchestra came to town in 1965, we would visit their concerts. Ella sang evergreens, ballads, and up-tempo while scat singing and improvising on the Porter, Gershwin and Arlen standards we all loved.

But to our surprise (and somewhat to our dismay) she also sang the Beatles' Can't Buy Me Love showing that she was up to date. I felt sort of betrayed. Yes, she also sang But I'm always true to you darling in my fashion.... Yes, I'm always true to you darling in my way...

There was more music and musicianship to enjoy. There was Ray Nance's violin, Cat Anderson and Cootie Williams (trumpet), Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope and Paul Gonsalves (alto), Sam Woodyard on drums, and the Duke overviewing the band from the immense, long concert grand piano and instructing the audience with his finger snapping bit. And there always would be an after concert gathering in some bar or jazz club.

My most loved jazz venue was The Living Room, Rue du Colisée, between the Champs-Elysées and Faubourg Saint Honoré, in the 8th Arrondissement. On most Saturday nights Paula and I visited the bar were two Afro-American pianists were playing: Art Simmons and Aaron Bridgers. They both had been living in Paris for several years and that is probably why Leonard Feather did not give them entries in The Encyclopedia Of Jazz (Bonanza Books, 1960).

Art Simmons was assisted by a drummer and a bass player - I had forgotten their names but found them in a publication: Gilbert Rovère and Stuart Da Silva respectively, and later Luigi Trussardi and Charles Bellonzi, and also René Nan and Michel Gaudry are mentioned. But I do not recall them as I always looked at how Art would play, often sitting next to him watching his hands touching the keyboard. He let me. I never thought that maybe he would not have liked it, or my observing his art could have irritated him, or just made him play more intensely, starting very calmly, displaying the melody or the phrase, repeat it with a few variations, and then gradually building up and exploring ever more complex clusters of harmonies while completely getting carried away, though he always remained in control. Something like Oscar Peterson. But Art had his own style, reminding me at times of Phineas Newborn also as on Lester Koenig's Contemporary S7600. Listen to Art Simmons Quartet recorded in 1956 playing Gershwin's

Nice Work If You Can Get It

In my opinion this way of Simmons's playing has never been fully captured on tape, as is so often the case with performing artists, classical and jazz, the records that have been made cannot replace the actual performance. Nevertheless the records Art Simmmons made are to be cherished. The old recordings issued on the Don Byas CDs evoke the atmosphere of the early 50s. Next to Byas he played with Jean Jacques Tilche, Roger Grasset, Claude Marty, Joe Benjamin, and Bill Clarke. And he also recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Graham, and Joe Benjamin.
The Mercury record "Boogie Woogie - Piano Stylings" was made in France and gives us virtuoso performances. There is also this 45 rpm disc with trumpet player Georges Jouvin. But the virtuosity and the ecstasy displayed in The Living Room was unique. Other records that exist of Art Simmons, notably Art Simmons and his Orchestra on Ducretet Thomson, are difficult to find, and I did not get the chance to hear these.

Click here for a sample of Art Simmons and Maurice Vander (the bass part) playing boogie woogie.

I was not aware at the time that Art had made quite a few recordings. The Mercury recording (SRW 12505) was made in Studio A at Barclay Studios Hoche in Paris, famous for recording classical artists as well. In 1951 Eddy Barclay had founded Compagnie Phonographique Française and associated himself with American Mercury Records from Chicago. By 1954 Eddy Barclay managed three labels, Riviera for tango, Blue Star for rock and pop, and Mercury for jazz. That is how Art's Mercury recording came about.
Next to Art Simmons there was French pianist Maurice Vander, drummers Kenny Clarke and Baptist Reilles, and Emmanuel Soudieux, bass. The image above is taken from the back of the cover of the Mercury disc which was released in 1959.

The producers and technicians of the
Mercury label pay much attention to the choice of microphones and the microphone placement. Mercury's David Carroll writes on the back of the cover of SRW 12505 that a variety of accent microphones were used: Neumann KM 53 for the piano, RCA 44 BX for the bass, Neumann KM 56 for drums, and a pair of Neumann U 47 microphones were set apart and above the artists to provide the basic stereo image. The result is a lively and energizing recording. Art Simmons plays the melody line. Maurice Vander is responsible for laying the foundation.


Aaron's style was quite different. It was inspired by Art Tatum. Aaron had developed his own luxurious sound coming from his big hands, grasping the large chords, striding and breaking with a deep echoing sound. Aaron knew that I liked his playing, his phrasing and improvising. But he also knew that I was fond of Art's expressionist's explorations too. As a listener you can like the styles of Art Tatum and Fats Waller, but at the same time find bebop or whatever style inspiring. Aaron had appeared as the pianist in the movie Paris Blues (1961) with Sidney Poitier and Paul Newman in the lead. That explains the appearance of Poitier in The Living Room whenever he visited Paris and why at one time I found myself sitting at the bar next to him, engaging in a sympathetic conversation.
Aaron Bridgers was born on January 10, 1918. He died on November 3, 2003. There is much more on the web to read about him. See his
Obituary published in The Guardian.

The piano these fine jazz pianists played on was a marvelously sounding Grotrian Steinweg. A grand piano with a wonderful, warm and yet controlled sonority in the lower register, a beautiful mid section and not overbright but well defined, tangible highs. Something like a crossing of a Baldwin and a Steinway or Bösendorfer? It was not a black shiny lacquered one, but a matte, nut brown grand which would fit well into The Living Room. In any case a grand piano to fall in love with. I said to myself that if I ever would be wealthy, that this would be the piano I was going to buy. After I had left for Holland, a couple of years later I visited Paris again and invited the television crew I was working with to listen to good jazz in The Living Room. But then the Grotrian-Steinweg had - after so many years of good service - been replaced by a new black, shiny grand with a somewhat less enchanting sonority.

Ella Fitzgerald



Cat Anderson in the 1970s on the cover of Black & Blue LP 33.113



Columbia CS 8707: Duke Ellington, Midnight in Paris.




Art Simmons (piano) can be heard in 23 selections with various artists. With Dizzy Gillespie, Don Byas, Joe Benjamin, Pierre Michelot, Pierre Lemarchand. These were recorded in the Théatre des Champs Elysées in 1950 (July) and in 1952 (February 6, March 16, March 25, and April 6, and recordings were made on April 10).






Art Simmons at the piano and Georges Jouvin playing the trumpet. La voix de son maître 45 RPM EP EGF 879.



Memphis Slim



Claude Nougaro: Le cinéma, Les Don Juan, Une petite fille, Le jazz et la java. With Michel Legrand and his orchestra. Philips 45 RPM EP 432.809 BE from around 1962. See and hear Charles Tois c.s. perform Nougaro's "Armstrong" on YouTube



On Arion ASV 52 Aaron Bridgers gives examples of his calm and entertaining style under the title Music for Dreaming: Summertime, Bess, you is my woman now, Caravan, Perdido, Somebody loves me, Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life, and 8 more songs.






Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge in Otto Preminger's film
Porgy and Bess





Bertice Reading
Image from the Soundfountain Archive.

Initially I attended courses given by the Alliance française, given in the "dépendance" at Boulevard Malesherbe. One evening the administrator entered the classroom and she talked in a soft, whispering voice to our teacher who looked all of a sudden very shocked. When the administrator had left, she spoke to us and said: "Le président Kennedy est mort. Il a été assassiné". President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. That was on Friday, November 22, 1963.

With my friend and colleague Paula, I spent several Sunday afternoons at Marpessa Dawn's place in "le banlieu". Marpessa of course had become very famous by starring in "Orfeu negro" (Black Orpheus), and she performed on stage, night after night, in "Chérie noire".

The liner notes of Fontana 6424 026: Orfeu Negro was the beginning of a musical style which became as famous as the film itself: bossa nova. It captured North America first, by influencing the course of jazz and was rapidly spreading all over Europe and the rest of the world. Luis Bonfa and Antonio Carlos Jobim, nowadays two living legends, together with the Brazilian singer Joao Gilberto were the composers of the soundtrack and also the creators of bossa nova.

Paula helped Indonesian friends by sewing curtains and napkins for their newly opened small Indonesian restaurant. Sometimes we had a meal there to contribute to the cash register which was most of the time nearly empty. It was no competition to the only big Indonesian restaurant in Paris, "Bali".


Coming home from a night out we would play music of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbara, Yves Montand, or listen to Guy Bedos. Most of my records were bought at "Lido musique" on the Champs Elyssées. Lilly (Lily) Christova (originally from Bulgaria) worked their in the evenings until closing time at midnight. Afterwards we often had a coffee or drink in a "café-tabac" in a side street of the Champs Elyssées until three or four in the morning. And then she would recite Tatjana's letter from Yevgeny Onegin.


Lido musique would order any record from the US. Art Blakey on Blue Note, Duke Ellington on Columbia 6-eye, David Fathead Newman on Riverside, Shelly Manne on Contemporary.

In winter we swam in the pool in Rue de Tilsitt before going to work. In summer we went sunbathing at Piscine Déligny where everybody was sort of showing off. Stars and celebrities. Especially if you had a well shaped physique as Serge Nubret did. The juke box played "Hello Dolly" sung by Louis Armstrong, and you could hear Sinatra crooning "Oh, you crazy moon".

Many a Sunday evening began with a meal in Pub Renault on Champs Elysées, the showroom annex restaurant: salade aux crevettes, a Tuborg beer and a St. James Blues for dessert, the delicious ice cream on rum-soaked cake.


With Brenda I visited concerts of the Colonne Orchestra with George Sebastian conducting and in the "Théâtre des Champs-Élysées" we saw and heard "L'orchestre du Conservatoire de Paris". André Cluytens conducted Ravel's Boléro with just lifting one finger - only near the end his movements became wild and energizing. There I heard for the first time Kirill Kondrashin (Kirill Kondrachine).

There also was Le Club Batucada, the Brazilian club where we danced the batucada (of course) and other exotic dances like the bossa nova that had become en vogue. With Patrick, a friend, I often visited "La paillotte" (rue Monsieur le Prince), "Le caméleon", and "Le crocodile", the jazz clubs where they played LP records. In "Le crocodile" it was the extraordinary record changer TD-224 made by Thorens which carefully changed from Jackie McLean to John Coltrane, from Thelonious Monk, via Art Blakey and Dexter Gordon to Bud Powell.

On Sundays the fun of live jazz presented itself at "La cigale" in Montmartre.

This could give the impression that we were on a holiday. But my stay lasted three and a half years. Even if we had visited every location say five times, than the total is probably not more than five hundred visits to all the addresses mentioned above. That means eight percent of our free time.


Listening to the playback of the Ducretet-Thomson recording in Studio Thorens in Paris.

Arthur Simmons
was born on February 5, 1926, enlisted in the US Army, and played in Army Bands in various European countries after World War Two had ended. When he came to France he started studying at the Paris Conservatory (Conservatoire national de musique) and would play in bars and clubs to support his stay and studies. Paris has a long jazz history and always had an attraction for foreign talents; and it still has. Big names are linked to the city of lights: Django Reinhardt, Sidney Bechet, Don Byas, Bud Powell, to name a few.
When Art Simmons had settled down he played in the Ringside, renamed Blue Note, in the Mars Club, and from 1963 till 1969 in The Living Room, Rue du Colisée. He was the pianist in the three movies listed on the IMDb website: Deux hommes dans Manhattan (1959; Melville), Trois chambres à Manhattan (1965; Marcel Carné), and Borsalino (1970; Jacques Deray). There is however no entry in Leonard Feather's Encyclopedia of Jazz like a few more names of musicians who lived abroad are missing.

After Simmons or Bridgers decided that a session should come to an end, they would play Duke Ellington's Prelude To A Kiss to let the other know that it was his turn now.


The Living Room was the place to be. It could happen that Memphis Slim unexpectedly entered, sat behind the Grotrian Steinweg and started to sing the blues and played a few boogie woogies too. Or Claude Nougaro visited and sang and played 'Le jazz et la java'. Pianist Martial Solal played in his modernistic style. Also composer-pianist-orchestra leader Michel Legrand sometimes dropped by, played and sang. All just for fun, but always inspired by the friendly atmosphere. They wanted to meet their colleagues, came after a concert, or just came to relax. And there was Margie, the singer. She sang "Just squeeze me, but please don't tease me", and she sang of course her song "Margie", while handsome bartender Gilles was shaking cocktails and serving drinks.

The June 26, 1972 edition of Raleigh Register from Beckley, West Virginia, features an article written by Bernard Aronson. The headline reads "Jazz Pianist Comes Home From Paris... For Good?" For Simmons, who has lived in Paris since the end of World War II, it's the first visit home in 10 years, says this time he might just stay... and he stayed.


On April 23, 2018, Arthur Eugene Simmons passed away at his home in Beckley, West Virginia. Both Fayette Tribune and The Raleigh Register published an Obituary on April 27, 2018.


A French friend recently remarked that I had lived in a far more interesting Paris than the Paris of today. I of course do disagree but I know what he means, even though I did not witness - at least not consciously - so many other jazz greats who were performing in those days: René Urtreger; Pierre Michelot; Daniel Humair; Stéphane Grapelli; Jean-Luc Ponty; Eddy Louis; Phil Woods; André Persiani; Guy Lafitte; Claude Bolling; and more.
The atmosphere made me a fond collector of the fabulous Black and Blue LP records of so many greats: Don Byas; Slam Stewart; Cozy Cole; J.C. Heard (their earliest recordings can be found on
Continental 78 RPM and Remington LPs), Major Holley; Ellis Larkins; Cat Anderson; Guy Lafitte; Jacques Dufivier; Cliff Smalls; Buddy Tate; Ellen Humes; Gérard Badini; Oliver Jackson; Hank Jones, Sir Charles Thompson.


My first encounter with the music of Duke Ellington was when, as a fourteen year old, I had bought HiFi Ellington Uptown, the Columbia recording released in Europe by Philips: A Tone-parallel to Harlem, The Mooche, Take the A-Train (with singer Betty Roché) and Perdido. High caliber big band jazz, symphonic and jungle style.
One day when Duke Ellington and his Orchestra were in town again and would give concerts in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, one of my black friends, Gene, called me on the phone and invited me to go to the Ritz Hotel to see Duke Ellington. When we arrived, Ellington was in a conference and did not have time for us. Well, said Gene, we go see Billy Strayhorn, whom he knew well.



Billy (William Thomas) Strayhorn
was also a resident of The Ritz. When we entered his room, he sat in his blue-gray, silken morning coat behind an antique, sculptured French desk, eating a fruit cocktail, a good meal to start the day with after a demanding concert of the night before; good to replenish your energy reserves. It was about two in the afternoon.
I was introduced and practically immediately tested to see if I was of the right caliber, to see if I had that specific feeling for jazz music. This happened when in the conversation the expression "hell no..." was used. Billy Strayhorn, the composer of Take the 'A' train, the tune of Ellington's band, said to me: "Say hhhellll-nooooohh". He said it while giving the two words equal emphasis. I did my best saying "hhelll-nooohh". I found that I succeeded quite well. But Mr. Strayhorn, who is also the composer of Lush Life and Sweet and Pungeant, was not at all content with the musicality of my effort and wanted me to say it with more feeling, with more music. He told me to listen carefully and said: "hhhhhhellll-nooooohhhhhh", as if he was playing Johnny Hodges's saxophone, or Ray Nance's violin. Again I repeated the words and gave the sound a sort of turn at the end, something like a muted trumpet or a trombone with a cup or bucket. Well, after the third or fourth time, he decided that I had passed the test. I had succeeded, but... only just!

That was the game he played. In 1965 that was. I did not know then that he had already been diagnosed with cancer a year earlier. Billy Strayhorn died two years after this encounter. By then I had returned to the Netherlands after three and a half years of living in Paris.

Billy Strayhorn died on May 31st, 1967. In the Summer and Fall of that year Duke Ellington recorded twelve Strayhorn titles (The Intemacy Of The Blues; Rain Check; Day Dream; All Day Long; Blood Count; U.M.M.G.; and more) for RCA, in memory of the great composer, arranger and piano player. Ellington wrote on the cover: "Poor little Sweet Pea. Billy Strayhorn, William Thomas Strayhorn, the biggest human being who ever lived, a man with the greatest courage, the most majestic artistic stature, a highly skilled musician, whose impeccable taste commanded the respect of all musicians and the admiration of all listeners."


The tittle of RCA LSP 906 was "...and his mother called him Bill".

Third from left is Art Simmons. The female singer at right is Billie Poole. She sang "Don't ever leave me". Another singer Art made ast least one recordings with was Bertice Reading. The session of that recording took place on March 12, 1956 and was released on BAM (BOITE A MUSIQUE) LD 321: Rock And Roll; Black Coffee; It's almost Like Being In Love; Love For Sale; St-Louis Blues; No More In Life; Old Fashioned Love; Left Bank Blues.



The Mars Club, Paris

Playing in the Mars Club.



Art Simmons returned to Beckley West Virginia in 1972 and started a family. Below a picture taken at a family reunion in 2006 when Art was about 80 years old.

At lower left: Art going for a ride in a stylish Ford Mustang with his lovely daughter Maja Tranemose.

On Friday September 16, 2016, over 80 musicians were honored at West Virginia All Black Schools Sports and Academics Hall of Fame. WCHS abc 8 EYEWITNESS NEWS reported on the event the following day. The news clip shows that Art Simmons (at 90) is one of the inductees.


A regular visitor of the Mars Club was Al Jones. After his Parisian career, he returned to the US and started acting and painting. See his expressive paintings on The Heart Of Jazz. Fortunately part of Al Jones's web site is still available on the Internet Archive - Wayback Machine which has saved more than 332 billion web pages over time. The last complete version of Jones's web site has been captured on 22 November, 2015, and can be viewed at the WayBackMachine by clicking this link:
The Heart of Jazz.



Martial Solal.

Martial Solal was awarded the "Prix Django Reinhardt" in 1955.




Martial Solal & Hampton Hawes, 1968

Michel Legrand chante.


At left Philips Hi-Fi Stereo LP 847048 - originally a Columbia recording - with The Nutcracker Suite, arranged by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.








Bud Powell "De face et de profil".




Ellington Indigos - Columbia CS 8053 - Solitude - Where or When - Mood Indigo - Autumn Leaves - The Sky fell down - Prelude to a Kiss - Willow Weep for Me - Tenderly - Dancing in the Dark. My copy was ordered in the States and to make my acquisition legetimate, the word / trade mark COLUMBIA had to blackened with a marker, so there was no conflict with CBS which had established itself in Europe just one or two years ago.





Duke Ellington and His Orchestra in Newly Recorded Versions of Billy Strayhorn Compositions - RCA LSP-3906

At left Duke Ellington's eulogy for Billy Strayhorn, expressing the loss his passing away meant for the orchestra, for the world of jazz and its inhabitants, and above all for Duke Ellington personally and for his artistry. 'God bless Billy Strayhorn'. Signed Duke Ellington (Edward Kennedy Ellingtton).

"Ellington Uptown": Skin Deep; The Mooche; Take The A-Train (with Betty Roche); A Tone Parallel To Harlem; Perdido.

Images of covers and labels and the image of Bertice Reading are from my personal collection. Thanks to Art Simmons who sent the pictures of him and his family. For the image of Art Simmons and artists listening to the playback of a recording I thank Steven Jambot, French jazz critic and historian.
Page first published on the internet in March, 2008

Dennis Hess - jazz historian/discographer on this subject - is from Portland, Oregon. He remembers:

"I had the good fortune to spend several days in Paris in May of 1966, and during my visit there, made the rounds of the jazz and blues clubs of that time: Caveau de la Huchette, Le Chat qui Pêche, the Blue Note, etc. It was only because of the kindness of Memphis Slim, that I came to enjoy the many pleasures of the cozy Living Room.

While visiting with Slim at the end of his night’s gig (at la Huchette), he asked about the clubs I’d been to, and told me of the Living Room. Better yet, he said he was going by there to hang out, and asked if I would like to ride along. “Yes, of course. Thank you.” was my immediate answer, so we jumped in his car (a beautiful Jaguar sedan) and off we drove. When we walked into the club, Art Simmons was at the piano playing, and equally impressive was finding one of my heroes, drummer Kenny Clarke, chatting at the bar. I had met Kenny the previous night at the Blue Note, where he was playing with Martial Solal, Nathan Davis and Pierre Michelot. Nonetheless, Slim “reintroduced” me to Kenny. It was a grand night of Living Room music and conversation. So much so, that I visited the club again the next night.

Also, while in Paris, I made a valiant effort to find Bud Powell, whom I wanted to meet and hear in person. I knew that Bud’s wife, Buttercup, ran a restaurant called “Buttercup’s Chicken Shack” and finally, after considerable looking, managed to find the place. Alas, it was closed—permanently it appeared. That evening I spoke with bassist Jimmy Woode (appearing in duo with guitarist Jimmy Gourley), at a Left Bank jazz cave (name now forgotten). Jimmy told me that Bud had already returned to the States, which is where Bud died shortly thereafter. I had missed my chance to meet Bud, and the world was about to lose a great musician." - Dennis Hess, April, 2011. More about Dennis Hess on Lawrence Journal World.

Discographies compiled by Dennis Hess and other individuals.


April 30, 1949, Lausanne: James Moody Octet (Vogue, 78 RPM)
May 1, 1949, Zurich: James Moody Octet (Vogue, 78 RPM)
March 25, 1952, Paris:
Dizzy Gillespie - Don Byas Sextet
(Blue Star, 78 RPM)
March 5 & May 3, 1954, Paris: Robert Mavounzy (alto sax) Septet (Pathé LP)
December 2, 1955, Paris: Kitty White (vocalist) Arrangements by Simmons, no pianist listed (Clover LP)
March 12, 1956, Paris: Bertice Reading (vocalist) with
Simmons Quartet (BAM LP LD 321)
March 13, 1956, Paris: Art Simmons Quartet (Art w. Terry
Donoughhue (g), Bill Crow (b), Dave Bailey (d) (BAM LP & Gitanes CD)
May 26, 1956, Paris: Al "Fats" Edwards (vocalist) with Art Simmons Quartet (Coronet LP) Unreleased?
April 15, 1958, Paris: "Boogie Woogie - Piano Stylings" - Art Simmons (p), Maurice Vander (p), drummers Kenny Clarke and Baptist Reilles, and Emmanuel Soudieux, bass. (Wing - Mercury LP SRW 12505).
October-November, 1959, Paris: Art Simmons (p) w.
Clark Terry (tp), E. Dixon (fl, ts), Elek Bacsik (g), Michel Gaudry (b), Kenny Clarke (d) and on one track Billie Poole (vcl ).(Ducretet-Thomson)
Late 1959/early 1960, Paris:
Double Six of Paris (vocal group) with Art Simmons Trio (Columbia/French LP)
1966: "Deux heures du matin", Georges Jouvin, his trumpet and his orchestra, Art Simmons at the piano - Roses of Picardie, My Heart Sings, Old Man River, Trees. (EMI - Voix de son maître, 7 inch record reference EGF 879)

There is a beautiful but short clip on YouTube of Django Reinhardt from a RTF Radiobroadcast of 1953, January 15, Paris, playing Yesterday. As is noted on YouTube, the pianist is either Art Simmons or Maurice Vander (p); Django Reinhardt (g solo); Pierre Michelot (b); Roger Paraboschi (d). The style of the pianist is unmistakingly Art Simmons's as it is similar to the piano in the Clark Terry clip. We assume that it is Art Simmons playing here with Reinhardt.

More LP recordings certainly do exist.


Do visit YouTube, watch and listen.


October 1953, Paris: Jimmy "Loverman" Davis (vocalist) w. Aaron Bridgers (p), Michel de Villers (cl, as, ts), Heinz Grah (b), Bernard Planchenault (d) (Concerteum (F) TVC-40)
Circa 1955-56, Paris: Aaron Bridgers (p), Terry Donoughue (g), Herbert Marchi (d) (Arion ASV-52)

At left the entrance to the building (immeuble) at 17, rue des Acacias, Paris 17ème, where I lived for several years; my third address. And at right is where I worked with collegues and friends on No. 1, Place du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny / Boulevard Lannes, political Headquarters of NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization or - as the French say - l'Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique Nord (OTAN).
There were Paula Beenhakker (who loved the worldly life) - Mady Bartelds, head of the archive - Jeane Beens who could tell a lot of her experiences when working in the Dutch ambassies in India and Israel - Hetty (a Sinatra fan), secretary to Mr. G.W. van Barneveld Kooij - Corrie van Doorn - Lilly Cramer and her brother Roy Cramer - Tonny Lindeman who had her fashionable dresses and deux-pièces made by Frans Molenaar who at the time was a trainee at Nina Ricci's - Mady Mansvelt-Beck - Vera Boissevain - Ria Halk, secretary to ambassador Dr. Henry Boon - Mia van Bennekom, secretary to Mr. Scheltema.
There was Irene Osorio from the Portuguese representation - Kei Piccinini from Italy who suffered a tragic death - Philippa Heape who was one of the typists of the secretary pool, like Brenda with whom I visited a concert from time to time - Patrick Just who worked in the bank on the ground floor, "le Crédit Lyonnais" - and there were colleagues Pieter Bohl, Pieter Schaap, Hans Sieverding, Paul van Hasselt, Harry Simons, etc.





And there were the names of diplomats with their official Dutch titles of Dr. and Mr. (Doctor in Law), and Drs. Their names became familiar names - Ambassador Dr. Hendrik Boon who, after he left the foreign service, published 10 studies about the diplomatic practice under the title "Afscheids Audiëntie" (A Farewell Audience")- Mr. H. Scheltema, 1st ambassy-secretary - Mr. G.W. van Barneveld Kooy - Mr. Cort van der Linden who also handled the affairs of all personnel (he owned a Thorens TD-124 turntable, a Leak amplifier and Leak Sandwich loudspeaker systems); Drs. W. van Eekelen was his sucessor - Mr. Peter Van Walsum, son of the late mayor of Rotterdam - Drs. De Grauw - Jonkheer Mr. Von Mühlen, yes he and his wife were of nobility - Drs. Coen Stork - Drs. Thomas Kasteel - Drs. F. van Dongen - Dr. C.A. van Der Klauw - Jhr. Mr. J.A. de Ranitz - Mr. J.H.O. Insinger - chancellor Van Vliet and his deputy/assistent Jan Aarts.
Secretary General of NATO was Dr. Manlio Brosio at the time.


Text written by Rudolf A. Bruil. Page first published, March 24, 2008
Thanks to Art Simmons for the pictures of himself and his family today, thanks to Art and also Steven Jambot from France for the picture of listening to the playback of a recording and the picture of the Mars Club.





Copyright 2004-2009 Rudolf A. Bruil