Georges Mathys’ Story – and Al Casey with the HBJB
Last autumn I made – via email- the acquiaintance of a very nice gentleman: Monsieur Georges Mathys, who was born in 1918. Georges Matthys for years and years organized the “Jazz in Yverdon” concert series in the town of the same name in the french speaking swiss canton Vaudois. He was a jazz fan from early on and for example helped to organize the 1946 Don Redman concerts in Geneva as well as in Zurich. Monsieur Mathys was so nice as to supply the autographs of Don Redman’s band members he gathered on one of this concert on the page I did with some fellow researchers on Don Redman’s 1946 european tour.
I asked Georges Mathys about his memories of these days, and he kindly send me the story of his life in jazz and was so nice as to allow me to publish it here, which I am proud to do:
My attention towards jazz began at the time when the french chanson partly became infused with new rhythms that I liked, for example in songs by Charles Trénet or Jean Tranchant. I started to look where this was coming from and that is how I discovered jazz. From time to time in some beer tavern in the Vaudois an enthusing record turned up at the bottom of the pile, for example some Muggsy Spanier on a HMV record.
My investigations than led me to some titles by Duke Ellington: “Solitude”, “Creole Love Call”, music from 1927 that to us was still new.
Later on some meetings I met some friends who by chance also listened to jazz – but to a kind of jazz I did not appreciate yet: Lionel Hampton. This was to harsh for me, i preferred Artie Shaw. But soon enough I discovered I got acclimated and started to penetrate this new musical world.
On invitation we went to the boarding schools to accompany the young girls there to the dance. I always found the same friends there and we profitted from presenting some jazz titles. But we had to be careful, since the school principals did not like this “negro music”. But on each of these evenings we discovered new names, new styles.
In the 1940s I organized some kind of jazz club. I organized meetings and concerts with musicians from the region. I had already penetrated the music and felt that marvellous phenomenon called swing.
Then in 1938 in Yverdon, the first delightful shivers: On two evenings the Bobby Martin orchestra was on stage to accompany the dancers. I did not know the musician’s great reputation yet, but I knew to appreciate them.
Bobby Martin’s orchestra in
Switzerland, 1938. From the Otto
Flückiger collection (there must be
a larger copy somewhere,
I’ll add it when I find it)
After that the war came and records became rare. We succeded in exchanging some records with people in france, – illegally, mostly through Geneva, the large border town. But there was not much coming from there. And then there were some swiss license pressings of american records, priced highly, which allowed beautiful findings.
After the war was over I helped in organizing the Don Redman concerts in Geneva and Zurich.Then came an unforgettable concert in Lausanne in 1948: LOUIS ARMSTRONG ALL STARS! The crowning of our efforts! A lot of people were present, what a wonderful evening!
Louis Armstrong in 1948. Does anyone know the photographer?
From 1942 to 1950 I lived in the german speaking part of switzerland, in Olten. My activity intensified during that period. The founding of several Hot Clubs – jazz appreciation societies – (Olten, Baden, Lenzburg and many others). Being a member of such a club menat taking part in the regular meetings, debates and record presentations. I made the acquaintance of experts like Otto Flückiger, Kurt Mohr, Johnny Simmen Félix Steinmann with all of whom I spent a lot of very interesting moments with. In Olten I founded the Fédération Suisse de jazz (Swiss Jazz Federation) with its magazine, “Hot Revue”. But the different styles unfortunately did not allow a lasting union.
I went back to the french speaking part of switzerland and then came the time of all the festivals and all the concerts I organized in Yverdon with the excellent american soloists and the many recordings of beautiful souvenirs until the end of my activities in organizing jazz events.
Today I am listeing to and watching many bands, but is is still mainly JAZZ!
To see a complete list of the Jazz in Yverdon concerts from 1953 on and see some accompanying photos, go here and click through the years in the left column. In Otto Flückiger’s archives I found many audio and video documents from concerts that Georges Mathys organized in Yverdon. Monsieur Mathys was so generous as to allow me to present some of this audio or video clips on my blog and I am starting here with a sixty minute clip showing the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band (HBHB) in concert at the Théâtre Municipal Yverdon on June 20 1985.
On this occasion the HBJB consisted of trumpeter Bobby Williams, saxophonist/clarinetist Heywood Henry, pianist Stan Greig, Al Casey on guitar, bassist Johnny Williams and drummer Belton Evans. Originally trombonist Eddie Durham was also to be part of the band, but was hospitalized in London shortly before the tour.
P.S.: Thanks to the Shark for help in translating!