One more ear for Marc Danval

Fan of jazz for almost 80 years, Marc Danval, described as “Epicurious” in the biography of Michaël Albas dedicated to him, is the first witness in our series “The memory of jazz”.

Marc Danval is a character like his shirts: colorful! It even seems, since they are often colorful, that they echo his flowery language. Well known to RTBF listeners for a “Third Ear” like no other, he is all at the same time: poet, journalist, scholar, gastronome, author of works on Robert Goffin, on Toots Thielemans or on the history of jazz in belgium.

A life full of exceptional encounters that make Marc Danval the subject ofa biography by Michaël Albasand the privileged witness of the heroic era of jazz.

“Curiosity has been part of my life since childhood. Epicurean, it’s true, I didn’t give a shit. Even if I have to slow down a bit; I can’t do the Olympics at my age. elsewhere, no one asked me!”

Marc Danval

Columnist and jazz fan

The title of the book, “Marc Danval the Epicurious”sticks perfectly to his subject: “That’s exactly it, because curiosity has been part of my life since childhood. Epicurean, it’s true, I didn’t get bored. Even if I have to slow down a bit; I can’t do the Olympics at my age. Besides, no one asked me!”

Born on February 18, 1937 in Ixelles, he remembers his first jazz emotions, at the age of nine, when he was a boarder at the Athénée de Morlanwelz. Not having access to the club of the big ones, who listened to music, often jazz, he heard it through an air vent that allowed in the playground.

The shock of the “Boogie Woogie”

One day, it’s the shock: “I heard ‘Boogie Woogie’, a record that pissed me off, by Belgian conductor Stan Brenders. I learned that he had been my father’s student at the Conservatory, it touched me a lot.” The young Marc will later buy his 78 rpm, along with a Count Basie record and “Idaho” by Don Byas and Bill Coleman, an American saxophonist and trumpeter who will become, fifteen years later, his friends.

In the meantime, “Idaho” has become the callsign for The Third Ear, in the version recorded during World War II by the Belgian trumpeter Gus Deloof, under the title “You have a beautiful hat, madam”. At the time of the “swing tanzen verboten”, it was necessary to know how to deal with the German occupier and his collaborators.

His first column, Marc Danval signed it in 1957 in a student newspaper directed by Raymond Errera, and recounts an interview with… Nat “King” Cole. They had made an appointment by telephone at the Hotel Métropole in Brussels. The singing pianist, “a charming, delicious guy”, was right on time. He played in the evening at the Théâtre des Galeries with his trio, “but I didn’t see him because I had no money. My parents were anti-jazz, stingy, so everything was fine.”

In the footsteps of Vian

For the same student magazine, Raymond Errera will meet Orson Welles! “In his dressing room, there was a super horny girl: Eartha Kitt. It was something, I was overwhelmed. We weren’t refused anything because we were young, still in shorts, I believe”. from the latter, following in this a certain Boris Vian, writer and trumpeter whom he will meet on several occasions.

“Belgian musicians, you had to be old enough to go out in clubs to discover them”. Nevertheless, from the age of fourteen, he frequented “La Rose noire”, a mythical club on rue des Bouchers in Brussels, opened in 1953 by Louis Laydu, “a boss who liked me”. “That’s where I discovered Bobby Jaspar, Jacques Pelzer, René Thomas”, two saxophonists and a guitarist, three people from Liège who somehow constitute the holy trinity of bebop in Belgium: “I was dazzled”.

Before leaving for America, as was the case for Bobby and René, the Belgian musicians all met in Paris, City of Light of jazz at the time of the existentialists and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, whose muse was Juliette Greco and Miles Davis the herald. Marc Danval does not need to be asked of course. For his composition “Big Balcony”, Bobby Jaspar was inspired by the Hôtel du Grand Balcon, where the band of Belgians resided.

And there were a lot of people on the balcony: Sadi (vibraphone and percussion), Jean Warland and Benoît Quersin (double bass), were there with Bobby, Jacques and René: “I knew it well, it was at corner of rue de Buci”, says our Epicurious. “The Americans stayed not far from there, at the Hotel de la Louisiane, where Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre, Bud Powell lived.”

Death by prescription

Comet of be-bop, the pianist Bud Powell shines on the French capital: “I was going to listen to him at the Blue Note. He had spotted my car, whose doors I left open, and he rushed into it at the end of the evening. for me to drive him back. He was saving the taxi fare! The only French words he knew were ‘un vin rouge'”.

In the frantic rhythm of time, encounters follow one another. Marc Danval was very close to Robert Goffin, whom he admired “as a poet and as a discoverer of jazz on a planetary scale”.

It’s not just booze in artistic circles: “I’ve always been wary of drugs, especially heroin and cocaine. I saw all my friends taking them. One day, Chet Baker offered me: ‘Marc, a nice shoot…’, ‘Chet, forget me for good’, I replied, and since he wasn’t stupid, he didn’t insist. died of that. I had a lot of arguments with jazzmen because I prevented a doctor from giving them prescriptions”.

“I could see that it was not Fernandel”

In the frantic rhythm of time, encounters follow one another. Marc Danval was very close to Robert Goffin, whom he admired “as a poet and as a discoverer of jazz on a planetary scale”.

In the family home on rue Vilain XIIII, the first was a stone’s throw from the other, rue du Lac. “Come home, there’s someone you like,” the lawyer-poet told him one day. As he enters, he hears “a voice recognizable among a thousand”. “When I arrived, educated in the American way, he got up and said to me: ‘Louis Armstrong, New Orleans, Louisiana’. I could see that it was not Fernandel.”

For forty years, Marc Danval presented jazz concerts at the Palais des Beaux-arts in Brussels. “What touched me were the musicians who, knowing me, wanted me to introduce them: Maynard Ferguson, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton… To please me, they played a riff between each of my sentences and I was transported.”

Abbey lovers

At the time, Marc also felt it for one of the most resplendent jazz singers, Abbey Lincoln who, despite her first name, was not a saint.

Her enamored feelings, Marc Danval had gone so far as to slip them into the concert program… “I didn’t know she spoke French. During the intermission, backstage, she hands me a cigarette, she takes my hand and on chatty. It was tender and moving”.

Even today, in his Ixellois apartment, discreetly forbidden at the corner of a shelf, the beautiful Abbey shines.

Marc Danval l’Épicurieux”, Michaël Albas, 293 pp., Éditions Jourdan. Price: 19.90 euros.

Marc Danval in three concerts…

  • Duke Ellington, Chet Baker, Bill Evans. “And a great tenderness for Cannonball Adderley, his lyricism, his fluidity.”

… And in three 33 circuits:

  • “West End Blues” by Louis Armstrong
  • “My Funny Valentine” by Chet Baker
  • “Round Midnight” by Thelonious Monk

Summer series: the memory of jazz

At the stage of Marc Danval, they are all over eighty years old. Born on April 27, 1932, the eldest of them, the saxophonist from Liège Robert Jeanne, in the same nineties and, between two fishing trips, still performs.

Montois, the trumpeter Richard Rousselet is the head of the West Music Club Big Band.

Originally from Verviers, Brussels by adoption, the drummer Felix Simtaine slowed down a bit.

Hutois, double bassist and cellist Jose Bedeur is full of ideas and accumulates appearances on discs. From the heroic era of jazz – the post-war period, the arrival of the Americans and the evolution from bebop to free music – they are the craftsmen and the witnesses. They are “The memory of jazz”.