Aug 18

Willy Vande Walle - Saxophonist

I played for more than five years with Willy Vande Walle's 'Jazz Express'. Willy was a great guy but a lot of the time was overwhelmed by the complications of a life that included three former wives and a partiality for Genevieve - a type of Gin that is a speciality of Belgium - so much so that in the small musical instrument shop he owned in the commune of Saint Josse, he had a small refrigerator installed to keep the bottles cool and ready.

willyOne particular Saturday afternoon We arrived at a small chateau somewhere near to Brussels to play at a wedding. When we got there - the wedding party had not yet appeared - so we donned our Smoking (the French word for Dinner Suit, Evening Dress) and waited on a first-floor balcony.

The cars drew up and parking in front of the impressive portico and discharged the wedding party. Willy immediately leaned over the balcony and pointing his soprano sax at the rapidly filling reception area kicked us of in to a loud and boisterous Dixieland tune. The newly married couple looked upward with startled and puzzled expressions on their faces. Willy uncharacteristically picked up the vibe.

We watched from above whilst a somewhat heated discussion took place between Willy and the bride and groom. A few minutes later he came back up the stairs and explained. We shed out Smoking and eased our way out of the building.

The problem was we were two weeks early for this specific booking and should have in fact been playing elsewhere at another wedding.





Willy Vande Walle Quartet. Days of Wine and Roses. BSHARP cds 074





Aug 18

Monday Night Jazz Jam In Ljubljana

Though I have often traversed Slovenia en route to Croatia - my Son Adam and his family live and work in Zagreb - my visits have always been transitory, just stopping to fill the car with petrol, or to take money from a cash machine.

slovenia02I decided to take a holiday in the Slovenian coastal resort of Isola. My daughter Laura was there for a few days during the month of May and was much impressed by the unspoiled non-touristic ambience. How right she was I thought to myself, a glass of cool Spritz to hand, sitting in the sunshine, looking out across the marina, out to the blue sea of the bay and the upland 'Karst' that embraced it.

Scenery and Spritz apart, jazz and jazz clubs are never too distant from my thoughts. I checked out the Slovenian jazz scene on Jazz Clubs Worldwide - yes I too can be a user. In fact the original impetus to start Jazz Clubs Worldwide was a personal guide to locate visitable jazz clubs during my own travels. Jazz Club Gajo. Beethovnova 8, Ljubljana. They listed a jam session on Monday evenings. However knowing something of the vagaries of Europe during the holiday season I sent and email to the organiser - bass player Nikola Matosic - no problem, came the reply. Jam sessions every Monday thoughout during the summer. The venue was a garden near to the parliament building. He added that he looked forward to meeting me. So Monday found us on the autoroute leaving the coast and heading for Ljubljana.

Ljubljana is a city I had also skirted many times but never visited. How the rush from A to B results in such sad omissions. What a beautiful city centre. A calm river running between riverside houses and shops, Ancient, Baroque and Art Nouveau styles, waterside restaurants and bars. I had read about the work of the Slovenian architect Jože Plecnik and recognize at once 'The Triple Bridge (Tromostovje)' and the wonderful colonnades.

Two meals later and after much sightseeing, evening came our way and it was off to find the Jazz Club Gajo. A secluded garden. A wooden bandstand. A bar. The usual offices. Tables and chairs scattered around, most under large sun-shielding umbrellas.

8.30 pm. The house band were making ready. And what a good band it was playing hard swinging modern jazz from the very first bar. After playing a very enjoslovenia01yable set - the jam session. Young local musicians, some studying at music academies both in Slovenia and Austria. High standards of musicianship, and rare in my experience of such sessions, a willingness to listen to what the other guys were doing.

We received a very open and friendly welcome from Nikola Matosic and the other musicians. I can tell you frankly, that if I did not live more than one thousand four hundred kilometers from LjubljanaI would be down there most Mondays.

So if you ever find yourself in this very beautiful and friendly country do check out the Jazz Club Gajo. Out of doors in the summer and indoors for the remainder of the year. The next time I drive to Zagreb, I know exactly were I will be taking a break in my journey.