I had never heard of Pim Jacobs when, unsuspecting, I accidentally hit one of those sites that discuss more obscure music releases or reissues and, although I can’t quite recall, the album was even offered for download. I quickly read through the veritable epitomizing of this reissue and started investigating in more detail. It’s become a habit to do that when I come across someone praising an album in no uncertain tone, especially if that someone – as a quick glance at the archives page of said site showed – had very similar listening habits.
It was a frustrating experience. As is often the case, the Internet turned up quite a bit of information, but all of it seemed, in one way or another, to have been copied from the same two sources, and those weren’t very elaborate.
It was also frustrating because from a quick glance at the hard facts – being European myself – I should have heard of Pim Jacobs before. I have spent half of my life listening to European musicians who toured through Scandinavia and Germany and I was even fortunate to meet and talk to many of them. Never once did that name come up. I don’t know how many musicians passed through Copenhagen’s famed jazz club “Montmartre”, a place I had almost familial ties to, and many of the countless musicians who did pass through must surely have played with Pim. I know they did because I later unearthed that information. Still, I have no memory of ever having heard anything about him.
See, it didn’t take long to figure out that “Come Fly with Me” is perhaps his most revered recording in many circles, so I ran (not walked) to the next online shop that usually caters to my more immediate needs and ordered it. While I was at it, I ordered two other recordings, one of which turned out to be a clunker. More about that, perhaps, at a later date.
The few snippets I had heard told me already that I would certainly like “Come Fly With Me” and it took quite a bit of patience to wait until it was shipped (by wooden vessel, I suppose, because it took so frustratingly long) all the way from Japan to the – at that time – frozen German shores.
I remember clearly tearing the padded envelope in half and having the disc spinning before it had a chance to acclimatize itself. What I heard was … well, wait for it.
Pim Jacobs was, as I found out, not some unknown artist fighting for recognition but had quite a history to show for himself. What attracted me immediately to searching out “Come Fly With Me” and some other releases was the fact that it became clear immediately that he had gone through the same tough school that many other musicians I admired had gone through, that of accompanying the seemingly endless stream of visiting American jazz greats that toured through Europe for decades. I have often referred to my time in various smokey Danish jazz clubs on this site and if you know that people like Niels Henning Oersted Pedersen went through the same school, to name just one artist almost everyone knows (and loves), filling the house bassist position in a club like “Montmartre” for years, having to give it one-hundred percent again and again on short notice, jumping into jam sessions with a 60-second warning, then you also know that Pim Jacobs must have been damn good, even before you had a chance to listen to any of his music. If you then find out that he sat in with jazz greats like Wes Montgomery, to name just one artist (actually, I would think, Montgomery sat in with him), discover an available video of that event and you then see Wes’ face light up instantly, you know you’re in for a treat.
As you can read just about everywhere when you do find something on Willem Bernard Jacobs (born in Hilversum, Holland, on October 29th, 1934 – died in Tienhoven, Holland, on July 3rd, 1996), he came from a musical family and his brother, Ruud, an equally accomplished bassist who was a member of Pim’s trio for years and teamed up with him again and again (and even produced the session we’re talking about here), has an equally long list of world renowned jazz musicians he recorded and played with to show for himself (he also happens to play a mean tenor sax!).
After a somewhat sketchy path towards jazz, he started his own trio in 1954 and the rest, as they say, is (Dutch) history. He played, toured and composed full-time, backed such luminaries as Lucky Thompson, Stan Getz, Herbie Mann and a slew of others. Later in life, he teamed up with his wife (they got married in 1960), vocalist Rita Reys, and there is a whole number of their recordings still readily available today. Instead of putting all his eggs into one basket though, he regularly hosted TV shows, bringing together national and international musicians, composed and recorded soundtracks for documentaries, took his and other music into Dutch schools, and even had a Theater in Maarssen named in his honor … apparently a consummate musician and media personality.
Yep, I had never heard of him.
“Come Fly With Me”, released in 1982 (originally a Philips LP, as far as I know), is a wonderfully relaxed affair, with a predominantly slow swing feel. The recording just oozes “class”. At times it is almost introspective, with each note carefully placed and played with a wonderfully soft touch, and even the uptempo numbers like “Autumn Leaves” and “I Love You” appear “reigned-in”, for want of another expression. It’s almost as if he restrained himself. I might be wrong because I have so little to go by, but I recall especially Teddy Wilson and other, much lesser-known pianists, doing the same later on in their career, showing what they were musically capable of and forgoing almost all the technical flourishes that they had at the ready. Mind you, there are plenty displayed by Pim Jacobs here, but they are mostly added as the icing on the cake. What I’m hearing here is a pianist in love with the music and not his own way of playing, someone who gave a lot of thought to what best serves the tune.
But that’s not all, yet.
He’s backed up by just the right people. I’ve mentioned his brother Ruud Jacobs before, and he shines as the accompanying bassist here. There are wonderfully singing and vibrant bass notes here; the strings are given plenty of room to breathe. And he plays a mean walking bass as well. Peter Ypma, the drummer, is in the best sense of the word one who supports the two with wonderful brush work on most and a few rock-solid ride-cymbal driven rhythms on the others.
The more I think about it, the more I’m sure this CD soared to the very top of my regular listening pile because of the wonderful tempos these three musicians found for the tunes. It might be a silly observation, but ever since I ripped the CD to my portable player, I always end up listening to “Sultry Serenade” when on one of my many walks. You just can’t help but fall into rhythm; the trio’s interpretation just grabs you. It’s by far my favorite track on this album and it has stood the test of time as well: After more than a hundred times, I still listen to it … and walk to it (Disclaimer: I’m the only German without a driver’s license and walk everywhere).
Because I’m not as knowledgeable and do not have the discographies at my disposal that others have, here’s an interesting observation: “Sultry Serenade”, credited to Duke Ellington and Tyree Glenn here, was also recorded by another favorite of mine, the much more recent “Bassface Swing Trio” from Germany. On their live session entitled “Straight Live” (Rodenstein Records, 2005), the same song – in an uptempo format – is entitled “How Could You Do a Thing Like That to Me?” and is credited to Tyree Glenn and Allen Roberts. I guess Ellington took Glenn’s tune and gave it a new twist? I’m sure those readers out there who are better-educated in these matters than I am can enlighten all of us on this fact?
So, what do we have here? Well, already now it’s the best purchase I made these past 6 months, bar none. It’ll be hard to beat by another one. Impeccable musicianship on the highest level, which obviously stems from decades of hard-earned and incessantly trained and perfected ability, makes this CD an absolute must-have. Piano jazz in the trio format doesn’t come much better than this.
Beg, steal and borrow.
Then you have two if one should get lost. 🙂
Artist(s): Trio Pim Jacobs
Title: “Come Fly With Me”
Release Date(s): 1982
This CD: Philips JPN-UCCU-5512, Japan 1982
Alternative: Limited Japanese papersleeve edition available.
001: I’ve Got the World on a String (05:31)
002: Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year (05:38)
003: Come Fly With Me (06:19)
004: Autumn Leaves (Les Feuilles Mortes) (04:13)
005: Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me) (05:37)
006: I Love You (04:51)
007: Body and Soul (05:45)
008: Sultry Serenade (06:31)
Personnel: Pim Jacobs (p), Ruud Jacobs (b), Peter Ypma (d)
Recording Date: n.n.
Recording Venue: Wisseloord Studios
City: Hilversum, Holland
Recorded By: John v. d. Houten and Albert Kos
Mixed By: Albert Kos at Wisseloord Studios
Cover Photo: Bart Mulder
Note: Special Thanks to: H. v. Zalinge, J. v. Gils