Ib Glindemann was without doubt one of the most important figures in Denmark's big-band and jazz world from the 1950s onward. But the renowned Danish jazz orchestra leader and composer also cultivated a less well known classical side. This release is the first to feature a fully classical Glindemann programme: two brilliant instrumental concertos and an impressive medley of his film music celebrating his distinctive flair for writing happy, undemanding, festive and effective music.
A man of supreme musical strength
By Finn Gravesen
When we write about the history of jazz in Denmark some really significant figures stand out from the many good musicians, arrangers and composers of whom Denmark can boast.
One of them is Ib Niels Carl Glindemann Nielsen. He was born in 1934 and died in 2019 after a long life in the service of music. Energetic, hard-working and creative, he was a steady inspiration for those he worked with from his days at the Royal Danish Academy of Music between 1952 and 1956, studying trumpet and starting his first orchestra until his final days on Langeland, composing, arranging and conducting with undiminished strength.
It was jazz – more precisely, big-band-jazz – which played the main part in Ib Glindemann’s life, but he was also a ‘serious’ composer, as he demonstrated in 1962 when he wrote his first symphony ( In Memoriam Kim Malthe-Bruun, op. 1). Later the same year, a trumpet concerto (his op. 2) was dedicated to the solo trumpeter, Knud Hovaldt, and in 2017 he wrote a trombone concerto.
Ib Glindemann showed the breadth of his range in 1965 when he wrote music both for a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest for the Dallas Theater Center and for a ballet, Life in Rags, for the Pantomime Theatre in Tivoli Gardens. Through many years, Ib Glindemann showed his aptitude for arrangement and instrumentation by writing hours of ‘functional’ background music, ‘library music’, and music for many Danish documentaries and films, including Natlogi betalt (Night Girls, 1957), Pigen og vandpytten (The Girl and the Puddle, 1958), Det tossede paradis (Crazy Paradise, 1962), Gudrun (Suddenly, a Woman!, 1963), Slottet (The Castle, 1964),Pigen og greven (The Girl and the Viscount, 1966),Forræderne (The Traitors, 1983) and Manden der ville være skyldig (The Man Who Wanted to Be Guilty, 1990). He also carried out instrumentation for other composers, including Kai Normann Andersen.
It was jazz which stood closest to Ib Glindemann’s heart, from the time when he heard Louis Armstrong play in the KB Hall in autumn 1949, when he was 15. As a trumpet student at the Academy of Music, he established his first big-band, The Skyliners, in 1950. In 1956 this became the first professional orchestra given an engagement at the National Scala (a concert, variety and dance establishment located opposite Tivoli’s main entrance in Copenhagen). In the mid-50s, Ib Glindemann became, almost by accident, part of the new wave of rock ’n roll when his orchestra gave a public concert in the Enghave Park and a young student with ambitions as a singer, Ib ‘Rock’ Jensen, first came onto the scene. The musicians in Glindemann’s orchestra backed him as well as they could: they knew some good riffs from ‘swing’. At the first real rock ’n roll concert in the KB Hall, which took place in October 1956, Ib Glindemann’s orchestra relied on the swing repertoire, which lay close to the extroverted, blues-inspired style of rock music. But Glindemann never became a rock musician!
The orchestra toured in Sweden during 1957 with a decidedly big-band repertoire, and at a concert in Hagfors, Ib Glindemann began working with the 18 year old Monica Zetterlund, then a clerk as well as a singer. He immediately hired her to work with his orchestra at the Copenhagen restaurant Exalon, becoming a decisive factor in this singer’s artistic life and career.
Between 1958 and 1962, Ib Glindeman worked as head of music of the new ‘pirate radio’, Radio Mercur, which broadcast pop music and advertisements from the ship, Cheetah, which was anchored in international waters in the Øresund, something entirely new and completely illegal, so the ship had to remain beyond the reach of the police. Glindemann wasn’t just the head of music: his orchestra was also the radio station’s house orchestra for its first six months, and he composed the station’s jingle, its musical identifier, played by three trumpets. Glindemann moved to Jylland in 1962, staying until 1964, restoring and leading Horsens Byorkester, working with a mainly classical repertoire.
In the following years, between 1964 and 1968, Glindemann worked at Danmarks Radio (Danish Broadcasting Corporation), founding Det Nye Radiodanseorkester (The New Radio Dance Orchestra), which was re-named the Danish Radio Big Band in 1967. This was one of Glindemann’s most important achievements. Glindemann’s skill and energy, as well as his sense for presenting just the right music, meant that Glindemann soon brought the orchestra up to international standards. In the years which followed he collaborated with musicians including Uffe Karskov, Palle Bolvig, Bjarne Rostvold, Allan Botschinsky, Jesper Thilo, William Schiøpffe, Jørn Elniff, Torolf Mølgaard and the very young Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen.
It was especially the arranger and bandleader Stan Kenton who was Glindemann’s inspiration. Glindemann used the Kenton orchestra’s arrangements, both Bill Holman’s and Kenton’s own, and made arrangements for his own 20-man orchestra in the particularly effective Kenton style. As an orchestral leader, he brought energetic strength in a form that was friendly, loyal and collaborative.
In his final years, Ib Glindemann lived in the lovely former main building of the Bønnelykke estate in Longelse on Langeland, designed in 1962 by the architect, Mogens Black-Petersen. In earlier years he had moved many times, including a period abroad from 1968, when he made his home on the ship Global III of Gibraltar (formerly Fyrskib XVI), with his grand piano, a study in the ship’s belly and a captain employed to sail him around.
Ib Glindemann’s willingness to explore the variety of musical genres and styles available in the hectic Danish and international musical life of his contemporaries made him a little homeless, musically speaking. There is no doubt that his major contribution was in the genre of big-band jazz. He was in a class apart as composer, arranger, promoter and musical inspiration, and Danish big-band jazz regards him as its founding father. But he also had a certain unfulfilled ambition to be a ‘serious’ composer. He found it very hard to deal with the negative, almost scornful, criticism of his first symphony. The reception it received from the musical Parnassus, the Academy of Music at which he had studied, was not the recognition he had hoped for. His skill and clever orchestral writing were acknowledged, but the reviewers found it difficult to find anything good to say about the symphony as a whole. Under the signature Vik., a reviewer in a Danish national newspaper, Berlingske Tidende, wrote: ‘As an overall impression of the two works performed, a trumpet concerto and a symphony, one can say that a strong or individual compositional gift does not live within Ib Glindemann. […] He is best when he strikes a jaunty tone — and his great opus 2 […] shows itself to be an extended and heavily worked piece’. In Land og Folk, Walter Zacharias was a little more obliging: ‘Under the headline, ‘A special evening with Ib Glindemann’ he wrote: ‘[Ib Glindemann] works like an unworried child of nature who is happy to play with his stuff’.
The cool reception of the young composer’s ambitious premiere niggled him his whole life through, and to the last, he worked, at times night and day, to ‘improve’ his symphony so that he might receive the acknowledgement he craved.
The solo trumpeter, Royal Danish Orchestra musician Knud Hovaldt, gave Glindemann’s Trumpet Concerto a brilliant first performance in 1962. It brought the composer significant acknowledgement which was some compensation for the ‘wound’ he received from the poor reaction to his symphony. Hovaldt performed the concerto several times in the USA, and in 1963 he recorded it for RCA, with Haydn’s well known concerto on the other side, both works conducted by Glindemann. As mentioned, Ib Glindemann himself was an academy-trained trumpeter, and Glindemann was undoubtedly happy and proud to see his concerto accepted into the repertoire of many trumpeters of international standing.
The trumpet is associated with celebration, effect, the military and the circus, and Glindemann’s concerto explores this familiar territory. The first movement is brilliant and has cadenzas which present the soloist with opportunities to show off. The slow middle movement shows another side of the instrument, the beautiful lyric, and the third movement’s Spanish inspired character is emphasised in ingenious games with the rhythm and barlines, witty and, first and last, virtuosic. The concerto has been performed frequently and has become an established part of the international trumpet repertoire. In a ‘hyggelig’ private moment, Glindemann once proudly pulled out a letter written to him by the greatest classical trumpeter of them all, the French musician, Maurice André, praising the Trumpet Concerto in warm and friendly terms. The enquiring and ambitious composer treasured this kind gesture.
The Trombone Concerto was written in 2017 and embodied a collaboration between Glindemann and the Odense Symphony Orchestra and its principal trombone player Robert Holmsted. It has many traits in common with the Trumpet Concerto. The concerto was especially praised for its brilliant handling of the orchestra and the demanding solo part at its first performance in February 2017.
The first movement opens with a fantasy section that leads quickly to the soloist’s entry with a fanfare that sets off a harmonically exciting and colourful passage. The cadenza is, as usual, a short passage intended to show the performer’s skill, and we are reminded, at the end of the movement, that this composer has jazz in his veins. The slow second movement leads us to thoughts of Hollywood; its dream sequence hints at George Gershwin, Alfred Newman and Max Steiner. The third movement has the lively character of an encore, with all the brilliance one could hope for in such a piece. A breathless dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra is interrupted by a little lyrical episode and a fresh cadenza that closes the movement so the audience can only respond in one way: with deafening applause!
The last work on this release, the Medley, is the result of a collaboration with the Odense Symphony Orchestra and the Czech-Danish arranger Wolfgang Käfer. They have gathered four pieces into a suite, linked together and prefaced by an introduction. Käfer and Glindemann had worked together in earlier times, and the pieces collected here are recognisably from the world of programme and film music. The term ‘programme music’ is usually applied to music which draws a picture of a place, a situation, a person or the like. And so it is with the first movement, Strøget (the name of the main shopping street in central Copenhagen). This little waltz for strings allows the composer to draw a sketch of an ordinary day in town: unpretentious, classy and clever. The Little Mermaid is from the same drawer, reminding us of the French composer Michel Legrand in its exchanges between flute, piano and strings.
‘Medley’ is a musicians’ name for a sequence of self-standing pieces which are more or less related to each other. The two final numbers in this medley, Adam’s Theme and Take Off both come from films. Adam’s Theme is a confident and original sketch of the central character of the film The Man Who Wanted to Be Guilty, a hypothetical future nightmare based on a novel by Henrik Stangerup, directed by Ole Roos with Jesper Klein in the central role of Adam.
Take Off refers to an aircraft’s rise from its runway, and the piece is taken from Glindemann’s music for the film, The Jet Pilots. It came out in 1961, starring Poul Reichhardt as the experienced pilot and Ebbe Langberg as an upcoming young pilot flying the new jet-hunter from England, the mighty Gloster Meteor. This unofficial ‘honourable march’ of the air force is an effective 6/8 march using the full brass band, with jazzy overtones and the tuba as ‘walking bass’. It is effective and enjoyable: stand to attention!
When we try to place Ib Glindemann in Danish music history, it is clearly to jazz history that he belongs. His symphonic work and film music are less well known to ordinary listeners despite his music for Danish films having been highly competent and exciting as a whole, which needs an overall description and appraisal. Several of the films were decidedly B-films, though popular in Denmark, but closer knowledge of them shows that his film scores possess a variety of original elements in many kinds of film, and that there are several which might be described as pearls, including Night Girls, The Girl and the Puddle, directed by Johannes Allen and Bent Christensen, and The Man Who Wanted to Be Guilty. Glindemann’s secure handling of the orchestra and his talent for musical characterisation allowed him to compose highly functional music for all these films.
Ib Glindemann’s fondness and talent for refined orchestral writing stood him in good stead in his work with so-called ‘library’ music, that is, small prefabricated pieces of music which could be used for film, plays, radio, advertisements and other contexts. It is impossible to be sure how many times these little pieces of music have been used and the same is true of Glindemann’s film music. However, for all of them the same applies, that his contribution to this ‘invisible’ music is of great and generally unrecognised significance.
He rarely talked about this part of his work, perhaps because it reminded him that his trusting character had carried him into the clutches of some rotten apples in the American branch of the industry. It was also as if he had a feeling that this important part of his work was not really recognised amongst the elevated circles at home. He was probably right about that. Nonetheless, we are dealing with music for the many – the kind of music that conditions a large part of the experience of film, radio, advertising and so on. This ‘invisible’ music does not draw attention to itself as music for the concert hall does, and its meaning and effect depends on the artist who created it. And here Ib Glindemann appears as a significant contributor to the genre.
So far as Ib Glindemann’s ambition to be recognised as a symphonic composer is concerned, we have touched on the disappointment he felt at the response to his symphony. He may not have been a ‘great’ symphonist compared to other European classical composers. But he should be measured by another standard: it is within the entertainment music, the ‘light’ music, ‘the little form’, of artists like Robert Farnon, David Firman and Peter Deutsch that Glindemann belongs. His larger scores, recorded for this release, show him working with more substantial forms that were outside his usual scope. There is no doubt that the trombone concerto will, like that for trumpet, become a regular part of the repertoire, with some sections taking their place as popular encores at solo concerts. Ib Glindemann wrote happy, undemanding, festive and effective music. As the man, so his music.