If we are to believe the various coffee-table books dedicated to the history of jazz in specific Dutch cities, the Netherlanders embraced the new music quite early. Book titles suggest that jazz arrived in the Netherlands as early as 1918,  or 1910,  yes, even 1900,  or as early as 1899.  The evidence is elusive, to say the least.
According to Jazz in Tilburg, for instance, one Alphons Janssens, who was a pastor in New Orleans, brought wax cylinders with jazz music to his godchild, Max Goijarts, whenever he came over in the 1910s. As a result, Max was playing “jazz songs” for ten cents at the tender age of twelve. He played trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, guitar and drums. In the meantime, traveling Tilburg manufacturers came back from Paris with stories about Django Reinhardt. Max drank it all up and incorporated it in his music. The book further brings up the early New Orleans-style house concerts in well-to-do Tilburg families, while the Catholic Fathers who led the woodwinds and brass band incidentally must have handed out jazz arrangements, given the “similarity in instrumentation between a jazz band and woodwinds and brass band.” 
Whatever was on those now-lost wax cylinders that made it across the Atlantic in Father Janssen’s suitcase during World War I, it is unlikely that today we would call it jazz. Whomever the Tilburg merchants heard in Paris, it is impossible that prior to 1930 they saw Django playing jazz.  Until the jazz arrangements played by the blue-collar children in the orchestra of Friars of Tilburg turn up in some vault, there is little reason to assume they ever existed.
In truth, jazz entered the Netherlands quietly. There are reports of British sailors and soldiers who toured the country towards the end of WWI, with syncopated songs. From 1919 on, dance schools introduced new English ballroom dances and American ragtime-based dances, labeled “jes, jas or yasz.”  The hipper crowd in the larger cities, such as The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, had enough of the pre-WWI Viennese-oriented salon orchestras playing dance music such as waltzes and polkas by Johann Strauss, or other light classics, such as operetta numbers by Franz Lehár. Gradually, their interests turned to new trends from across the ocean (available on records), and local bands followed suit. The Paul Whiteman orchestra and British spin-offs such as The Savoy Orpheans and Jack Hylton’s band became the new models; in 1926 Whiteman visited the Netherlands. Over the course of the 1920s, more and more Dutch jazz bands sprang up, often with English names that showed that their examples were British and American. The first Dutch jazz records were recorded in 1929, by Theo Uden Masman’s Original Ramblers.
But much as university students and some of the more liberal Dutch citizens embraced the novel music and dances, the larger share of the country, and especially its authorities, were deeply concerned about the moral consequences of the new forms of entertainment. While over the last decennia the Dutch have earned a reputation for their tolerance, and pragmatic moral stance towards sex and drugs (often rather simplified and misunderstood abroad), that is but a recent development. Until the mid-1960s, the country was quite conservative and segmented along religious and ideological lines, in a system known as “verzuiling” (literally: “pillarization”). This pillarization was a form of “institutionalized pluralism,”  and it governed Dutch societal life in the first half of the 20th century.
Pillarization is the historical process by which society becomes divided in pillars. A pillar is then defined as a subsystem in society that links political power, social organization and individual behavior and which is aimed to promote — in competition as well as in cooperation with other social and political groups — goals inspired by a common ideology shared by its members for whom the pillar and its ideology is the main locus of social identification. 
Dutch society was divided into a number of minority groups, which were organized in such pillars. The main pillars were the Catholics, the Protestants (although quite divided amongst them), and the Laborers, all with their own political parties, newspapers, youth clubs, schools, radio stations, orchestras, sports facilities, etc. Modernity and change were invariably met with mistrust, as they threatened to disrupt the carefully constructed social balance.
The United States, though envied for its growing economical and political powers, were viewed by interbellum Dutch authorities with deep suspicion. The focus of their concerns laid more with the modern dances, which had become fashionable with a larger audience, than with jazz music, which was consumed by a much smaller circle of aficionados. Modern dance was seen as lewd, sinful, primitive, shameless, devilish, pornographic and eroticizing, and the music that went with it was described in similar terms.  The whole mix called up the animal instincts of heathen Negro tribes. Over the course of the 1920s, worries about this “dance problem” were regularly expressed in the press, and in 1930 the government installed a committee to investigate the issue (there was also a “cinema problem”). The 1931 report of the “Regeerings-Commissie inzake het Dansvraagstuk” (Government Committee Regarding the Dance Problem) fully endorsed the misrepresentations expressed in the press:
The modern dances — such as the Step, the Fox Trot, the Shimmy, the Charleston — often have a highly sexual character.... Consequently, every adolescent girl who chooses to visit a dance hall runs the risk to be led in an inappropriate manner. How many of them can not maintain the necessary moral resistance, and end with a rendez-vous. 
A separate law to regulate public dancing did not make it, but instead, the liquor licensing law was amended in 1933. It specified additional requirements for establishments in which dancing was allowed. Only clubs that carried a liquor license could have dancers (ruling out all kinds of other public places), provided that there was no admittance of persons under 18 years, and no female personnel. To make sure the situation remained manageable, the number of dancing couples was restricted to a maximum of one per square meter.
Amidst all this official resistance, jazz lovers felt the need to provide a counterweight and to promote jazz. They were mostly higher educated young men from the more liberal middle-classes (who felt not bound to any pillar). Among them was the 16-year-old saxophone player Ben Bakema (artist name Red. R. Dubroy), who founded De Jazzwereld (The Jazz World) in August 1931. It is arguably the oldest periodical in the world to be dedicated entirely to jazz. The French Jazz–Tango–Dancing, soon to be renamed Jazz–Tango, was founded in October 1930 but more broadly addressed all popular dance music, as did the English Melody Maker (1926) — Down Beat began in July 1934. Following the French example of the Hot Club de France, a Dutch Hot Club was established in 1933. The purpose of both De Jazzwereld and the Nederlandse Hot Club (NHC) was to promote and defend jazz, to educate players, listeners and adversaries alike, to organize concerts, competitions, and lectures, to push radio stations to play more jazz, and to establish a network of like-minded jazz lovers.
The September 1931 issue of De Jazzwereld exemplifies the typical tone of the early issues. The magazine carries a “technical corner” with sub-headers for various instrumentalists: “Saxophonists! We strongly encourage you to try the new ‘Vocaltone mouthpieces,’ used in England and America by virtually all the large and important bands.” “Drummers! A new way to play cymbals” with an explanation how to use a rubber band and a coin to create a “real good ‘sizzle’ effect.”  The next page has a “Gramophone Section for Jazz Musicians — to learn from.” The section explains: In order to enable jazz musicians form the Netherlands to follow tight and good examples, we will monthly publish a number of records that best showcase respective instruments.” Under “For Band Leaders” the magazine lists “Hot Arrangements”, e.g. “Panama”, by Luis Russell and his Orchestra, and “Get Another Sweetie Now”, by the Chocolate Dandies, both Parloph. R. 963, and “Regular American Style Arrangements”: “‘Ho Hum!’, Hal Kemps and his Orchestra, Brunsw. 1159; ‘Ho Hum!’, Bert Ambrose, H.M.V. B. 6032; ‘Ho Hum!’, The Blue Lyres, Decca F. 2368.” Similarly, there were record recommendations for instrumentalists. The next article informed “future saxophone players” about “saxophone vibrato and how to apply it properly.” The article complains about the poor vibrato of most players, and rhetorically asks the reader whether he would dare to play for an imagined jury “consisting of the following world famous saxophonists: Frankie Trumbauer, Chester Hazlett, Merle Johnston, Rudy Wi[e]doeft and Adrian Rollini,” and still be confident about his playing. “Would you have the right to think: ‘What ever may be wrong, at least my vibrato is exactly what it should be?’”  If so, the article concluded, the reader had nothing else to learn. In later issues these technical sections grew to include lessons in jazz piano, hot violin, ukulele, banjo, drums, and the various wind instruments.
Apart from informing their peers, De Jazzwereld’s scribes sought to counter the generally strong prejudices that surrounded jazz. Surprisingly enough, in their attempts to defend jazz, they agreed with much of the criticism voiced by their opponents. That criticism was however misdirected since jazz’s detractors did not understand that there was a marked difference between “pure jazz,” or “real jazz,” and its cheap imitations. The writer of a new jazz column in newspaper Het Vaderland, a “Mister A.[,] feels no difference between a concert by Ellington and a show by [Jack] Hylton.”  The latter indeed held little value, although De Jazzwereld regularly devoted positive articles and reviews to Hylton. The editors came with an “official announcement” in the June 1932 issue:
The terms “jazz” and “jazz-music” will only be admitted in De Jazzwereld when it refers to music hitherto called “hot” or “new style”. The editors reserve the right to alter the word “jazz” whenever it is brought up in conflict with the aforementioned decision. The term “new style” can be dropped altogether, while, for vocal music, the term “hot” may be used.... From our decision follows that outside the “Avant-Garde” section, the word “jazz” shall hardly ever be tolerated. It is better to refer to contemporary dance music. 
The editorial continued to point out that most European bands were spoilt by dance music, and that their music could hardly be considered jazz. A streamer in the next issue read “Why modern popular dance and entertainment music and the modern symphonic syncopation does and will have no value as ART.” 
Records discussed in the Avant-Garde section (later: Hot Music) were among others by King Oliver, Duke Ellington (whose face graced the cover from the February 1933 issue onwards), the Boswell Sisters, Spike Hughes, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, The Radiolians, and Don Redman, while the “Contemporary Dance Music” section (later: “Sweet Music”) carried reviews of Bert Ambrose, the Dorsey Brothers, Jack Hylton, Roy Fox, Greta Keller, Ray Ventura, Ray Noble, and again Spike Hughes and Ellington.
An article by J.B. (Joost) van Praag titled “What the Position of the Proponents of Jazz Should Be,” helped De Jazzwereld’s readership to defend their favorite music. “Jazzophiles” should explain their opponents that jazz — the music of a race “in civilization far below us” — was in its infancy. “Jazz music is still primitive in form and content.”  But the symphony had not come into existence overnight either. Dutch jazz musicians should “educate the audience, just as their colleagues in classical orchestras have done,” while they should restore dancings to establishments where a “mother could visit with her daughter to enjoy music and dance, rather than eroticism.” 
In 1933, De Jazzwereld published a declaration of principles written by the NHC and its Belgian sister organization “Sweet and Hot,” in order to “defend jazz against the prejudices of its contesters.”  The declaration consisted of five points and a total of thirty-five paragraphs. Main categories were “Style and feeling for style,” “The relation between the terms jazz music, straight and hot,” “Listing of the characteristics of hot and jazz music,” “Spelling and translation of the various terms,” and “Justification for the study and possible performance of jazz music by the white race.”  The authors hoped that other foreign hot clubs would underwrite the declaration, but according to Wouters,  French jazz expert Hugues Panassié and American jazz impresario John Hammond rejected the text in no uncertain terms. Further attempts to come to a common understanding of what made jazz jazz stranded too:
The chances of a quick completion of a declaration of principles are smaller than ever. The “Hot Club de Belgique” has withdrawn...because it can not agree with the French and Dutch ideas about the differences between hot and straight jazz. The French and Dutch Hot Clubs disagree about a number of small details. 
The same section with official announcements of the NHC showed that there were other recurring disagreements in its ranks. Board members left over all kinds of principal standpoints. While part of De Jazzwereld’s defense was to explain detractors of jazz that their criticism was off-target, since they took entertainment music for jazz, another line of reasoning tried to show that the superiority of European concert music was in no way threatened by jazz. The magazine repeatedly underlined that jazz was a simple, pure and primitive expression from a simple, pure and primitive race. The best examples were Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington (both visited the Netherlands in 1933), and they were considered the most authentic jazzmen (although very different). When Cab Calloway came to Europe, certain commentators feared a negative effect. De Jazzwereld sympathized with Melody Maker’s “Mike” (Spike Hughes) who stated:
The English public...will consider how quaint these nigger chappies are, you know, and be convinced once and for all that this hollerin’ and gallivantin’ is typical of all negro music. It will undo all the good, that the dignity and good bearing of Duke did for his Race and its music. 
Mike’s reservations, endorsed in De Jazzwereld, apparently were premature. In the rave reviews of Calloway’s April 1934 concerts, all concerns had vanished. 
To underline that classical music and jazz were separate worlds, De Jazzwereld vehemently opposed to the practice of ragging the classics, which was nothing less than “rape.” De Jazzwereld editors looked forward to the moment “when Dutch and foreign quacks will stop such charlatanry.”  The radio guide that accompanied the V.A.R.A. (Association of Worker’s Radio Amateurs) Jazz Propaganda Week (March 17–23, 1935) explained that “defending a music, which has come to us from the primitive black race” would in no way undermine our “sensitivity for the many and rich treasures of our European music.”  Since the radio guide was largely written by De Jazzwereld’s main authors, the magazine’s position was repeated in many articles: pure, authentic jazz was not to be confused with worthless dance music or “symphonic jazz”, and jazz and classical music were in separate leagues. Such too was undoubtedly the message in the daily lectures and short, informal essays (causeries), which were part of the week-long radio programming, as far as De Jazzwereld contributors were involved.
An analysis of Ellington’s handwriting by graphologist and astrologer Holsboer suggested that Ellington, too, was aware of the antithesis between both genres.  Ellington’s “D” and “W” showed that he had an “extensive need to stylize jazz,” but that he was fearful “to come under European influence” and consequently would loose his “negro spontaneity.”  Alas, that happened all too soon when Ellington released “Reminiscing In Tempo”. The piece was met with the obvious critique that he had “tried to create something like famous white people do, without understanding their idiom and expressive means, which are alien to his race.”  Luckily enough, for a magazine which had a picture of the maestro in its cover design, within a year Ellington’s “total derailment” was “repaired in a grandiose manner” with his two concerti for “trumpet and clarinet”: “Echoes Of Harlem” and “Clarinet Lament”.  While Ellington should refrain from writing music alien to his race, he was forgiven whenever he came up with vulgar song material (“Love Is Like A Cigarette”/“Kissing My Baby”, Brunswick 9958), for in this case his managers were to blame. 
Defining and separating pure jazz from “pseudo-jazz”  continued to occupy both the magazine’s contributors as well as the NHC.  In 1935, De Jazzwereld changed the sub-headers of the “New Records” section from “Hot” and “Sweet” to “Jazz music” and “Dance music.”  The explanation followed in the November issue of that year. “Since Ellington’s visit to Europe, during which this master of jazz music pointed out to us that true jazz does not necessarily have to be ‘hot,’ which he proved with numbers as “Mood Indigo” and “Creole Love Call”, jazz terminology has been ailing. Some time ago, the BBC banned the use of the word ‘hot’ and replaced it with ‘swing’.”  The author acknowledged that most jazz music was danceable too. He suggested that under “‘Dance music’ those efforts can be reviewed which on first hearing may make a nice impression, but have no lasting value, viz most Nat Gonella records, and others.”  De Jazzwereld acknowledged that Gonella was quite popular with younger dance music fans, but, to critics’ ears, his records and concerts were a failure. Still, it made sense to discuss such popular, commercial records, for propagandistic goals. In conclusion, the author astutely added that he doubted that the current subdivision would be definitive: “jazz music still evolves in such manner, that the criteria may have changed entirely in due time.”  Before long, new headers were added: “Extraordinary Vocal Records” and “Rhythmic Studies.”
Over the course of the 1930s, the De Jazzwereld’s focus shifted towards the issue of swing. Jazz should swing, but, sadly, a lot of swing music did not and therefore was not jazz. Lengthy essays in the magazine under titles such as “Swing as Musical Criterion: Philosophical Reflections on an Important Subject,”  “A Swing Theory,”  and “‘The Swing Problem’ in a Nutshell,”  sought to explain the complexities of swing. An article by dance instructor Cor Klinkert even asked “‘Swing Music’ and Modern Dance: Do They Go Together?” They do, the author argued, as long as the dancers danced in the fluid English style, which had nothing to do with the rude tramping practiced in dancings. A note by the editor following the article stated: “we fear that the dance expert who wrote the article above...has overlooked the irregularity of the rhythm in ‘swing music’.” 
Melle Weersma, a Dutchman who wrote for American orchestras, protested when his swing-arrangement of “Rose Room”, was said to have “nothing to do with jazz music.”  How strange, the arranger argued. Had this particular arrangement not been praised by the greatest jazz musicians — Ellington, Henderson, Goodman and many more — and quality magazines alike, such as Down Beat, Melody Maker, and Metronome?  Critic Will G. Gilbert (nom de plume of W.H.A. Steensel van der Aa) replied in the next issue with a lengthy exposé. Weersma’s arrangement itself was excellent, but Jack Hylton’s performance was not, because it lacked swing. Melody Maker, the mouthpiece of “London swing circles,” praised Hylton, but its views were irrelevant: those chauvinist British had no clue. Incidentally, the acclaim Weersma had won from the jazz musicians he cited was worthless “when it comes to the question of what is jazz and what isn’t,” since “they didn’t know themselves.”  De Jazzwereld’s critics did, and found fault with the work of some of the best-known names in jazz. Certain records by Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Andy Kirk, and Chick Webb did not meet the magazine’s standards.
Critic Hendrik Lindt, of Het Volk newspaper, reported on the exchange about Weersma’s arrangements, and objected to the “swing criterion,” as it led to a glaring inconsistency in De Jazzwereld’s position. If the presence of swing was the criterion that enabled the magazine to distinguish real jazz from fake jazz, than it followed that this disqualified no one less than Duke Ellington, whose music often did not swing.  Bob Schrijver’s response in De Jazzwereld was quite unconvincing. “The swing qualification for Ellington’s compositions is valid for the music that is performed by Ellington or another true swing-band (with the exception of those instances were the band is not in good shape or is too commercial).”  To this circular argument (Duke swings when he swings), Schrijver added a new criterion: Ellington was above all a “creator of extraordinary melodies.” Few would disagree, but as a criterion to distinguish jazz from its imposters it offered little support. Lindt was right: Ellington’s music was often not concerned with swing, but rather with orchestral timbre and expression. By consequence, the work of the greatest jazz composer did not meet De Jazzwereld’s own criteria.
De Jazzwereld fought to show that “pure jazz” was respectable music, worthy of serious study and debate, although by no means in the same league as European concert music. Jazz was an exotic-primitive local folk music with cultural limitations, while classical music was universal art music. De Jazzwereld writers tried to argue that, due to confusing terminology, the public threw jazz together with all kinds of ersatz musical styles. To a certain extent they sympathized with the music’s opponents: much of what mistakenly went under the jazz flag indeed was inferior music that threatened societal values. To educate the public, the authors tried to define jazz, in order to be able to objectively establish what was pure jazz and what was not. It led to rigid viewpoints and deep disagreements which were repeatedly challenged by a fluid musical reality. De Jazzwereld tried to patrol the borders, only to find that they were moving all the time.
While at the magazine’s start there was only a small number of jazzophiles, over the course of the 1930s swing dance music became quite popular with Dutch teenagers. This caused new problems. Clearly, not only jazz detractors were misled — average jazz fans were as well. They were insufficiently equipped to sniff out the many fraudulent imposters, whose showy music lacked swing or authenticity.
In May 1940, the Netherlands were invaded by German troups. To the Nazi regime, the differences De Jazzwereld had so carefully tried to distinguish did not matter much. All jazz and swing music was entartete Kunst (degenerate art), the creation of inferior races: Negroes and Jews. The famous poster of the 1938 Entartete Kunst exhibition in Düsseldorf, Germany, shows a caricature of a black saxophone player, bulging eyes, earrings and all, wearing a Star of David.  To make matters worse, most jazz hailed from enemy countries: England and later, the United States of America. Against the violent, racist Nazi propaganda machinery, De Jazzwereld’s support of jazz was no match. The magazine folded in October 1940, less than six months after Germany occupied the Netherlands.
 All translations by the author.
 Eddy Determeyer, Ruige dagen: 70 jaar jazz in Groningen (Groningen: Xeno, 1988).
 Rinus van der Heijden, Jazz in Tilburg: Honderd Jaar Avontuurlijke Muziek (Tilburg: Stichting Jazz in Tilburg, 2010).
 Arie van Breda, 100 Jaar Jazz in Den Haag: Het New Orleans van de Lage Landen (Den Haag: De Nieuwe Haagsche, 2000).
 Cees Mentink, Leidse Jazzgeschiedenis van 1899–1999 (N.p., 2008).
 Heijden, Jazz in Tilburg, 21.
 Michael Dregni, Facebook message to author, January 25, 2012.
 C.A.T.M. Wouters, Ongewenschte Muziek: De Bestrijding van Jazz en Moderne Amusementsmuziek in Duitsland en Nederland, 1920–1945 (Den Haag: Sdu Uitg, 1999), 11.
 Erik Hans Bax, Modernization and Cleavage in Dutch Society: A Study of Long Term Economic and Social Change (Aldershot: Avebury, 1990), 3.
 Erik Hans Bax, “Cleavage in Dutch Society: Changing Patterns of Social and Economic Discrimination” (paper presented at the Conference on Political, Economic and Social Racism, Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece, May 14–18, 1995), 8. http://www.scribd.com/doc/54943201/Bax-1995.
 Wouters, Ongewenschte Muziek, 13–20.
 Rapport der Regeerings-Commissie inzake het Dansvraagstuk (’s-Gravenhage: Algemeene Landsdrukkerij, 1931).
 De Jazzwereld, 1931, no. 2:7.
 Ibid., 9.
 De Jazzwereld, 1935, no. 2:3.
 De Jazzwereld, 1932, no. 5:2.
 De Jazzwereld, 1932, no. 3:12.
 De Jazzwereld, 1932, no. 5:6.
 De Jazzwereld, 1932, no. 3:11.
 De Jazzwereld, 1933, no. 5:2.
 Ibid., 2–6.
 Wouters, Ongewenschte Muziek, 32.
 De Jazzwereld, 1934, no. 3:7.
 De Jazzwereld, 1934, no. 2:6.
 De Jazzwereld, 1934, no. 5:1–3; 1934, no. 6:1–2.
 De Jazzwereld, 1935, no. 1:2.
 C. Poustochkine, “ Karakter der Jazz,” De Radiogids, March 16, 1935, 9.
 Holsboer reportedly was in the possession of a signed publicity shot with a dedication.
 De Jazzwereld, 1936, no. 1:6.
 De Jazzwereld, 1936, no. 3:10.
 De Jazzwereld, 1937, no. 1:11.
 De Jazzwereld, 1936, no. 8:7.
 De Jazzwereld, 1936, no. 9:10.
 The NHC continued as of 1936 as Nederlandse Jazz Liga.
 De Jazzwereld, 1935, no. 7:11–15.
 De Jazzwereld, 1935, no. 11:10.
 De Jazzwereld, 1936, no. 3:1–3.
 De Jazzwereld, 1937, no. 7:8.
 De Jazzwereld, 1940, no. 1:5.
 De Jazzwereld, 1937, no. 3:2.
 Ibid., 5.
 De Jazzwereld, 1937, no. 4:5.
 De Jazzwereld, 1937, no. 5:4.
 Het Volk, May 5, 1937.
 De Jazzwereld, 1937, no. 6:3.
 This image may be viewed at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/85/Entartete_musik_poster.jpg.
Walter van de Leur is professor of jazz and improvised music at the University of Amsterdam and research coordinator in the jazz and classical master’s program at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. He is the author of Something to Live For: The Music of Billy Strayhorn (Oxford University Press, 2002) and the founder and editor of Billy Strayhorn Manuscript Editions. He is currently principal investigator and senior researcher for Rhythm Changes, a three-year research project which examines the inherited traditions and practices of European jazz cultures.
One of the world’s first periodicals dedicated to jazz, the Dutch magazine De Jazzwereld (1931–1940) displays a fascinating history that documents stylistic changes in the music and sheds light on the culture’s evolving views regarding authenticity and popularity.
De Jazzwereld, Netherlands, jazz, magazines
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This page last updated July 03, 2012, 18:43