Monday, June 9, 2014

Jean Moeremans

Jean Moeremans was one of the earliest saxophone virtuosos to record, if not the first.  He was making records for the Berliner company as early as 1897, and went on to make nearly two dozen sides for the fledgling Victor company between 1900 and 1904.  It's not certain when Moeremans  was born (he died in 1937 or 1938), but at some point in the late 19th century he emigrated from Belgium to Canada, where he was heard by bandleader Patrick Gilmore.  He became a featured soloist in Glimore's band, and later joined John Philip Sousa's band and the United States Marine Band.

Moeremans' style is seems slightly odd, or at least archaic, by today's standards.  His nearly vibrato-less sound is somewhat bland, and his phrasing is not particularly distinguished.  But his technical abilities are apparent, and are even more impressive when one realizes that the saxophones of his time had more primitive keywork than modern horns, and that he's doing all that while negotiating double octave keys.

I've included two examples of Moereman's playing.  The first is a glimpse into the 19th century - "Fantasie on Old Folks at Home," recorded for Berliner on October 13, 1899.  This will require some sympathetic listening, as the surface noise overpowers the music at the beginning of the disc.  (It does get better as the record progresses.)  The second recording is from June 19, 1904 - "Carnival of Venice," from Victor 16244.  This was originally released on a one sided disc, but my copy is a reissue from 1910-1911, with a piccolo solo by Darius Lyons on the flip side.

Fantasie on Old Folks at Home - Berliner 0605

Carnival of Venice - Victor 16244

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