Celluloid Improvisations logo Jazz on Film Mark Cantor

Arne Domnerus Orkester “Party For Pres”

European musicians had been introduced to modern jazz by both recordings and touring combos. Chubby Jackson and his Fifth Dimensional Jazz Group toured Sweden in 1947, and Charlie Parker followed in November 1950. Swedish musicians listened carefully to this music, and many instrumentalists embraced the new sounds. In December 1951, filmmaker Sten Dahlgren decided to get some of these disciples of modern jazz on film, and he took his camera to the Bel Palais, a popular Stockholm dance hall. The result was a short subject titled Arne Domnerus spelar (Arne Domnerus Plays)

As with moviegoers here in America, the Swedish audiences expected a full program for the price of their admission ticket, and ten minute short subjects were a part of that mix. Musical shorts, what we often call “band shorts,” were popular in Sweden I suspect that Dahlgren’s short did not disappoint. The original short contained three musical performances. It was later broken up into three separate pieces, and licensed to Governor Films here in the States for distribution to television.

The group that alto saxophonist Arne Domnerus assembled was not only influenced by the sounds of bebop, but also by the earlier improvisations of the great Lester Young. That they titled one of the numbers “Party For Pres” is therefore no surprise. A 12-bar blues, the 3 minute performance allows for solos from many members of the group.

Leader Domnerus seems comfortable with an approach that blends the approaches of Parker and Young. Among the better known sidemen are Rolf Ericson, a trumpet player who later spent close to a decade with Duke Ellington; and Lars Gullin, an early master of the baritone sax. As always, the musicians are identified for you on screen.

Like so many American filmmakers, Dahlgren was not comfortable with straight musical performances, so along with brief cutaways to members of the audience, we also have a dance routine by Göran Arnbring and partner. But most of the focus is on the music, and I think this clip will be a delight for those who enjoy the sounds of the mid twentieth century.

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