The Hague based impresario Paul Acket (Semarang, Java, Dutch East Indies, 15 November 1922 – Scheveningen, 5 October 1992) is mainly known as the founder and director of the North Sea Jazz Festival. At an early age he starts organizing jazz concerts in the Hilversum area. He gains his first ...
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Biography Paul Acket
The Hague based impresario Paul Acket (Semarang, Java, Dutch East Indies, 15 November 1922 – Scheveningen, 5 October 1992) is mainly known as the founder and director of the North Sea Jazz Festival. At an early age he starts organizing jazz concerts in the Hilversum area. He gains his first business success as manager of the popular Dutch Swing College Band. From the late 1940s he organizes concerts featuring great American jazz musicians. At the same time he branches out into the magazine publishing market. In the 1960s the sales figures for his monthly Muziek Expres skyrocket because of the popularity of The Beatles. Acket organizes pop and rock concerts by the major artists of the era, including The Rolling Stones. The first concert by this British band at the Scheveningen Kurhaus ends in total mayhem, but later performances are spotless. Acket regularly organizes jazz festivals spanning several days, like ‘Newport in De Doelen’. In 1974 he sells his magazine titles to publisher VNU. He uses the profits to finance the very first North Sea Jazz Festival, at the The Hague Congresgebouw in 1976. The formula, three days of jazz at many stages simultaneously, turns out to be a success, and North Sea Jazz becomes a household name worldwide. Acket will continue to lead North Sea Jazz until his death in 1992.
1922 - 1939
Paul Acket is born on the Indonesian island of Java in 1922. In 1926 his mother moves to Hilversum with her three children. His father continues to work on Java. At high school Acket and his friend Ger Lugtenburg (who later becomes the director of the AVRO broadcasting company) start a handwritten magazine about artists they hear on the Hilversum radio. At the time jazz is the predominant form of popular dance music. Acket briefly takes trumpet lessons, but quits when he realizes he has no talent for the instrument.
1940 - 1945
In 1940, the year of his graduation, Acket organizes his first evening of jazz and popular music. The bands he programs feature well-known radio artists and later jazz greats like singer Rita Reys, drummer Wessel Ilcken and band leader Boy Edgar. When the Second World War starts, the German occupier limits the use of the English language, as well as jazz music. Initially Acket takes no notice. He is subsequently summoned by the Ortskommandant and is reprimanded. In his posters and advertisements he starts using fictitious Dutch band names like ‘Johnny en zijn hots-knotsers’ and ‘De Kolenkit-zwaaiers’. In 1943 Acket is arrested and sent to Germany to do forced labor. After the liberation he moves to Paris for six months, and eventually returns to Hilversum.
1946 - 1951
Paul Acket writes jazz reviews for the The Hague newspaper Het Vaderland and for the popular music magazine Tuney Tunes, which started publication during the war years. In 1949 he becomes an editor for Tuney Tunes, and with the publisher’s consent he starts the new jazz magazine Rhythme. He organizes successful tours for the Dutch Swing College Band and engages foreign guest soloists with the band, including the famous soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet. In April 1950 he assists the classical music impresario Ernst Krauss in organizing two Dutch concerts by Duke Ellington. In 1951 Acket leaves Rhythme, following a conflict, and works for the publication Luister for a year and a half.
1952 - 1961
In 1952 Acket starts his own booking agency. In March 1952 he books bebop pioneer Dizzy Gillespie at the Scheveningen Kurhaus. After the performance the trumpeter travels to Amsterdam for a night concert at the Concertgebouw. This shuttle formula, in collaboration with the Amsterdam impresario Lou van Rees, is a great success for many years to come. Acket organizes concerts by leading American jazz artists like Billie Holiday (1954), Miles Davis (1957) and John Coltrane (1961, ’62 and ‘63). He also flourishes financially by organizing tours for the Dutch Swing College Band. With his earnings he starts a new magazine, Muziek Expres, the first edition of which is published on 1 January 1956. Van Rees closes an exclusive deal with the Concertgebouw for the popular night concerts. The contract is terminated in 1961. From then on it is Acket who organizes most of the night concerts in Amsterdam. In August 1961 he signs a deal with the American impresario and producer Norman Granz, who manages many great jazz artists.
1962 - 1966
In the 1960s jazz starts losing popularity and the focus of his agency shifts to the organization of pop concerts. From 1962 he books teen stars like Cliff Richard, Trini Lopez and Paul Anka. In 1964 The Beatles’ breakthrough results in a spectacular increase in the readership of Muziek Expres. Paul Acket is involved in organizing the concert The Beatles give in the Dutch village of Blokker and he organizes the first Dutch performance by The Rolling Stones, on 8 August 1964 at the Kurhaus. After a number of songs a riot starts in the overcrowded hall and the concert is ended. This results in a massive fight between the audience, the security guards and the police, and the interior of the Kurhaus is heavily damaged. It doesn’t keep Acket from inviting the Stones back to the Netherlands on numerous occasions. These later concerts are spotless. Acket organizes concerts with bands like The Kinks, The Hollies and Small Faces. He takes over the magazine Tuney Tunes from his previous employer and changes its name to Popfoto. In 1966 Acket organizes the first three day Newport Jazz Festival in Europe at the Rotterdam De Doelen, in close collaboration with the American impresario George Wein. The program offers both mainstream and avant-garde American jazz artists. This formula is continued for a number of years.
1967 - 1976
Paul Acket’s agency organizes concerts in a growing number of genres. In this he often opts for the festival formula. In 1967 Acket provides the music program for the five day Hippy Happy Beurs at the Rotterdam Ahoy’, featuring new rock groups like Pink Floyd and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In the same year he organizes concerts with Italian pop (Canteurope) and soul (Soul Explosion, with mainliner Sam & Dave). In the years to follow he comes up with the Midnight Soul Show, the Rock & Roll Revival Show, Free Jazz, This is the Blues and the Country & Western Show. These all feature a well-known mainliner plus lesser known acts in the same genre. In addition Acket continues to book concerts with famous jazz artists (Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington) and leading rock bands (The Who, Beach Boys, Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention, Soft Machine). In the 1970s the emphasis is on the large-scale pop and rock concerts. After lengthy negotiations publisher VNU takes over Paul Acket’s magazine titles, including the German editions of Muziek Expres and Popfoto. Initially VNU also takes over the booking agency, but after a while this is managed by Acket again. Inspired by his visits to various European jazz festivals with his wife Jos he develops the idea to start a similar event in the Netherlands, but completely indoors. Backed by the financial revenues of the sale of his magazines Acket starts the three day North Sea Jazz Festival at the The Hague Nederlands Congresgebouw in 1976. Concerts by Count Basie, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie and others are visited by some 9000 fans. Initially the festival suffers a loss, but the audience and most of the critics are enthusiastic.
1977 - 1989
North Sea Jazz develops into a leading international festival. The 1979 program features a hundred concerts and the budget is estimated to be one million Dutch guilders (approx. 450,000 Euros). With approximately 25,000 visitors the festival manages to make a profit for the first time. The North Sea program, spread over many different concert stages, is represented in the brochure by means of a time tables in a blocks lay-out, a principle later adopted by other festivals. In the following years North Sea presents jazz artists as well as audience favorites from related other genres, mainly soul and funk. In 1981 the mainliner is soul singer James Brown. Acket considers it his hobby to track down forgotten jazz artists and present them at the North Sea Jazz Festival. At the 1988 festival the huge Statenhal is brought into use for the first time. In 1989 audience numbers have risen to 55,000.
1990 - 1994
The Paul Acket Agency has developed into a family business. His daughter Madelon Acket is appointed as the new director of the North Sea Jazz Festival, which is extended to four days in 1990. In the same year Paul Acket is diagnosed with lung cancer. The agency organizes the new festival Jazz Mecca in Maastricht and takes over the Amsterdam Drum Rhythm Festival. Miles Davis performs at the1991 North Sea Jazz Festival, two months before his death. During this festival the documentary Jazzlife about Paul Acket is aired on Dutch national television. In this saxophonist Hans Dulfer describes his conversations with Acket as jam sessions and Acket himself as ‘a kind of musician’. North Sea returns to its three day length in 1992. Because of his physical condition Paul Acket is only present at the opening concert. On 5 October 1992 he dies. In 1994 the festival is taken over by Mojo Concerts.
2006 - 2011
North Sea Jazz moves to the Rotterdam Ahoy’ in 2006, retaining the original formula. The three day festival annually draws between 65,000 and 70,000 visitors. Since 2006 the festival presents for the first time the Paul Acket Award (formerly known as Bird Award). With this award, the organization pay attention to talented jazz musicians at the beginning of their careers. In 2010 the heirs Acket bear his vast archive to Music Center the Netherlands. In response, an exhibition of this material is shown during NSJ 2011.
In the discography you will find all recordings that have been released listed chronologically. We restrict ourselves to the title, the type of audio, year of publication or recording, label, list of guest musicians, plus any comments on the issue.
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