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Ivar G. Jonsson                                                                                                        October 2, 2008
emeritus professor, PhD writer, composer,
jazz musician & record producer
Skt. Thomas Allé 13, 2th
DK-1824 Frederiksberg C
Phone: +45 33 216 543
Mail: igj@mail.dk

My memories of Karl Emil Knudsen (‘Knald’)

      My first meeting with Karl Emil (‘Knald’) was in 1950, when I ‘emigrated’ from Bornholm to Copenhagen to begin studies at ‘Polyteknisk Læreanstalt’ (the Technical University of Denmark) with the purpose of becoming a civil engineer. How Karl Emil got his nickname ‘Knald’ I do not know – but that was what we called him. He also studied at Polyteknisk Læreanstalt, as far as I remember to become a mechanical engineer, where my brother Gunnar studied  chemical engineering. Especially our keen interest in jazz music united us.

We also all enjoyed watching soccer games, and the three of us – Gunnar, Karl Emil and I – met almost every weekend in ‘Idrætsparken’. We often met privately to listen to jazz records (at that time 78 rpm lacquer disks). In post-war Denmark records were really hard to get. Shops for used records thrived. I remember my brother and I paying 25 kr. for ‘Oh, Didn’t He Ramble’ with Jelly-Roll Morton’s  New Orleans Jazzmen on the HMV label. An enormous sum for a pair of poor students at that time; it was the equivalent of a day’s wage for a working man.

Later on we went by ferry to Malmø in Sweden to buy records. Karl Emil had introduced us to the recordings with King Oliver’s Jazz Band, especially those featuring Louis Armstrong, and those we could find in Malmø. Louis Armstrong became (and still is) my hero in jazz music; I shall never forget seeing and hearing him ‘live’ in Copenhagen in 1949. Karl Emil also introduced us to the music of Bunk Johnson and George Lewis on the label HJCA.


 I had the thrill of attending the first recordings made by Karl Emil on 1952. They were with the already then quite famous Chris Barber (still going strong) playing with The Ramblers. The recording equipment was quite primitive: an ordinary microphone and (as far as I remember) a mono tape-recorder of the Norwegian brand Tandberg. The label was ‘Memory’. I still have all four recordings.

     It was that same year that Karl Emil got polio. I remember visiting him at ‘Blegdamshospitalet’, where I only could communicate with him during a glass-panel. The disease is very infectious. He recovered as we all know; however this was the incident, I think, that finally made him give up his studies.

     After my graduation (1955) and marriage (1956) my connection with Karl Emil weakened. And the rest is history ...

     I met him though a couple of times at his home on Ermelundsvej, where I remember hearing the Dutch Swing College for the first time. We also listened to the fine English trumpet player Humphrey Lyttelton. His collection of 78s was enormous.

     During his later years we again met occasionally at Dortheavej. It was another ‘Knald’ I met there. He had become  a slightly more cynical and surly person. He had to me always been a mixture of an enthusiastic jazz lover and a shrewd business man. It was if the latter had taken over. His health was failing, as we all know, and that may have been a reason.

     But it is the jazz enthusiast, who introduced me to so much good music, that I remember with gratitude.