Home - The Beginning - Members - Gallery - The Blues Period - Sonet Period - Links - About KEK - Contact



Aalborg 1954

"DEMS Bulletin 03/03 DEMS 2 - December 2003 - March 2004".

Karl Emil Knudsen

03/3 DEMS 2

Karl Emil Knudsen passed away yesterday, Friday, September 5th. Death caused
by a coronary thrombosis after only two weeks in hospital.
Karl Emil was the long time owner and producer of Storyville Records and the
publishing company Jazz Media Aps. Throughout his career he owned several
other record labels, and was heavily involved in jazz reissues.
Doug Pomeroy

Truly depressing news from Doug Pomeroy - the passing of Karl Knudsen in
Copenhagen. Karl was the last remaining super-champion of traditional jazz
in Europe.
It was he who released the latest great body of Ellingtonia, and let us not
forget the enormous contributions of his Jazz Media Books.
Losing Karl and Henri Renaud in the same year is a bitter blow. Thank you,
Karl, for a lifetime of good works.
George Avakian

I am stunned. I met with Mr. Knudsen only two months ago and we were talking
about future projects. What a loss. He had some great things planned for
Ellington listeners.
I thank "Papa" for the opportunity to write about my favorite subject - and
for all the great recordings he made available for us.
Ken Steiner

Mr. Knudsen intervened when the Storyville CD "Duke in Munich" almost got
shelved. He personally saw to it, early this year, that the CD was produced.
He called me to make sure the liner notes were all in order and even though
he had a hearing problem, he was patient enough to listen to my detailed
corrections. And had them all done.
He leaves a treasure, and we should all be very grateful.
Loek Hopstaken

I knew Karl Emil Knudsen slightly while with the American Embassy in
Copenhagen (1965-70). He was an amiable, efficient Danish businessman with a
passionate interest in jazz. I fully agree that the scope of his
contributions is irreplaceable.
Ernie Nagy

A discreet, but influential personality in Danish Jazz history has passed
away, all too soon. Karl Emil Knudsen's major effort to document Danish jazz
through his record and film label SONET/STORYVILLE cannot be appreciated too
much. Some of the biggest names among the Jazz, Blues and Gospel artists
were to be found in his catalog. He could come around as very edgy, and
drive a hard bargain, but beneath all of this, he was a very kind and
generous person. To share everything in his invaluable collection of
records, movies, and books with fellow jazz lovers, was only one way to show
his generosity. To me, it was like stepping into Aladdin's cave and it has
given me many exciting and instructive musical experiences. I hope this
collection will be treated in the best possible way.
Illness was unfortunately a severe part of his life, but his unfailing
energy was always the winner in the end, until he had to give up. In jazz,
one does not get rich on mammon, but in so many other ways, jazz enriched
Karl Emil's life, the same way it has done for many others. Danish jazz has
lost a cornerstone, and I will miss his friendship and our small
conversations between the thousands of records in his collection.
Ole '"Fessor" Lindgreen

For those who didn't have the pleasure of knowing him: Karl Emil Knudsen was
a man who truly loved the music and dedicated his life to discovering,
recording and disseminating it, first in sound, then also in sight. Later,
he also became a publisher of discographies of the highest quality, and,
after years of laborious organization, Bill Russell's epic "Oh, Mister
Jelly." KEK, as he was fondly known, began as a collector and remained one
at heart all his life. Nothing pleased him more than unearthing some
hitherto unknown performance, on disc, tape or film, and then (unlike some
of the collecting ilk) sharing his discovery with the public, but this
always only after having found, more often than not through diligent
digging, who had rights, and coming to terms with the owners. He did so even
after everything in recorded music seemed to become fair game for anyone
able to produce a CD, and paid good money (which he could ill afford) to
issue legitimate, quality product even when bootleggers had already issued
it in shoddy form. Karl Emil started as a lover of traditional jazz, and
kept a place in his heart for that music. It was a great pleasure for him to
be able to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his label with a bonanza survey
of classic Danish Trad, larded with a soupcon of visitors, such as a still
young Chris Barber.
But his musical horizon broadened with the years, and he became responsible
for some great nuggets of Warne Marsh, Dexter, Monk and others who never
came near a banjo or washboard. Typically, he was at the end embarked on a
truly major Ellington project (the Treasury Broadcasts) and a marvellous
series of Live Tatum material. And on his publishing schedule was a
definitive discography of Louis Armstrong. In later years, he called himself
Doctor in Jazz Archaeology-a just title. The future of his legacy is now in
the hands of fate. Aside from jazz, Karl Emil loved football (what Americans
call soccer), the main reason for his big-screen satellite TV. And as, alas,
he lost his ability to properly listen to music, watching games (and finding
jazz on film or video that he at least could see) became his great pleasure
in life. He also loved modern art and was a connoisseur in particular of
graphic arts and had a fine collection of prints and books. But not only
books on art, and jazz, but also on Danish humor (not an inconsiderable
subject, as Danes happily know), theatre, film and other things. But with
all his interests, he was the most unpretentious and straightforward of men,
as well as the most helpful. Some of you will have experienced his generous
hospitality at first hand, and I think that when he lost that great big
beautiful apartment of his, due to a change of landlords, his biggest regret
was that he could now only accommodate one guest at the time. I first met
Karl Emil well before the advent of Jazzpar, and had already experienced his
hospitality to me and my family (fortunately, my boys behaved well and
didn't break or dislodge anything) before then, but for the past l5 years in
a row, no annual visit to Denmark was spent without at least a few days as
Karl Emil's guest. No matter how bad he might be feeling, and in later years
his energy, while still greater than that of most people half his age, was
running down, he would insist on driving me to the airport. We were almost
exactly the same age, and for next year, which may be the final Jazzpar, I
had planned to take him to one of the best restaurants in Copenhagen to
pre-celebrate our upcoming 75th, in spite of what I knew would have been his
protestations. Now I will have to drink a solitary skaal to one of the
kindest and most decent men I've had the good fortune to know. Dear Doctor
in Jazz Archaeology, we will cherish the treasures you've left us and think
of you when we do.
Dan Morgenstern

Farewell Good Friend
I first met Karl-Emil some thirty-five years ago in a jazz record shop in
Manhattan. We became very good friends and over the years he was a house
guest at my homes on LongIsland, Florida, and most recently in the
Berkshires of Massachusetts. I would help him plan his visits to the States,
picking him up at airports and driving with him to IAJRC conventions and
Ellington conferences. One of the highlights of our visit to Europe in 1997
was a trip to Denmark. Karl picked up my wife Barbara and myself at the
Copenhagen railroad station and took us to his home. We spent the next three
days enjoying the beauty of Denmark, visiting the Storyville studios,
looking at Karl's fantastic collection of records, books and films, and
spending a few late nights in his apartment watching TV and videos.
On one of his Florida visits he arrived Thanksgiving Day on crutches. We got
him home for a fine turkey dinner.
I remember that at the New Jersey record bash, Karl stayed in his hotel room
to watch the games of the World Soccer Cup. We drove him to Pittsburgh from
North Adams to attend an Ellington conference. Another time at an IAJRC
convention in New Orleans I went with him to visit his good friend Bill
Russell who was close to death. On the way back to our hotel Karl could not
hold back the tears. Among the happiest moments with him were the ones we
spent in my basement in Plainview and the hours on my Florida porch room
just conversing and listening to good music.
Saying goodbye is very hard. It is, even now, hard for me to realize that he
is gone. I hope that somewhere in the eternity of this universe he is now
relaxed and enjoying good music. God rest your soul good friend.
Jerry Valburn

Some Footnotes
Karl Emil was born in the town of Dianalund Zealand in Denmark on 16Jun29.
His first record release was in the 1950's on the Memory label by Chris
Barber and the Ramblers. His many wonderful labels include
Collector's Classics, Jazz Unlimited, Jubilee, Nostalgia Arts and
Storyville. His video and publishing wing, Jazzmedia has released
approximately 50 books and 90 videos.
The DVD section has now been sold to Salut Audio & Video and they will be
releasing the DVDs.

Jerry Valburn