Willy VANDE WALLE is the image of shrimp spring roll: hard on the exterior but tender on the inside. Smiling but somewhat of rough appearance.
Solid like a Sherman tank, but sentimental. As soon as he speaks to his audience, his eyes light up.
Even though he is one of the jazzmen mostly in demand, the person is little known. Robert PERNET's book, "Jazz in little Belgium" does not even mention him. Not astonishing, since paradoxally Willy VANDE WALLE only recorded in the domain of variétés (pop music), with the exception of one passage on the remarkable album of Jean BLATON's "Belgian Big Band" (1972).
The recommendable initiative of "Drum" to record Belgian orchestras, which permitted him to realise a record that emphasized the value of his sonority.
Listening to him at "Brussels Jazz Club", one of his hide outs, one thinks about his masters : Coleman HAWKINS, Ben WEBSTER, Gene AMMONS, Arnett COBB. His context is "cool" evoking thoughts of Stan GETZ.
Willy VANDE WALLE was born in Ostende in 1934.
Thus, he did not know the tide of syncope of the "années folles", where Ostende became one of the first European cities to be invaded by jazz. The MITCHELL's JAZZ KINGS played on the boulevard Van Iseghem. The "Jazz band from Murray's Club in London" was around at "Chez Pan". At the "Kasbah", Arthur BRIGGS measured himself against Coleman HAWKINS, while Dany POLO, the GEORGIANS, Fred ELIZALDE or Sam WOODING played at the "Ambassadeurs".
The adoptive parents of Willy do not seem to have kept a brilliant memory of this golden age when excited by listening to a record of Benny GOODMAN, he declared, rearing to go: "I want to study music".
The reply comes down like the knife of the guillotine: "Never!".
Bitten by the virus of jazz through the stylus of the phonograph, Willy manages to accomplish his aim.
At age 14 he enters the Conservatoire of Ghent. He will get out with first prize for clarinet. Later on, he will tackle, by himself, the saxophone and the flute.
After his military service, he plays at "Montebello" in Kontich with Antwerp jazz pioneers Al VERLANE, Johnny KAY and great Jack SELS.
After a tour in Africa (56/57), He becomes friend with bassist Jean Warland, who recommended him to trumpeter and orchestra leader Aimé BARELLI.
A crucial encounter which will permit Willy VANDE WALLE to play in France with a person who became a celebrity through recordings with le Jazz de Paris of Alix COMBELLE, Noë:l CHIBOUST, Django REINHARDT or Hubert ROSTAING. Some frictions due to VANDE WALLE's character not withstanding, Aimé BARELLI hired him and takes him to New York for a single concert.
Aimé BARELLI, Number 1 trumpeter in France during the years 40-50, remembers very well a gala "April in Paris" at hotel Astor. During his stay, he brought Willy VANDE WALLE to listen to Jimmy DORSEY, Gerry MULLIGAN and Louis ARMSTRONG (same program !).
Very close to "Satchmo", BARELLI introduces VANDE WALLE who, unless otherwise proven, is the only Belgian jazzman to have played live with Louis ARMSTRONG.
His activities multiply, his energy resembles a nuclear power generator.
Teacher of saxophone at the Académie de Wemmel, director of a musical instruments shop (2, rue de la Cible), composer, instrumentalist and leader of "JAZZ EXPRESS" , with Eric BRISFER (drums), Otti VAN DER WERF (bass), René HARVENGT (piano) and guitarist Bernard DOSSIN.
Willy VANDE WALLE provided us with the proof that enthusiasm can be considered as a fine Art.
Willy VANDE WALLE died after a long illness on August 12, 2002.
CD : Willy VANDE WALLE Quartet : "MIDNIGHT" (B.SHARP CDS 074)