The Reference - L'Archiduc
It's a twilight zone, that's what I tell everybody when I tell them about L'Archiduc, the famous jazz bar in the Dansaert street in Brussels. Why? Because it's like entering a different world when you cross the rounded wrought iron door. You can't pigeonhole L'Archiduc's public. Are they arty farty? Yes. Are they mainstream? Yes. Are they rich? Yes. Are they poor? Yes. That's the great thing about this bar. It's a melting pot of cultures, professions, likes, backgrounds,... The art deco interior (I Love Belgium loves the light armatures) also warps you into another time period, you feel like going crazy and that's what people do. Don't be surprised if you see three middle-aged rockers with Black Sabbath t-shirts shaking their hips on Stevie Wonder's Superstition. That's how things go at L'Archiduc...
Jean-Louis and Nathalie Hennart have run the place as it is known today since 1985, though L'Archiduc has existed since 1937 and has a vivid history. In 1937, Madame Alice opened L'Archiduc. At the time, it was a classy and discrete art deco establishment used by brokers and their secretaries. Several small wooden booths, topped by cast iron frames, offered them privacy and comfort. Today, the booths are gone, but one can still sit on the original benches along the walls. The cast iron main door still remains along with its beautiful A, standing for Archiduc, for Alice, and most certainly for Amour. Madame Alice quit in 1953. Stan Brenders and his wife took over. And so began Archiduc's Jazz Age.
Stan Brenders would be at the grand piano most evenings. This 1929 piano, along with the two pillars embracing it, soon became the symbols of L'Archiduc. Jazz musicians came from everywhere. Nat King Cole, Stan's friend, was successful with one of Stan's compositions, "I Envy", as was Alice Babs, with "So Many People".
Stan died in 1969. Nevertheless, his wife carried on with L'Archiduc until 1985, when Jean-Louis and Nathalie Hennart continued the saga.
Following Stan's footsteps, and wanting to continue in his spirit, the couple looked for some convenient jazz formulas, and in the early 90's they created the two events still in use today.
Stan Brenders was a pioneer of Belgian Jazz. He very early became inspired by the sound of New Orleans Jazz. In 1927, at the age of 23, he joined the band "Charles Remue and his New Stompers", known to have appeared on the first Belgian Jazz record in June 1927, which was cut in London's Edison Bell studios.
In 1933, Brenders played for the INR, the National Radio, which was then a glorious institution where all the music was played live. Brenders created INR's Jazz Orchestra in January 1936. Unfortunately, WWII was about to unfold. Notwithstanding, during the war, Brenders disguised many song titles to get around nazi censorship of Jazz and Swing.
In May 1942, the INR's Jazz Orchestra would back eight performances of Django Reinhart. This would be Brenders' best musical year, not only for the cooperation with Reinhart, but also for the songs composed then.