FRANK KOULEN – Porgy In de Polder is the compelling story of Frank Koulen, founder of jazz club Porgy en Bess in Terneuzen, The Netherlands.
Journalist Tjeu Strous carefully maps out the life of Koulen, who grew up in poor conditions in heady, colonial Surinam, landed in Dutch Flanders in the latter stages of the Second World War, parading into Terneuzen with the Allied Forces. The only brown-skinned man in Terneuzen never looked back, fell in love, married and started lunchroom Porgy en Bess in 1957, which slowly but surely, and with many ups and downs, developed into a center for traditional New Orleans jazz, Dixieland and modern jazz. When one visited Porgy en Bess, one went to the welcoming host ‘The Negro’, renowned for shaking hands with every customer who entered his picturesque public house. It’s a nickname which nowadays would be viewed as unacceptable, instilled rather mixed feelings in the hearts of some of Koulen’s heirs but back then was a fairly innocent and endearing way of embracing the liberating spirit of the exotic entertainment guru.
Porgy In De Polder is a biography underlined by socio-cultural history. It is also, of course, the story of jazz club Porgy en Bess, a haven for the libidinous, restless youngsters in the sixties which brought the swing to the small harbor town of Terneuzen that it until then lacked. In Koulen’s lifetime ‘Porgy’ staged, among others, Jimmy Witherspoon, Cecil Payne, Eddie Boyd, Nathan Davis, Don Byas, Dave Pike, Ted Curson, Booker Ervin, Paul Bley, Chet Baker, Art Blakey and Boy Edgar with Johnny Griffin, Slide Hampton and Art Taylor. After Koulen died in 1985 and friends, with the help of investors and the municipal and provincial departments re-built the club from scratch, Porgy en Bess grew in stature and hosted, among others, Arnett Cobb, Lou Donaldson, Phil Woods, Toots Thielemans, Jimmy Cobb, Al Cohn, George Coleman, Ray Brown, Ray Bryant, Lee Konitz, Charles McPherson, James Moody, Cedar Walton, Betty Carter, Astrid Gilberto, John Handy, Horace Parlan, Danilo Perez, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride and Ambrose Akinmusire.
Porgy In De Polder by Tjeu Strous is published by Uitgevery Den Boer/De Ruiter. It is available here. Dutch language only.