From soloist to trio, trio to quartet to quintet. That’s the path taken by Art Van Damme, famed accordionist, whose quintet was fixture at N.B.C. in Chicago for 15 years. It was in Norway, Mich, that Art Van Damme was born and it was only 10 years later that he started his professional career as an accordionist. This was in his home town theatre, plus two trips to California doing concerts for the Sante Fe Railroad Company.
Van Damme was inspired by swing recordings, particularly Benny Goodman's, and in the late 1930s, he began experimenting, adapting Goodman solos to the accordion. Throughout his career, he would often be compared to Goodman, since the two were both classically trained, technical masters of their instruments, and versatile and creative jazz soloists. He formed a quintet with several of his studio colleagues, and recorded his first album, for the small label, Music Craft, in 1944.
More Cocktail Capers LPHe joined the staff of NBC Radio in Chicago in 1945 and remained a studio musician for over 15 years, even after he became a recording artist in his own right. His early style fits into a small but at the time quite popular niche between the cocktail piano sound and the accordion/guitar/organ sound of the Three Suns. In fact, his earliest albums for Capitol and Columbia all had titles that made this connection explicit: "Cocktail Capers"; "Martini Time"; "Manhattan Time."
Van Damme toured Europe and was popular with jazz listeners in Japan and regularly won the domestic Down Beat reader's poll for his instrument in the same period.