Leo Mathisen

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Leo Mathissen

Leo Mathisen (born December 16, 1906 in Copenhagen as Hans Leo Mathiassen ; † October 10, 1969 there ) was a Danish jazz pianist , singer, arranger , composer and band leader. The charismatic musician was considered one of the dominant figures in Danish jazz of the 1930s and 1940s and a Danish counterpart to Fats Waller , who was his role model both in terms of his piano playing and his singing; in his later years he also incorporated some bebop influences . His nickname The Lion referred to both his first name Leo and the MGM mascot Leo the Lion . His characteristic appearance with straight hair parted in the middle, the thin mustache and his preference for thick cigars were also striking .


At the beginning of his career, Mathisen worked in a record shop, where he began to listen to records and to imitate the piano they had heard. After completing a business apprenticeship, he worked professionally from 1927 as a pianist in the Arena restaurant and with Kai Ewans' band in the Adlen restaurant . On February 28, 1927 he recorded his first track The More We Are Together (Polyphonic) in collaboration with the singer and pianist Victor Cornelius . From 1927 to 1928 he belonged to a trio with Otto Lington and Anker Skjoldborg.

From 1928 to 1931 he performed with Adrian Rollini's orchestras in Germany and Sweden, there also with the Max Lefkos Band. From 1932 to 1937 he played in Erik Tuxen's orchestra. In 1936 Mathisen founded his own band and until 1952 led various formations with which he successfully performed in restaurants in Copenhagen and toured Scandinavia, and after the end of the Second World War also in Germany. His orchestra also worked as a backing band for various popular singers. His famous tracks were Take It Easy , How How , To Be or Not to Be (1941) and Ray Nobles By the Fireside (1942), with the vocals of Erik Parker. The members of his formations included u. a. Erik Parker, Henry Hagemann and John Steffensen, after 1945 also the trumpeter Jørgen Ry . He had particularly successful appearances during the war in Munich , where he performed regularly during the occupation of Denmark . When the National Socialists forbade him to sing in English, he switched to scat singing , with a pronounced Copenhagen-English emphasis.

From 1951 he appeared as a solo pianist in Denmark before he retired from the music business in the spring of 1953 due to health problems. He died in October 1969 and is buried on Mariebjerg Kirkegård in Gentofte near Copenhagen.


Mathisen recorded numerous tracks with his band for Odeon , often his own compositions. The most important recordings include those from 1941 to 1943. With larger orchestras he recorded titles such as Long Shadows , which is considered an example of his arrangements.

Mathisen also recorded popular hits of the time such as Lionel Hampton's Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop , Five Minutes More , Near Yo and Makin 'Whoopee . With Erik Parker he wrote Danish lyrics for songs like De 24 Røvere , which Fats Waller recorded in 1941, and Jack McVea's The Key's In The Mailbox .

Participation in films

Leo Mathisen had cameo appearances in films such as 5 raske piger (1933), 7-9-13 (1934), Mit liv er musik (1944) and Teatertosset (1944).

His music was used in the films Der var engang en krig (1966), Midt i en jazztid (1969) and in I Tvillingernes tegn (1975).

He is also the subject of the biopic Take it Easy (1986), in which he is played by Eddie Skoller .

Discographic notes

  • Leo Mathisen: How How (EMI, 1963)
  • Leo Mathisen: Take It Easy (Odeon / EMI, 1970)
  • Leo Mathisen 1944-1948 ( Storyville )
  • Kai Ewans, Leo Mathisen, Svend Asmussen , Peter Rasmussen : Swingtime (Tono Hi-Fi Records)

Web links


  • Birger Jørgensen: Danske jazzprofiler - Leo Mathisen (Erichsen, 1962)

Individual evidence

  1. Jazz in Denmark in udenrigsministeriet  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.um.dk  
  2. a b c d e f g Leo Mathisen in danskefilm.dk (accessed June 13, 2011)
  3. a b Leo Mathisen in Gyldendal (accessed June 13, 2011)
  4. ^ Leo Mathisen: 1944-1948 from Storyville Records (accessed June 13, 2011)