(b. London 1900 – d. Toronto 1973)
Affectionately known as the “black sheep” of the family, Clem
grew up in the surroundings of the Hambourg Conservatory in
London and Toronto. Trained by his father Michael, he made his
concert debut in 1925 and collaborated with his brother Boris
in many concerts throughout Canada. Clem was married in 1928
to Kathleen FitzGerald, a writer, with whom he had one son,
Klemi, (Dr. Klement Hambourg).
His second marriage was to Ruth Hopkins, a singer and connoisseur
of fine art, and together they founded in 1946 the House
of Hambourg, one of the first after-hours jazz clubs in
Toronto, Originally located at Bloor and Yonge Streets and later
in the basement of the Ward Price Galleries, it became the musical
home of many jazz artists such as Norman Amadio and Gordon Delamont
who later became intenationally famous as soloists and composers.
The American jazz composer/pianist Dave Brubeck also visited the House
of Hambourg when he was in town for informal jam sessions.
Clem frequently performed with these musicians and in a solo
capacity. He became a master of the art of improvisation, incorporating
be-bop and other jazz
rhythms into the works of such composers at Bach and Beethoven.
Later in the career of his jazz mecca, he founded the House
of Hambourg Off-Broadway style theatre, giving The Connection
its premiere outside the U.S.A., Ben Hecht’s The Front
Page, and other important plays. Clem and Ruth Hambourg
were portrayed in, and the House of Hambourg was the setting
for, Boom, Baby, Boom, by Banuta Rubess and (music by
Nick Graham) premiered in 1988 in Harbourfront.
By 1965 the pioneer work of the House
of Hambourg was over and Clem was featured in some of
Toronto’s premiere hotels and lounges as solo
variety pianist including Julie’s on Jarvis and Gloucester
Streets, where many patrons came primarily for the music.
He also became well known on Trans-Canada Television. In 1971 he
was struck by cancer, but through major surgery he made an
amazing recovery and continued to perform. Between 1970 and 1972
he appeared as concert pianist for Burl Ives in The Man Who
Wanted to Live Forever, and was a principal in
Here Come the Seventies, illustrating how he surmounted age
with achievement. This documentary was shown on both American and
Canadian television networks.
Clement Hambourg and Norm Amadio: Rhapsody
in Blue - George Gershwin,
arr. for two pianos by Norm Amadio |
Listen | Read review
In the Clem
Kennedy's Press Aide
a Piano-Playing Whiz With Old Memories of Canada
The House of Hambourg
Hambourg Duo Delightful and Amusing