Jazz CD Reviews

Oscar Pettiford – Lost Tapes – Germany 1958/59 – Jazz Haus, SWR Music
Jutta Hipp – Lost Tapes – The German Recordings 1952-55 – Jazz Haus, SWR Music

Two fascinating reissues from the new German jazz label.

Published on May 15, 2013

Oscar Pettiford – Lost Tapes – Germany 1958/59 – Jazz Haus, SWR Music 101 719, 73:33 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

(Oscar Pettiford, cello turned like doublebass; Duko Goykovich, trombone; Lucky Thompson, sop. sax; Hans Hammerschmid, p.; Hartwig Bartz, drums; Rolf Kühn, clarinet; Jimmy Pratt, drums; Hans Koller, trumpet; Attila Zoller, guitar; Kenny Clarke, drums; Helmut Brandt/Helmut Reinhardt/Johnny Feigl, doublebass; Rudi Flierl, alto sax)

Jutta Hipp – Lost Tapes – The German Recordings 1952-55 – Jazz Haus, SWR Music 101723, 64:33 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

(Jutta Hipp, piano; Franz Shorty Roeder, doublebass; Karl Sanner, drums, Albert Mangelsdorff, trombone; Hans Koller, tenor sax; Rudi Sehring, drums; Joki Freund, tenor sax; Attila Zoller, guitar; Harry Schell, doublebass)

The new German jazz label Jazz Haus, is bringing forth on audio and video discs a number of AV programs taken from live radio and TV recordings from the archives of Sudwestrunfunk Stuttgart, Baden-Baden and Mainz. Their archives contain probably the  biggest collection of unpublished live jazz recordings in the world: 2000 hours; and almost none ever released before. More than 400 ensembles and soloists are listed, and many have been recorded three to five times or more over the decades. The old tapes are being remastered to hi-end technology standards and will be released on CD, DVD, vinyl and on-demand downloads. During this period Germany was a devastated country and its people welcomed the U.S. solders who brought jazz to their nightclubs and later the big bands and ensembles to the major venues of their towns.

Here are just two of the exuberant music treasures in their vaults: Both performers were rather tragic figures in modern jazz history.  Oscar Pettiford, who like many U.S. black jazz performers (he was actually more native American than Afro-American) found almost amazing acclaim and welcome in Europe compared to the U.S., but unfortunately died at age 48 in Copenhagen of a virus similar to polio. Hipp was a highly revered female jazz pianist who had a relationship with Leonard Feather, but mysteriously gave up music and left the scene completely in 1958 at age 43.

Both CD reissues point up some of the excellent local German jazz musicians.  Some of the solos on both discs are truly great. The restorations of the mono discs are also very good. Pettiford grew up playing in a family band and at age 14 was admired by bassist Milt Hinton. He recorded with Earl Hines and Ben Webster and led a bop group in 1943 with Dizzy Gillespie. He inadvertently discovered Cannonball Adderley, and was the pioneer of the cello as a solo instrument in jazz. After suffering a broken arm he couldn’t play his doublebass and tuned his cello in fourths like a doublebass, but an octave higher. I presume that’s what is meant by the designation “b. cello” in his credits for these recordings. It does sound higher-pitched than the typical bass.

Pettiford stands with Charles Mingus as the two most important doublebass players in modern jazz, but Pettiford has a special niche for his support of the cello in jazz. On this disc he has an elegiac uo with trombonist Goykovich on Gershwin’s “But Not for Me,” and a very cool version of “The Nearness of You” with tenorman Hans Koller. “All the Things You Are” demonstrates Pettiford’s great skill on his cello. The recordings were mostly done at the Baden-Baden Studios and are very good. I would also suggest Pettiford’s delightful old Fantasy LP, On My Little Cello.

Jutta Hipp (perfect name for a German female jazz pianist) had completed her classical studies by age 13, and she got to know all the German jazz greats of the day. She was a redhead with striking good looks and was outrageously talented. She soon become an object of some attention in the 1950s. In 1955 Leonard Feather convinced her to leave for New York City, where she was signed by Alfred Lion to Blue Note Records. Then it was all over as quick as it had started. She withdrew from jazz, had financial difficulties and turned to drink. She retired in 1995, making traditional dolls, and died in 2003 at age 78, without ever being back to Germany.

The 17 tracks on this CD show Hipp at ease with the standard tunes of the time. Her improvisations are headstrong and sometimes unexpected. The soloists such as Mangelsdorff, Koller and guitarist Zoller tend to stand out. Interesting that she seldom slips in any classical or German tunes—only one Mangelsdorff original. The recordings with Hipp and her quintet were made just prior to her leaving for the U.S.

—John Henry




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