Jazz CD Reviews

“Big Bands Live” – Orchester Kurt Edelhagen featuring Mary Lou Williams & Caterina Valente – Jazz Haus

A textbook showcase of swing music.

Published on August 28, 2013

Big Bands Live – Orchester Kurt Edelhagen featuring Mary Lou Williams & Caterina Valente – Jazz Haus mono 101718, 68:19 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

(Hans Gottfried Wilfert, Rolf Schneebiegl, Siegfried Achhammer, Klaus Mitschele – trumpets; Heinz Herrmannsdörfer, Otto Bredl, Werner Betz, Helmut Hauck – trombones; Helmut Reinhardt – baritone sax; Franz von Klenck – alto sax; Paul Martin – tenor sax; Kurt Aderhold – tenor sax; Johnny Feigl tenor sax; Werner Drexler – piano; Werner Schulze – bass; Bobby Schmidt – drums; Mary Lou Williams – piano 7/8; Caterina Valente – vocals 13/14)

It may be hard to imagine now, but less than ten years after the end of World War II in Europe in 1945, American style jazz was being played and emulated in of all places, what was at the time, West Germany. Bandleader Kurt Edelhagen in 1954 assembled group of German musicians into highly-disciplined orchestra to play charts from the Great American Songbook and the results are presented here in this interesting JazzHaus release.

As outlined in the liner notes by Ulli Pfau, Edelhagen “harbored a single-minded desire to match the great Stan Kenton. “ He managed to do just that on such tracks as “3×2”( You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To) with a Gerry Mulligan influenced chart, and with a opaque opening chorus on “ You Go To My Head”, yet he started off  the set with a bit of a head fake on “Tuxedo Junction” which is more Glenn Miller than Kenton. In a somewhat unusual turn, the band takes a back seat to trio performances lead by pianist Werner Drexler along with bassist Schulze and drummer Schmidt on “St. Louis Blues”, The Man I Love” and “Yesterdays” where he acquits himself in an impressive fashion with some strong single-note runs and avoiding musical clichés for the most part.

The is no explicit explanation for Mary Lou Williams’ attendance and participation in these sessions except that she had gone to England two years earlier (1952) and decided to remain in Europe for a period of time and thus was in Freiburg Germany for this concert. Her two original compositions were “Blues On The Bongo Beat” which she did with a rhythm section, and “Nancy And The Colonel” was with the full band and is the more interesting track as it has a clever arrangement on which she built her solo efforts. The other guest on this disc is singer Caterina Valente who was twenty-three at the time of this recording, and had yet to catapult to fame which happened in 1955 with her recording of “The Breeze And I”. Her renditions of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Pennies From Heaven” are well done and shows the promise that was to come. There is a short but delightful piece of music on the penultimate track entitled “There’s No You” and on it Edelhagen perfectly captures the sonority and denseness of the Kenton sound and one can only wonder what the full chart might have sounded like.

All in all this album is a textbook showcase of swing music that has been lovingly restored by Jazz Haus.

TrackList: Tuxedo Junction; 3×2; You Go To My Head; St. Louis Blues; The Man I Love; Yesterdays; Blues On The Bongo Beat; Nancy And The Colonel; You Go To My Head; Lester Leaps In; Tuxedo Junction; The Man I Love; They Can’t Take That Away From Me; Pennies From Heaven; On The Upbeat; Easy To Love; There’s No You; Alpha Jazz

—Pierre Giroux




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