Criticism? Sorry, dear reader; you’ll have to turn elsewhere for that. Here you’ll find only a cordial salute to Germany’s foremost youth ensemble, the Bundesjazzorchester, and its indefatigable director, Peter Herbolzheimer, and an avowal of my good fortune in acquiring, after several years of searching, a copy of BuJazzO, Vol. 1, which has assumed a place of honor in my big–band racks next to Vols. 2 and 3. For that I must thank Peter Ortmann through whose kindness I was able to close that particular gap in the collection. As Vol. 1 was recorded in 1988, three years before the second and five years before the third, hopes were growing dim before Mr. Ortmann came to the rescue, and he has my deepest gratitude and appreciation, as I’d thought that Vol. 1 must surely be out of print by now. I’m so happy it wasn’t, as the Bundesjazzorchester is one of the most remarkable big bands it has ever been my pleasure to hear, regardless of age or experience. Many of those who have passed through its ranks have gone on to establish prominent careers in Jazz; among the more familiar names (to me) on Vol. 1 are trumpeters Thomas Vogel and Till Brönner, saxophonists Peter Weniger and Andreas Maile, pianist Hubert Nuss and vocalist Theo Bleckmann. Brönner, Weniger, trombonist Oliver Pospiech, tenor saxophonist Paul Heller, baritone Steffen Schorn and drummer Holger Nell are among those heard on Vol. 2, trumpeter Sebastian Stempel, trombonist Jürgen Neudert and alto saxophonist Oliver Leicht on Vol. 3. I don’t mean to slight anyone else, but these are the names best–known to me. The music on Vol. 1 consists of a number of Jazz staples (Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring,” Miles Davis’ “Milestones,” Charles Mingus’ “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love”), the standard “Them There Eyes” (arranged by Herbolzheimer, sung by Bleckmann) and some lesser–known but no less captivating pieces (Herbolzheimer’s “Sideways,” Rob McConnell’s “Can’t Stop My Leg,” Michael Brecker’s “Funky Sea Funky Dew,” Kenny Napper’s “High Summer” and two luminous originals by Jörg Keller, “Cat Burglar” and “Ballad for the Kid”). You’ll seldom hear any of them played with greater proficiency or enterprise than this. The ensemble is razor–sharp, soloists alert and resourceful. Weniger and Nuss are impressive on “Joy Spring” and “High Summer,” Brönner, trombonist Strangmann and tenor Schmid–Relenberg equally so on “Milestones.” Alto saxophonist Felsch is handsomely showcased on “Ballad for the Kid” and vibraphonist Dell on “Sideways,” while Burkhardt adds persuasive comments on trumpet (“Cat Burglar”) and flugel (“Them There Eyes”) and guitarist Wiedmann keeps pace on “Can’t Stop My Leg” and “Funky Sea Funky Dew.” Although playing time (52:10) isn’t overly generous, not a moment is squandered, and BuJazzO, Vol. 1, is as good as I’d imagined it would be.
Track listing: Can’t Stop My Leg; Joy Spring; Funky Sea Funky Dew; Ballad for the Kid; High Summer; Milestones; Sideways; Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love; The Cat Burglar; Them There Eyes (52:10).
Peter Herbolzheimer, conductor; Thomas Vogel, Ingolf Burkhardt, Stephan Zimmerman, Josef Herzog, Christian Schultz, Till Br