Luckily for those of us who prefer our big–band Jazz straight (no chaser), this recent two–disc set (recorded in March ’97) by Germany’s remarkably proficient Bundesjazzorchester (Youth Jazz Orchestra) doesn’t focus exclusively on vocals. The nine selections on each disc include five instrumentals on Disc 1, five more on Disc 2. Among the (non–vocal) highlights on Disc 1 — Antti Rissanen’s buoyant “Red Letter Day” and luminous charts by Bernd Lechtenfeld (Pat Metheny’s “Better Days Ahead,” which does include wordless vocalese by Anette Eichel), Thorsten Maaß (Dizzy’s “Things to Come”), director Peter Herbolzheimer (Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti”) and Karsten Gorzel (Ellington’s “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart”). Disc 2, which opens with Herbolzheimer’s admirable arrangements of Ray Noble’s “Cherokee” and Neal Hefti’s “Girl Talk,” includes Peter Fulda’s Metheny–esque “Next Last Wave,” Wilson de Oliveira’s bustling “Que Paso” and Herbolzheimer’s soulful “Ballad for a Friend,” each of which is no less than superb. Elsewhere, BuJazzO provides unflagging support for a number of singers, individually or in groups, on such well–traveled numbers as “Night in Tunisia,” “Body and Soul,” “Caravan,” “Comes Love,” “I Wish You Love,” “Fever” and “The End of a Love Affair.” Tina Häußermann and Alexandre Zindel share the microphone on the only unfamiliar tune, Nicolai Thärichen’s “When We Two Walked.” In either case, BuJazzO is one enormously impressive ensemble, as are its soloists, all of whom approach world–class caliber. They include saxophonists Gregor Bürger, Florian Trübsbach, Mark Wyand, Marko Lackner, Christian Weidner (showcased on “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart”), Frank Lauber and Johannes Strempel (outstanding on his feature, “Ballad for a Friend”); trumpeters Christian Winninghoff, Christian Kappe, Matthias Bergman, Martin Reuther and Axel Schlosser; trombonists Rissanen (on his own composition, “Red Letter Day”) and Bert Conzen; guitarists Sandra Hempel, Hanno Busch and Patrick Christensen (featured on “Next Last Wave”); pianists Frank Eberle, Clemens Orth and Claus–Dieter Bandorf, flutist Ulrich Wagenheim and percussionist Tobias Bublat. For comparison’s sake, it is my opinion that BuJazzO is at least as capable as any college–level ensemble in this country (and there are plenty of noteworthy ones from East Coast to West and in many hamlets between), better than most of them, and in the same league with Great Britain’s super–sharp National Youth Jazz Orchestra. If that doesn’t cause you to sit up and take notice, you may be suffering from some form of attention deficit disorder.
Track listing: Disc 1 — Red Letter Day; A Night in Tunisia; Nefertiti; Better Days Ahead; When We Two Walked; Things to Come; Body and Soul; I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart; Comes Love (54:29). Disc 2 — Cherokee; Girl Talk; Caravan; Ballad for a Friend; Next Last Wave; I Wish You Love; Que Paso; The End of a Love Affair; Fever (47:09).
Bundesjazzorchester (BuJazzO), directed by Peter Herbolzheimer.
Contact: Mons Records, Taubenplatz 42, 67705 Trippstadt, Germany (phone ++49 (0) 6306/993222; fax ++49 (0) 6306/993223).