How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Another recording by one of Germany's many "amateur Jazz ensembles, sent by trumpeter Horst Koller with the usual disclaimer that "we are 100 percent nonï"professional musicians and . . . have produced the CD without professional assistance from a music company. No need to apologize, Horst; for nonï"professionals you sound pretty good to me. Collectively, the Caravan Big Band can hold its own with many of our best college bands. The weak link in the chain, as is the case with many such novice groups, lies with the soloists, who are on the whole no better than passable (with trumpeter Tobias Engel and saxophonist Frank Grob a step or so above that). Another stumbling block, sad to report, is singer Heidrun Bauer who is eager enough but not quite at home and comfortable with the English (or French) languages. She's heard on four selections ï" "Almost Like Being in Love, "Orangeï"Colored Sky, "Chanson d'Amour (recorded in concert in '95) and ï" including the verse ï" "Over the Rainbow, which I'm fond of saying takes guts if your last name isn't Garland. Most of the instrumentals are taken from the standard bigï"band repertoire ("Caravan, "Moten Swing, "Birdland, "Spain, "St. Louis Bues ) with two Basieï"style groovers by old reliable Sammy Nestico ("Magic Flea, "Hay Burner ) and a couple of newer charts by Jeff Jarvis ("Overdrive ) and Les Hooper ("Sittin' Pretty ). Caravan gives each of them its due, playing with intensity and awareness. And Horst, if that's you playing lead trumpet, take an extra bow; you've earned it. There's a photo of the band on the disc tray, and most of its members appear to be in their teens or early twenties. It's always refreshing to learn that young people in other countries are doing what they can to help keep bigï"band Jazz alive and swinging. We salute Caravan and director Franzï"Josef Schwade for swimming against the rising tide of sonic garbage to produce music that is praiseworthy and inspiring. I'm happy to have made Caravan's acquaintance, and think you would be too.
Track listing: Caravan; Moten Swing; Overdrive; God Bless the Child; Almost Like Being in Love; Birdland; Over the Rainbow; Magic Flea; Orange Colored Sky; Sittin' Pretty; Hay Burner; Spain; St. Louis Blues; Chanson d'Amor (55:44).
Franz?Josef Schwade, conductor; Horst Koller, Tobias Engel, Heinz Zinkand, Leander Strott, Nicole Grob, Sebastian Schwade, trumpet; Carsten Kirst, Bernhard Elsner, Johannes Goltz, Carmen Hahn, Friederike Herr, Marco G?rtner, trombone; Benjamin Engel, Eva?Maria Goltz, Frank Grob, Sandra Bolender, Michael Rehberg, Christian Herr, reeds; Veronika Sperzel, piano; Martin Leonhardt, guitar; J?rgen R?ttger, bass; Alexander Schwade, drums; Christian Engel, percussion; Heidrun Bauer, vocals.