Jazzin' The Black Forest: A Film by Elke Baur

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Jazzin' The Black Forest: A Film by Elke Baur

There are few labels in jazz' history that have done as much for Europe's musicians while just as ardently promoting American musicians who made the work of those Europeans possible as MPS.

This film is a loving tribute to MPS Records founder Hans Georg Brunner Schwer. HGBS, as he was known to friends, was part of the family that founded SABA, a German manufacturing firm that produced, among other things, early car stereos. When SABA wanted recordings made available for the new device, HGBS produced them. When SABA was sold in 1968, he, flush with millions, founded MPS (which means Most Perfect Sound).

Beginning with recording done at private concerts in his home in Villingen in the German Black Forest, MPS soon was recording everything from trio dates with Oscar Peterson to some of the most advanced free jazz coming out of Germany. The film begins by discussing how MPS Records have become favorites of DJs in Germany but then quickly moves back in time to the mid '60s with interviews—with HGBS, his wife, his recording team, George Duke, Albert Mangelsdorff, Lee Konitz, Wolfgang Dauner and others—about the label's aesthetic and many tales about what a true supporter of jazz HGBS was.

Visually, many lovely shots of Villingen are interspersed as are some delicious snippets of archival footage from various live perfomances. The early footage of Oscar Peterson at HGBS' house in particular are priceless.

The flow of the MPS story is a little difficult to discern from the film, which does not follow any real chronology. But for those who know the work of MPS and perhaps even have the wonderful book published in 1999 of the same name, this document sheds some light on the label's intent and modus operandi. For those who are less familiar, it can be a good starting point for further investigation into a truly unique record label.

Production Notes: 90 minutes.

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