In Memoriam: Albert Mangelsdorff 1928-2005
I remember one of the many conversations Marion Brown and I used to have was about solo performers. After I had published my first SOLO LP in 1969, I had stirred a trend. In Germany J.E. Berendt, the great jazzpromoter and writer, took my idea and presented it at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and at the Berlin Jazzdays Festival concerts, where the musicians performed solo pieces.That again triggered 2- 3 month tours in Canada, South America and Asia, sponsored by the German Goethe Institute in 1976 and 1978. On that tour one of my companions was Albert Mangelsdorff. So I was close to a 10 year older great musician and we had the chance to know and respect each other for what we are. We also had in common our astrological sign: Virgo. Same as Marion Brown. Musician Virgos seem to get along very good. If you check out other Virgos in jazz, you will be surprised to find Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins; The list goes on with strong characters and originators of jazz styles. Albert was the personification of jazz for the generation before me. Living in Frankfurt, he had the great luck to have the jazz promoter Fritz Rau booking him and taking care of the PR, so he could totally dedicate his energy to his music and his trombone. The HR Radio Station in Frankfurt presented his group regularly, made studio and live recordings of his bands and supported his great musicianship.
One of the other things we had in common was the listening to birds and I guess he did the same like playing and talking with them, like I do on my flute. The communication you can establish with birds is incredible and when Albert and me did these great duo pieces on these tours, we really went places I had usually only reached with the likes of Jeanne Lee or Anthony Braxton or Marion Brown.
At Albert's funeral 2 days ago, I stood at the open grave and was shuffling earth and my tears onto his coffin, burying a body of one of our greatest musicians of all time. In a flash, the 50 years I had known him passed by and I am fortunate to have shared many of my great moments in jazz and life with him. Marion Brown once told me that for him, as an African American, it was amazing to see how many Germans understand and are capable of feeling the great black music and are able to play Parker, Coltrane, Monk and Mingus and Ellington etc.. The emphasis is on FEELING and Albert was the personification of being capable of playing jazz as it occured to him. His striving for perfection rewarded him with a life-long string of great recordings and performances as only a few musicians have achieved in jazz.
Marion Brown had said in that conversation about solo performers that at the time (it was around 1980), only a few musicians got the solo thing together: Steve Lacy, me and Marion and Albert. I added Anthony and Roscoe from Chicago and I am sure there are many others. But Albert was our man and when we had the chance to play all together in my All Star 1983 tour in Germany and at the Berlin Jazzdays we had the fun of our lives to play together - in solos, duos, trios and in collective music.
August 1st, 2005 at the grave I said to him: "Albert, have a great journey. He probably plays his trombone with the angels now. Because he most definitely was one on Earth, enriching everybody's life he came in contact with. His music will live on, forever, as long as birds are singing.
Albert was a great musician and a great person. He was my duo partner for 20 years and my friend for over 40 years. Together we made the LP Hot Hat with the "dream team of Eddie Gomez and Elvin Jones, as well as such CDs as Mangelsdorff-Dauner Duo and the Mangelsdorff-Dauner Quintet. Albert developed an entirely new musical language for the trombone. We played together for 27 years in the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, which I put together. With Albert's death, I have lost my most important musical partner, but his music will always live on.
I can't remember when I first met Albert Mangelsdorff. It could be as much as 45 years. Of course I was incredibly honoured to have been invited to jam with him in the good old days of jazz club playing.
Throughout the following years I sometimes had the opportunity to work with him, even frequently in the United Jazz & Rock Ensemble for more than 15 years. After I quit that band, we - Reto Weber (a Swiss percussionist) and me - invited Albert to join our duo occasionally. For a few years we had great fun and success together and it was an honour to play with one of the greatest trombone players.