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In Memoriam: Albert Mangelsdorff 1928-2005

By Published: September 10, 2005
GUNTER HAMPEL
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.

WOLFGANG DAUNER
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.

EBERHARD WEBER
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.

Throughout the very last years I was a witness to tragic developments Albert had to go through: First, on September 14th, 2003 he fell down the staircase from the stage after our trio concert and broke his shoulder and arm very severely. Meaning he had to stop playing for many months. After he recovered slowly, he lost his voice for several months, disabling him from using his voice to sing into the trombone, creating his famous unique inventive sound.

But finally by mid 2005 he seemed to be ready again to continue. We didn't know then (of course) that the trio with Reto Weber and me was Albert's last concert - in the jazz club of Lörrach, Germany, December 17th, 2004.

Afterwards Albert learned in a medical checkup that he suffered from leukemia which forced him instantly to stop playing.

Throughout the following months we communicated once in a while by phone, hoping for an upcoming future. But obviously he had no chance anymore.

On July 25th, 2005 we lost a wonderful friend and musician. I only can be comforted with the thought that our last concert was extremely well attended, accepted and PLAYED. It was possibly one of our best gigs ever.

Thank you Albert...

JOHN SURMAN
Albert was one of those truly rare musicians - an absolute original. Not many have found their own special voice on the trombone, but Albert was extraordinary. I was lucky enough to have worked with him on a number of occasions and found him to be a real inspiration to play with. He certainly helped me to shape my identity as a European who played jazz. I found him to be a modest man but someone with a burning passion for the music - he was ready to play and jam at any hour of the day or night! A man of great wit and humour, he will be sadly missed.

WILLEM BREUKER
I remember Albert Mangelsdorff firstly as a well known German musician when I was only a listener and later at the end of the '60s as a colleague. He and Joachim Ernst Berendt were the first to seriously listen to my music and to understand that it was completely different from the mainstream. Mr Berendt organised at the end of the '60s his famous workshops where he invited European musicians like Mangelsdorff and myself, as well as the South African musicians from London, the Blue Notes and musicians from the AACM movement in Chicago like Braxton et al. We got the chance to record in all kinds of combinations we wanted. I brought my compositions or I did free improvisations. This was already the beginning of a conflict between the free jazz crowd who saw this as a religion with Indian influences and myself. I still remember one night at my hotel room where we were talking and drinking and where I lost my shyness and played a tape of myself to Albert and the other guys. Albert was the only guy who stayed untill three in the morning. The rest were not interested at all and left early.

Over the years I saw Albert many times and we played and recorded together. He was a patient man and nice to work with. He never dismissed any of the peculiar ideas he was confronted with and was very open minded. We saw each other in airports on our way to festivals where Albert became isolated because he played solo most of the time, demonstrating his unique vocal and instrumental sounds at the same time. We talked about many things and our state of being and our development. This was a happy time for Albert, he was higly regarded and he enjoyed this. On the 4th of November last year when I became 60 and I performed at the Berlin Jazz Festival, he unfortunately hardly recognized me. Albert was the perfect example of how the attitude of a Jazz Musician should be - always investigative. There will always be a new day, the music never stops.

JOHN LINDBERG
Albert was a friend of mine. We first met in 1978 at the Weisen Jazz Festival. He became an impromptu member of the Human Arts Ensemble for our performance there that year and we formed a lingering bond.

After 14 years of seeing each other here and there, I called him in 1992 to make the trio recording Dodging Bullets for Black Saint records with pianist Eric Watson. Upon the news of his death I put on the opening track of the album - his composition "The Horn is a Lady - and hauntingly immersed myself in his memory.

We went on to perform many trio concerts and subsequently added drummer Ed Thigpen to the band. We made two more recordings as a quartet - Quartet Afterstorm and Resurrection of a Dormant Soul for Black Saint - and did many more concerts together.

He was a gentle man. We shared a love for birds and spoke of them frequently. His original musicality goes far beyond words and I'm thankful he is amply recorded and I was able to record my projects with him, as these expressions are truly immortal and compelling in an everlasting sense.

It was always a pleasure to be in his presence - personally and musically - and I know his contributions and spirit shall soar evermore.

With memories of peace of love.

GEORGE LEWIS
Operating across borders and beyond every boundary, Albert was one of the crucial progenitors of the musical emancipation of a continent. With his deep love of the jazz tradition, it is no surprise that a time-tested Afrological notion of the relationship between innovation and introspection undergirded Albert's 1963 reminder to all of Europe that, even with its admiration for American musicians, "First of all, one should express musically one's own personality, one's own conception of jazz. - or, as Erroll Garner declared in an interview, "I don't care how much you love somebody...you should still give yourself a chance to find out what you've got and let that out.

BARRE PHILLIPS
I met Albert Mangelsdorff in New York City in the early '60s. It was at a rehearsal with Attila Zoller and Don Friedman. Albert was in the city to hang out, jam a bit etc. We met again a few years later in Frankfurt where he took us down to "his club to hang out and play. One touching aspect of who Albert was was his involvement in this club. Any night that he was in town, not traveling, he would go down to the club to play. It was his club, in a spiritual sense. And it complemented perfectly his need to play everyday. Albert was a inveterate worker. He practiced and performed daily whenever possible. I was very impressed by this as I have a habit of hanging the bass up for a bit when I get home from touring. But Albert was music, trombone, music, trombone... He was also a very generous and warm human being, his face lighting up with joy whenever we would meet, be it the next morning after a concert or after a lapse of some years when we hadn't met. We performed together off and on for some 30 years and it was always a pleasure. He loved to play music by ear, to play with others. I have little to say about the music itself. The recorded documents he made attest to his quality as a creative musician. But I will say that his habit of working daily on his instrument, especially in the development of his multiphonic playing, can be a lesson to all of us: once you're in the process of discovery and development on your horn, hang in there, it will take you to places and heights you had no idea existed.

Albert, ciao, see you down the road a bit.

FRED VAN HOVE
Albert Mangelsdorff was part of a lot of jazz history: bebop, cool and free. A great musician and a gentle human. The only musician, my wife says, that brought flowers when invited for a meal at our house. We did work together as a duo. My meagre regular jazz period was not so far behind me and reminiscences of it sometimes did appear during free improvisation. One of the jazz tunes I quite liked was Fats Waller's "The Sheik of Araby . The tune came into my fingers during a concert with Albert. Immediately Albert started singing the hilarious German lyrics: "Der Scheich der kommt jetz gleich, jetz gleich da kommt der Scheich , the same phrase repeated over the 32 bars. Translation: "The Sheik is coming soon, soon the Sheik will come. It doesn't matter that some people always link Mangelsdorff with the invention of polyphonics on the trombone, the first was Paul Rutherford... Albert remains a musical monument.

PIERRE FAVRE
I met Albert for the first time in 1957 in Basle, no single words were exchanged, only play and that particular look from Albert. In the meantime I have learned that in the first look the future can be read and so was it with Albert. His look said, I trust you, lets play together und do the best you can, my friend. Since then and more than 40 years, it stayed right there. I always felt that deep friendship between us, about which we never talked, as it usual for real friendship. We have never talked much but we have played und we trusted each other.

Albert was a master, he loved the music, he was always real. His generosity, his deep understanding for the music as a whole, never suffering of any feeling of pretention. He has like no other musician I know looked at the drums as a musical instrument and the drummer as a full musical partner and this in his very natural reactions and behaviour. I believe he didn't even know that, he really was just like that. I can't remember that Albert in all these years of playing would ever have interupted myself while soloing, just on the opposite, he has always followed the discourse of any of his musicians with his particularly attentive ear. And if he ever intervened, it was always to help and never to pull the attention on himself.

He was always dedicated to the music, he was a "real great" and like the rare real great musicians a very modest person.

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Photo Credit
Hans Kumpf



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