The 21–year–old Allmand Chaoten Orchester, based in Stuttgart, is another of the many young German big bands who obviously love what they are doing and are a lot of fun to hear. The more recent of these two discs, Potato Jazz,
was recorded in concert in ’98 to mark the ACO’s 20th anniversary. After opening with an a cappella
choral version of what sounds like a German drinking song (“Eine Kartoffel”), the ensemble settles into a more Jazz–oriented groove that includes such staples as Chick Corea’s “Spain,” Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You,” Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” Rodgers & Hart’s “Have You Met Miss Jones” and Neal Hefti’s “Li’l Darlin’.” Drummer Rüdiger Süß and clarinetist Christof Klein are featured on Louis Prima’s showstopper, “Sing, Sing, Sing,” pianist Christian Erbe on a lesser–known burner, “Feelin’ Free.” The band has a number of singers, three of whom — Dorothee Götz (“Don’t Get Around Much,” “Fly Me to the Moon”), Tobias Ehrmann (“I Get a Kick Out of You,” “New York, New York”), Wolfgang Roll (“Ain’t Misbehavin’”) — are given a shot, and each wages an heroic struggle with the English language. Götz and Ehrmann sing straight, while Roll does a gravel–voiced impression that lands somewhere between Waller and Louis Armstrong. Götz also tries her hand at scat–singing (“Fly Me to the Moon”) and would be well–advised to banish it from her repertoire (although the audience apparently loved it). One track, the two–minute–long “Tribute to the World,” is a narrative (in German) by the announcer, who may also be the band’s director. I don’t know what he’s saying, but the audience seems quite impressed.
Pool Jazz, recorded in a studio in 1993–94, is also fashioned for the most part around the tried and true, with songs by Basie, Ellington/Tizol, Nestico, Rodgers & Hart, Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields, Billy Strayhorn, Porter’s “Begin the Beguine” and an instrumental version of “I Get a Kick Out of You.” The vocals this time are by Ehrmann (“The Way You Look Tonight”), Tina Häussermann (“My Funny Valentine”), Markus Schmid (“The Lady Is a Tramp”) and Dorothee Lorenz (“Every Day I Have the Blues”). Again, English (and Jazz phrasing) prove to be their most formidable adversaries. The band does the best it can, and is better recorded here than in concert, but ensemble passages are often out of synch (as they are on Potato Jazz as well), while solos are rudimentary and unconvincing. Comparing ACO to what a listener might experience here at home, the over–all skill level is roughly akin to late high school or perhaps early college — certainly no higher. Nevertheless, as we remarked earlier, the band is fun to hear, and is doing what it can to help keep big–band music alive and swinging. There’s nothing unkind one can say about that, and these young musicians can only become more adept with the passage of time. Hats off to ACO, another oasis in an ever–expanding desert of “junk–food music.”
Track listing: Potato Jazz — Eine Kartoffel; Feelin’ Free; Spain; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Killer Joe; I Get a Kick Out of You; Sing, Sing, Sing; Ain’t Misbehavin’; Everybody’s Everything; Fly Me to the Moon; Have You Met Miss Jones?; Tribute to the World; New York, New York; Li’l Darlin’ (54:09). Pool Jazz — Basie, Straight Ahead; Perdido; My Funny Valentine; Pennsylvania 6–5000; Hay Burner; The Lady Is a Tramp; I Get a Kick Out of You; Ev’ry Day I Have the Blues; Begin the Beguine; The Way You Look Tonight; The Heat’s On; All of Me; Two Timin’; Take the “A” Train (44:29).