Another fabulous package from Germany. Are there any big bands in Deutschland that are less than wunderbar ? If so, I’ve not yet heard them. Pianist Rainer Tempel’s Nurnberg–based ensemble is typically well–disciplined and swinging — and, if we are to judge from the photographs accompanying these albums, relatively youthful as well (Tempel himself looks to be 30–something or younger). I assume that Vorwärts und Zurück (which, I believe, translates as “forward and back,” although I could be wrong) is the earlier of the two — it is by far the briefer at only 30:10 — so we’ll begin our assessment there. Unlike the other disc, which is composed entirely of compositions and arrangements by Tempel, Vorwärts opens with three well–known songs — Ray Noble’s “Cherokee,” Miles Davis’s “Blue in Green,” Isham Jones’s “There Is No Greater Love” — before closing with two breezy originals by Tempel, “Symphony” and “Albaufstieg.” All the charts are Tempel’s, and there is no exasperating bombast, simply good, solid straight–ahead big–band Jazz. Admirable solos too, by tenor Wyand and trumpeter Könner (“Cherokee,” “Symphony”), bassist Dohrmann and guitarist Streit (“Symphony”), trombonist Heinz (“Cherokee,” featured on “Albaufstieg”), alto Schönborn (who has “Blue in Green“ to himself) and Tempel (“No Greater Love”). The second disc, whose cover says only Rainer Tempel Big Band, embodies more of the same, except that all compositions and arrangements are by Tempel. The band sounds even better here, and one reason for that is that Tempel is a first–class writer (whose influences are apparent but always unobtrusive). Another is that the recording itself has greater clarity and presence. There are a few personnel changes, and four of the “newcomers” — trumpeter Thomas Siffling (“Wechselnde Pfade”), trombonist Rainer Sell (“Minor Moves”), soprano saxophonist Joachim Staudt (“An Hellen Tagen”) and tenor Lars von Buchholz (“Stadt–Land–Fluss”) — are given room to solo, as are holdovers Schönborn, Wyand, Streit, Heinz, Könner and Tempel, and none disappoints. This is a well–built craft from stem to stern (on a par, I’d say, with many professional ensembles in the States), one on which any big–band enthusiast may safely book passage. Tempel plans a third release later this year, and based on what we’ve heard so far, that’s something to look forward to with great anticipation.
Track listing: Vorwärts und Zurück — Cherokee; Blue in Green; There Is No Greater Love; Symphony; Albausteig (30:10). Untitled — Ups & Downs; An Bellen Tagen; Wechselnde Pfade; Minor Moves; Glockendonstr. 21; Zwischen Lehr und Klingler; Stat–land–fluss (53:34).
Collective personnel: Rainer Tempel, leader, piano; Olaf Schönborn, Lars von Buchholtz, Mark Wyand, Andreas Maile, Christoph Drescher, Joachim Staudt, reeds; Hans–Jürgen Waldler, Norbert Könner, Jürgen Frey, Hans–Peter Ockert, Thomas Siffling, Roland Horsak, trumpets; Frank Heinz, Klaus Schmirler, Fabian Gross, Harald Baltisberger, Lorenz Stöckl, Rainer Sell, trombones; Jakob Kraft, tuba; Ekki Streit, guitar; Florian Dohrmann, bass; Jens Liebau, Andreas Gandela, drums.
Contact: Rainer Tempel, Glockendonstr. 21, 90 429, Nurnberg, Germany (e–mail rainertempel@supra–net.net).