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A Selection of Jazz on Sonorama

Jakob Baekgaard By

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A good record is not just an album, it is a story, and few people understand this better than Ekkehart Fleischhammer, who runs Sonorama. The label specializes in reissues and discoveries of lost jazz classics, library music, funk and soul. Every release is a labor of love and the albums in the following batch all include photography and liner notes. A full portrait of the label and its past achievements can be found elsewhere on this site, but the following releases all show that the story of Sonorama is still unfolding as the label continues to add new vital releases to its catalog.

Jazz Quintet 60
The Last Call
Sonorama
2017

The Last Call by the Jazz Quintet 60 is a worthy proof of Fleischhammer's talent for being connected. The reason is his genuine passion for music and his respect for the estate of the musicians.

The lost tapes with music from one of the seminal groups in Danish jazz, Jazz Quintet 60, were literally handed to Fleischhammer by Peder Hansen of Little Beat Records, another dedicated preserver of jazz from the past. As it turns out, it is quite a scoop and a reason to rejoice for fans of hard-bop. The group consisted of some of the most prominent players on the Danish jazz scene in the golden days of the iconic Montmartre Jazz Club in the late fifties and sixties.

Trumpeter Allan Botchinsky has a tone somewhat reminiscent of Lee Morgan and drummer Bjarne Rostvold swings lightly while Bent Axen has a wonderful, melodic energy on the piano. Axen is perhaps most famous for his stint with saxophonist Eric Dolphy's group, but here he plays with another saxophonist, Niels Husum, who spins an inventive web of lines. Husum was inspired by Lester Young and his sense of lyrical swing shines through in the music. In the middle of it all, the big sound of Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen's bass carries it all. Ørsted Pedersen, also known affectionately as NHØP, is the primary reason why Danish jazz bassists have such a good reputation in the world and it is understandable why he was the go-to-bassist of pianist Oscar Peterson.

The Last Call has the feel of a classic Blue Note session and anyone interested in the music of that label should check this record out. The program primarily consists of well-written bop originals, but there is also a cover of pianist Horace Silver's "St. Vitus Dance."

Brew Moore
Live In Europe 1961
Sonorama
2015

The reason why Danish jazz developed so much in the late fifties and sixties was because of the prominent visits from many American stars like saxophonists Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster and Stan Getz, who all lived in the country for a long time. Brew Moore was another tenor saxophonist who settled in Denmark. Unfortunately, his star has not been shining as bright as the others, and therefore the unearthed recordings on Live in Europe are a highly welcome supplement to his discography.

Moore has recently been canonized as one of the founders of the bop movement on the Savoy set on Mosaic Records: Savoy: Classic Be-Bop Sessions 1945-1949, but Moore's first love was Lester Young. Charlie Parker came later and provided the last piece of the puzzle in forming his own sound. As he is quoted for saying in the liner notes: "When I heard what Bird had done for himself, I realized that Pres (Lester Young) was not the complete messiah. So I combined Bird and Pres and my own thing."

Moore's own thing is his swing and he really blows joyfully on these recordings. The recordings for Savoy were short and sweet, but here he gets the chance to stretch out and he uses the opportunity to tell stories full of details and subdued fire. "Buzzy," a piece by Charlie Parker, is a perfect example of how Brew could combine the energy of Parker with the soft lyricism of Lester Young.

Lucky Thompson
Bop & Balllads
Sonorama
2016

Lucky Thompson was another unsung saxophone giant, who also could play bop and ballads perfectly. This is evident on an album of unheard recordings aptly titled: Bop & Ballads. Among the ballads are a dreamy version of "Summertime," with Thompson spinning lazy lines to a background including Wolfgang Schlüter's chiming vibraphone.

There is a nod to Charlie Parker on the ballad "Lover Man," with gently shaking vibrato that also recalls Ben Webster while "Cherokee" flies away elegantly in the spirit of bird.

Thompson is in excellent company with German jazz musicians like pianist Michael Naura and bassist Hajo Lange on these sessions recorded in Hamburg on April 17, 1959 and April 22, 1960. He both plays tenor saxophone and soprano saxophone and tackles a repertoire with standards and his own compositions like "Thin Ice," "The World Awakes," "Brother Bob" and "Deep Passion." Speaking of the latter, deep passion is exactly what these sessions are about.

Oscar Pettiford & Friends
Blues In My Mind
Sonorama
2015

Oscar Pettiford was another American jazz giant who benefitted from the high level of musicianship on the German scene. Blues in My Mind is the second chapter of music from Pettiford's stay in Hamburg. The first chapter was called We Get The Message and was also released on Sonorama.

On this second offering, bassist and cellist Pettiford is still in the good company of guitarist Attila Zoller and saxophonist Hans Koller, but Jimmy Pratt has taken the drum chair instead of Kenny Clarke. Other players include pianist Armin Rusch and trumpeters Dusko Goykovich and Roger Guérin.

The title track is a composition by vibraphonist Michael Hausser, who also plays in Pettiford's group, and his touch on the vibes adds a bit of the Modern Jazz Quartet to the proceedings, but the program is quite diverse, and the sound is described accurately on the sleeve as a "fine mélange of modern mainstream, cool jazz and hard bop."

Hans Koller & Friends
Big Sound Koller
Sonorama
2016

Another Hamburg-release comes from Pettiford-associate, tenor saxophonist Hans Koller, one of the most prominent figures in German jazz, although, as it is pointed out in the liner notes, he is actually from Austria.

When Koller played in a quartet with pianist Jutta Hipp in the fifties, he was the king of cool jazz in Germany, but an album of unreleased recordings: Big Sound Koller changes this image. Indeed, the title of the tune "Hard Bop for Hartung" spells it out quite clearly: This is not cool jazz, but hard bop. Adding to the big sound of Koller's horn is the addition to his quartet of six brass players, who give the music a big band feel, very evident on the opening of "Indiana" where Koller is in a dialog with the brass section before breaking loose with an intense solo.

Koller is clearly enjoying himself as he becomes the center of this big sound, but part of the enjoyment of this recording is also in the attention to details, like the complex intertwining horn voices at the beginning of "Nippon Kazooki" or the Latin flourishes of Karlhanns Berger's piano in tandem with lively bongo drums on "Homer's Concert."

Various Artists
Cool Europa: European Progressive Jazz In Germany 1959-63
Sonorama
2017

Karlhanns Berger, who is now known as Karl Berger, also shows up on a nice compilation of modern jazz that marks the 100th release on Sonorama. The album portrays the golden age of the German jazz scene in the period 1959-1963 and includes unreleased cuts by Sonorama regulars like saxophonist Barney Wilen, guitarist Attila Zollar, clarinet "bird" Rolf Kühn and others. The playing time is generous (almost seventy minutes) and spans the big sound of Francy Boland's Ensemble, Rolf Ericson Quintet's interpretation of Thelonious Monk's "Straight No Chaser" and the tight trio sound of pianist Roland Kovac.

What is thought-provoking about this compilation is how the musicians walk the tight line between mainstream accessibility and progressive experiments. Nothing here will scare listeners away, but, at the same time, the by now established musical conventions of hard bop, cool jazz and modal jazz sound fresh and full of possibilities.

Helmut Brandt Orchestra
Spree Coast Jazz
Sonorama
2017

Baritone saxophonist Helmut Brandt is one of the musicians who show up on Cool Europa: European Progressive Jazz in Germany 1959-63. His music has previously been chronicled on another Sonorama release: Berlin Calling, but on Spree Coast Jazz he can be found in a lush big band setting with members of RIAS and SFB Orchestras.

Brandt was in favor of "pure music" and his humorous motto was "more head, less legs." However, those expecting dry, academic, anemic music will have to think again. The music is bursting with swinging energy and both "Boogie Waltz" and "Trifi" have something of the bouncing lightness of pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, but the real meat of the album is the impressive "Ferien-Suite" (Vacation Suite) that allows Brandt to play with a wide range of instrumental timbres while he cleverly embraces the use of motifs and musical memories to bind the suite together. While the recorded output of Brandt is scarce, Spree Coast Jazz adds to the argument that he was not only a master on his instrument, but also an inventive composer and arranger.

Lars Gullin
The Liquid Moves of Lars Gullin
Sonorama
2016

Lars Gullin was another master on the baritone saxophone, the instrument most likely associated with Gerry Mulligan, who inspired Brandt, but also Gullin. However, Gullin carved his own sound on the big instrument and must be considered one of the most important figures in Swedish jazz. The Liquid Moves of Lars Gullin is a collection of his recordings that underlines his stature and functions as a fine introduction to his sound.

One of the most amazing things about Gullin is how light a sound he could produce from a heavy instrument like the baritone, hence the reference to a liquid sound in the title of the album. His admirers counted trumpeter Chet Baker, who had played on the seminal recordings with Mulligan and knew what he was talking about when he praised Gullin's playing.

The nine cuts on the album represent Gullin in various settings, including a meeting with tenor great Dexter Gordon on two tracks, but the most interesting cut is perhaps the epic exploration of pianist and composer Lennie Tristano's "Ablution" where his fantasy never seems to stop as he continues to add layer upon layer in a solo that both comes across as relaxed and intellectually tight. All in all, the album is a worthwhile example of Gullin's soaring baritone poetry, but the vocal tracks that are added as a bonus to the CD version of the album, which is also out on vinyl, are not as strong as the rest of the music.

Albert Mangelsdorff
Mainhattan Modern
Sonorama
2015

Just like Lars Gullin became an icon for Swedish jazz, trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff became the "German ambassador of Jazz." Like saxophonist Hans Koller, whom he played with, Mangelsdorff made a smooth transition from his own brand of cool jazz to hard bop and modern jazz.

Like the original Blue Note sound, the blues was never far away in Mangelsdorff's music, as emphasized by the titles in his repertoire such as "Tower Blues," "Jo-Jo Blues" and "Vierd Blues," all included in an excellent compilation of his music spanning the years 1955-1963.

Mangelsdorff had a crisp, warm brass sound on the trombone, as evidenced by the energetic interpretation of Johnny Mandel's standard "Hershey Bar." He seamlessly connected the heritage of jazz tradition with the modern bop innovations of Charlie Parker -just listen to his own composition "Joe Und Joe" that combines the brassy joy of New Orleans with smooth swinging and razor-sharp breaks. It's no wonder that he got a breakthrough outside Germany. He had studied jazz and knew what it was about. Mainhattan Modern is a wonderful collection of Mangelsdorff music in the good company of sharp cats like saxophonists Hans Koller, Heinz Sauer, Joki Freund and his own brother Emil.

Friedrich Gulda Orchestra
Jazz at Auditorium
Sonorama
2016

While Albert Mangelsdorff was a pure jazz player, pianist, composer and baritone saxophonist, Friedrich Gulda, managed to combine the worlds of jazz and classical music in his life. He could play classical music achingly beautiful, for instance Beethoven's sonatas, but he also had a soft spot for improvisation and in jazz music he found an opportunity to express another musical side of himself.

Jazz at Auditorium finds pianist Gulda playing with the large format of an orchestra, using his own compositions and classics like Thelonious Monk's "Round About Midnight" and Charlie Parker's "Anthropology" to create a solid sense of swing. The music is full of energy and the playful mood is underlined by Gulda tackling the baritone saxophone, but as it is dryly remarked in the liner notes, quoting one of the Swedish musicians, bassist Georg Reidel, it was hard to be impressed by Gulda's baritone after hearing Lars Gullin. Fortunately, Gulda sticks mostly to the piano and successfully unfolds his version of modern jazz with affectionate ties to tradition.

The Red Bahnik Trio
Goes to Santander
Sonorama
2016

Friedrich Gulda made a name for himself, both as a classical musician and as a jazz musician, but unfortunately there are far too many musicians who don't make it all. Pianist Red Bahnik's Trio is one of the forgotten piano trios in jazz that now get a chance to be rediscovered thanks to the effort of Ekkehart Fleishhammer and Sonorama. Their private press album Goes to Santander is a little gem that sparkles with lyrical trio energy.

The opener of the album is false advertising as "Fish This Week" starts with solemn ruminations on Bach, but the true nature of the album is soon revealed as the tempo picks up and the swinging sets in on an inspired reading of Les McCann's tune. Pianist Bahnik also shows that he is a worthwhile composer on the bouncing "Santander."

Unlike most Sonorama releases, the liner notes are very sparse and there is no photography. Instead the release aims for an exact reproduction of the album and the music speaks for itself. It a is no frills bop trio where the inspiration from Horace Silver's rhythmic drive is supplemented by the elegant lightness of Ahmad Jamal's trio.

Elsie Bianchi Trio
At Chateau Fleur De Lis
Sonorama
2017

Pianist Elsie Bianchi is another unsung jazz musician and she has a very special place in the story of Sonorama. In fact, when Ekkehart Fleishhammer started his label, he begun with a 7-inch single of the Elsie Bianchi Trio called "Happy Little Sunbeams."

The rays of the sun are still shining on an enjoyable compilation of Bianchi's music during her stay At Chateau Fleur De Lis in Atlanta, Georgia. She's in the company of her husband, Siro Bianchi, and drummer Peter Brunner.

Hearing this music is like taking vitamins. Bianchi plays Charlie Parker, Erroll Garner and Dave Brubeck with infectious joy and the textures are varied as Bianchi changes between piano and Hammond organ and husband Siro plays flute, bass and saxophone. From many hours of material, Fleischhammer has compiled a lovely album of what might be called serious light music.

Various Artists
Big Deal! Weinberger Library Funk UK 1975-1979
Sonorama
2016

The term serious light music might also apply to a tasty collection of library funk called Big Deal! Weinberger Library Funk UK 1975-1979. The compilation falls outside the strict jazz category, but the sixteen instrumental tracks provide plenty of funk and a soundtrack for imaginary vintage action movies.

The music comes from the archives of Josef Weinberger, who started out in the field of classical music and later ventured into funk. Library music was not meant for sale in the shops and thus the records were only pressed in strictly limited amounts and many of them have become collector's items, not only because of the scarcity, but also due to the quality. Flutes, wah-wah guitars, bells, exotic percussion and electronic sounds provide plenty of spice on these tracks that draw on elements of jazz funk, disco, instrumental soul and electro-funk. It is a bit of a detour from the many jazz releases in this batch, but as with all the other releases on Sonorama, the story of Josef Weinberger's funk library is worth telling.

Tracks and Personnel

The Last Call

Tracks: Around ¾ Time; One More Chant; Daffy; St. Vitus Dance; Little Annie Fanny; Buddah; Baby Face; Yake-De Yak; Anticipation; Our Dilemma; I Want to Be Happy; Bass Blues.

Personnel: Allan Botchinsky: trumpet; Niels Husum: tenor saxophone; Bent Axen; piano; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: bass; Bjarne Rostvold: drums.

Live in Europe 1961

Tracks: Buzzy; Apple Core; Zonky; Satin Doll; Broadway; Ergo; Five Planets in Leo.

Personnel: Brew Moore: tenor saxophone; Lars Piano: piano; Lars Petterson: bass; William Schiöpffe: drums; Lou Bennett: organ; Jimmy Gourley: guitar; Kenny Clarke: drums; Paul Godske: piano; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: bass; Alex Riel: drums.

Bop & Ballads

Tracks: Summertime; Thin Ice; Lover Man; Jeannie; Deep Passion; Brother Bob; Yesterdays; Cherokee; The World Awakes; Star Eyes.

Personnel: Lucky Thompson: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Hajo lange: bass; Michael Naura: piano; Heinz von Moisy: drums; Hans Koller: tenor saxophone; Georges Grenu: tenor saxophone; Klaus Marmulla: alto saxophone; Helmut Reinhardt: baritone saxophone; Wolfgang Schlüter: vibes, percussion.

Blues in My Mind

Tracks: Moanin'; Minor Meeting; Are You Real; Tune Up; Sometimes I'm Happy; Long Ago and Far Away; H.E.C. Blues; Blues Around Joe; How About You?; Autumn Leaves; Rue Dauphine; Blues in My Mind; After You've Gone; Happy Afternoon.

Personnel: Oscar Pettiford: bass; Jimmy Pratt: drums; Hans Koller: tenor saxophone & clarinet; Dusko Goykovich: trumpet; Attila Zoller: guitar; Michel Hausser: vibraphone; Roger Guerin: trumpet; Armin Rusch: piano.

Big Sound Koller

Tracks: Lonely; Hard Bop for Hartung; Nippon Kazooki; Homer's Concert; Indiana; Waltz With Me; Monkey; Warming the Worm; Remember; Black Cats; Tune for Antibes; Workshop Afterhours.

Personnel: Hans Koller: tenor saxophone; Karlhanns Berger: piano; Joop Christoffer: bass; Klaus Hagl: drums; Ack van Rooyen: trumpet; Klaus Mitschele: trumpet, flugelhorn; Rolf Schneebiegl: trumpet, horn; Kurt Sauter: trumpet; Rudi Flierl: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone; Helmut Reinhardt: baritone saxophone; Rudi Fuessers: trumpet, trombone.

Cool Europe: European Progressive Jazz in Germany 1959-63

Tracks: Blues for Koebes; Gigi's Pad; Straight No Chaser; Inspiration in 6/8; Tempus Fugit; You Stepped Out of a Dream; Marihuana; Ginger; Warm Up; Prof. Wotasnozzle; Bag's Groove; Psychophysis; Futurity; Olé Coltrane.

Personnel: Various artists.

Spree Coast Jazz

Tracks: Boogie Waltz; Trifi; Berlin Calling; Opus C-Moll 794; Boris (Rendezvous); Ferien-Suite I-VI: I Passkontrolle; II Einsame Insel; III Sturmwarnung; IV Strandfest; V Urlaubsflirt; VI Fotoalbum; Tea for Two; Stellar.

Personnel: Helmut Brandt: baritone saxophone; Benny Bailey: trumpet; Harry Samp: trumpet; Ack van Rooyen: trumpet; Herb Geller: alto saxophone; Stefan Von Dobrzynski: tenor saxophone and flute; Siegfried Schmidt: valve trombone; Nat Peck: trombone; Günter Meier: piano; Hajo Lange: bass; Heinz Niemeyer: drums.

The Liquid Moves of Lars Gullin

Tracks: Bluesport; Out of the Bush; I Love You; Ablution; The Flight; Fascinating Rhythm; Get Out of Town; The Things We Did Last Summer; I Got It Bad and That Ain`t Good.

Personnel: Lars Gullin: baritone + various musicians.

Mainhattan Modern

Tracks: Improvisation Zu Einem Klang; Tower Blues; Heat Wave; Jo-Jo Blues; Hershey Bar; Spicy; Joe Und Joe; Vierd Blues; Lover Man.

Personnel: Albert Mangelsdorff: trombone + various musicians.

Jazz at Auditorium

Tracks: Opener / Jazz at Auditorium; Music for Three Soloists and Band; Anthropology; Lover Man; Die Neu Bassgeige; Round about Midnight.

Personnel: Friedrich Gulda: piano, baritone saxophone; Ack Van Rooyen: trumpet; Bengt-Arne Wallin: trumpet; Benny Bailey: trumpet; Wili Meerwald: valve trombone; Erich Kleinschuster: trombone; Fatty George: clarinet; Arne Domnerus: alto saxophone; Rune Gustavson: guitar; Georg Riedel: bass; Egil Johansen: drummer; Nat Peck: trombone; Robert Politzer: tuba; Ron Simmonds: horn.

Goes to Santander

Tracks: Fish This Week; Santander; Vacushna; The Uptown; Sister Sadie; Lover Man; Fata Morgana Altamira.

Personnel: Red Behnik: piano; John Treichler: bass; Mani Neumeier: drums.

At Chateau Fleur De Lis

Tracks: Now's the Time; For You; Take Five; Pennies From Heaven; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; Canalla; Things Ain't What They Used to Be; Alice in Wonderland; Swingin' Shephard Blues; Things Ain't What They Used to Be.

Personnel: Elsie Bianchi: piano, Hammond; Siro Bianchi: tenor saxophone, flute, bass; Peter Brunner: drums.

Big Deal! Weinberger Library Funk UK 1975-1979

Tracks: Big Deal!; Over And Out; Riff Raff; Rhythm-Rhythm-Rhythm; Integration; Point Blank; Soul Punch; Tooty Flooty; Make No Bones; Centrefold; Knock On Wood; Gone-Gone-Gone; Do The Stumble; Hydrogene; Focus On The Middle East; Santaren.

Personnel: Various artists.

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