In April 2000 the not yet five year old Summit Jazz Orchestra, which makes its home in Regensburg, Germany, welcomed 79 year-old jazz legend Clark Terry for a twelve-day tour and recording session that music director/bass trombonist Christian Sommerer describes as “a lifetime experience for every single musician” in the SJO, whose members come from all over the country and whose ages range from 21 to 30.
If the tour was anything like the album, audiences must have been blown away by Terry and the orchestra. Although in poor health and suffering from diabetes, Clark is in magnificent form throughout, playing with the energy and enthusiasm of someone many years his junior. Clearly, he was inspired by the SJO, which returns the compliment with spirited blowing of its own.
The album’s centerpiece is the eighteen-minute medley “Clark,” which comprises the standards “Autumn Leaves” and “When I Fall in Love” and Terry’s composition “Spaceman.” Clark plays trumpet and flugelhorn (alternating one-handed fours on “Spaceman”), and there are bracing solos by baritone saxophonist Jürgen Zimmermann, guitarist Hanno Busch and tenor saxophonist Hugo Siegmeth.
Clark solos as well on Bert Joris’ “Walkin’ Tiptoe,” Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” (noted here as “Lady Sophie”) and the standard “Just Friends,“ plays and sings on one of his popular specialty numbers, “I Want a Little Girl,” wraps up the session with his classic “Mum-bles” routine (even more hilarious in faux German!) and takes a breather on only two numbers, Eric Veldkamp’s “Two Sides” and John Coltrane’s “Miles’ Mode.”
The SJO, whose members earned their stripes in Peter Herbolzheimer’s superb National German Youth Jazz Orchestra (BuJazzO) and various other regional youth jazz ensembles, is close-cropped unit with remarkable rhythmic power and a number of top-drawer soloists. Besides those already noted, they include altos Ulrich Wangenheim (“Two Sides”) and Markus Lihocky (“Miles’ Mode,” “Mumbles”), pianist Michael Wollny (“Walkin’ Tiptoe,” “Miles’ Mode”), trumpeter Sven Klammer (“Walkin’ Tiptoe”) and trombonist Martin Ostermeier (“Two Sides”). Together with the incomparable and seemingly ageless Clark Terry, they have produced an album of consistently exhilarating big band jazz.
Personnel: Tobias Weidinger, Axel Schlosser, Sven Klammer, Martin Auer, Eric Beldam (5), trum-pet; Markus Lihocky, alto, soprano sax; Ulrich Wangenheim, alto, soprano sax, flute; Mark Wyand, tenor, clarinet; Hugo Siegmeth, tenor sax; J
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