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...
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.
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.