This new release by Germany’s most celebrated young Jazz ensemble, BuJazzO (shorthand for Bundesjugendjazzorchester), was actually recorded in 1987 during a European tour led by the superlative composer / arranger / educator Peter Herbolzheimer. As the liner notes are in German it’s hard to pinpoint every destination but we managed to identify Turkey, Croatia, Rumania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia along with several stops in Germany. As is the case with Great Britain’s renowned National Youth Jazz Orchestra, some of Germany’s most highly regarded Jazz musicians are “graduates” of BuJazzO, and one need only listen to the ensemble to understand why that is the case. These are quite simply the finest young players Germany has to offer, and this is a country wherein big bands are widely admired and liberally supported. It’s difficult to find fault with anything BuJazzO undertakes on this wide–ranging album that includes compositions and / or arrangements by Herbolzheimer, Marko Lackner, Edu Lobo, Toots Thielemans, Erwin Schmidt, Allie Wrubel, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny and even singer Dianne Reeves engirding a pair of durable standards, Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” and the Gershwins’ “Lady Be Good.” There are times, as on Wrubel’s zestful “Masquerade” or Hancock’s charming “Dolphin Dance,” when the orchestra reminds me of Rob McConnell’s peerless Boss Brass. If there’s a drawback it is that none of BuJazzO’s company of consistently impressive soloists is named. Nor are the vocalists, one of whom (either Christofer Benn or Marc Secara) is featured on a ripping version of Thielemans’ “Bluesette” and another (female) on “Freedom Dance.” The vocal group as a whole performs on “Valentine” and “Lady Be Good.” Eight of the charts are Herbolzheimer’s — “Valentine,” “Bluesette,” Lobo’s “Pra Dizer Adeus,” Schmidt’s “Groovin’ on Dr. John,” Metheny’s colorful “Heartland,” Reeves’ earnest “Freedom Dance” and his own “Mixolydian Highlander” and “Silhouette.” Lackner wrote and arranged the high–powered opener, “Morello.” This is a marvelous young ensemble doing what it does best in front of enthusiastic audiences, and the album’s liberal 76:47 playing time is icing on an already delicious cake.
The world of jazz is a musical space with a complex history and haunting appeal--a space to revisit and celebrate. It’s that
amazing moment when you hear a really great song you haven't heard in years and you still know the tune and every word.