On Prism, recorded in 1995 (one track) and ’98, the WDR (West German Radio) ensemble from Cologne, another of Germany’s growing phalanx of exemplary big bands, places its indelible mark on five dynamic compositions by music director Bill Dobbins and three colorful essays penned by drummer Peter Erskine and arranged by Dobbins. While these charts are definitely aimed toward the serious–minded listener, they are always accessible and swing like a pendulum, thanks largely to Erskine and his able–bodied teammates in the rhythm section — pianist Frank Chastenier, bassist Paul Goldsby and guitarist Paul Shigihara (Milan Lulic on “Seibernetics”). The first half of the program was recorded in a studio, the second half in concert. The “live” section opens with Dobbins’ briskly percolating showcase for the trumpet section, “Lo Flame,” and includes the multi–faceted “Prism” (spotlighting Erskine and alto saxophonist Heiner Wiberny), Erskine’s expressive ballad “If Only I Had Known” and his polyrhythmic salute to “Bulgaria” (one section of which features no less than five soprano saxophones playing a counter–melody to the brass in ever–higher registers before Wiberny breaks free for a scorching soprano solo). The studio recordings that precede them encompass three works by Dobbins — “Lose Your Life (And It Will Surely Find You),” “Elegy” and (from ’95) “Seiberbetics,” an homage to the pioneering German musician and educator Matyas Seiber, alongside Erskine’s lyrical “Song for Jaco.” Besides Erskine, Wiberny, Chastenier, Goldsby and Shigihara, the WDR’s battle–hardened brigade of enterprising soloists includes tenors Olivier Peters and Rolf Römer, trombonists Ludwig Nuss and Henning Berg, baritone Jens Neufang and the entire trumpet section from ’98 — Klaus Osterloh, Rick Kiefer, Rob Bruynen, John Marshall and Andy Haderer — who ignite a smoldering fire under “Lo Flame.” Neufang, Haderer and Goldsby are especially persuasive on “Song for Jaco,” as are Wiberny (on alto) and Erskine on “Prism,” Erskine again on “Bulgaria” and Chastenier on his feature, “Elegy.” The WDR is a world–class big band, and Prism provides a sparkling showcase for its remarkable talents.
Track listing: Lose Your Life (And It Will Surely Find You); Elegy; Seibernetics; Song for Jaco; Lo Flame; Prism; If Only I Had Known; Bulgaria (71:27).
Bill Dobbins, music director; Heiner Wiberny, alto, soprano sax, flute, clarinet; Harald Rosenstein, alto, soprano sax, flute; Olivier Peters, tenor, soprano sax, flute; Rolf Romer, tenor, soprano sax, clarinet; Jens Neufang, baritone, soprano sax, bass clarinet; Andy Haderer, Rob Bruyner, Klaus Osterloh, Rick Kiefer, John Marshall, trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Horler, Ludwig Nuss, Bernt Laukamp, Henning Berg (3), trombone; Lucas Schmid, Roy Deuvall (3), bass trombone; Frank Chastenier, piano; Paul Shigihara, Milan Lulic (3), guitar; John Goldsby, bass; Peter Erskine, drums.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.