Monday, February 10, 2014

Hans Koller & Friends - JazzHaus

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

"This is the stuff collectors dream of. The numbers induce salivating: a literal trove of never-before-released live jazz recordings dating back to 1947, some 3.000 hours of music. In all, there are 1,600 well-preserved, German-made audio recordings and 350 TV broadcasts by more than 400 artists and groups... That's three down, 1,597 to go. Bring 'em on!"
- Jeff Tamarkin, JazzTimes

One of the most enjoyable side benefits of the recent and continuous release of music on the Jazz-Haus label as described above by Jeff Tarmarkin is the opportunity for listeners based outside of Europe to become familiar with the superb Jazz that was being played on “the Continent” during the mid-20th century’s halcyon days of Jazz.

Availability and affordability were hallmarks of my budget for Jazz recordings way back when the World was young, and even had they been readily available when I was first getting into Jazz, I doubt that I would have plumped my scarce and hard-earned schimolies on LP’s by musicians who were virtual unknowns outside the USA.

That’s all changed thanks to the Jazz-Haus monumental release of music by many European musicians from recordings made of their appearances on German radio and television broadcasts from 1950 through and including the 1970s.

A case in point is Hans Koller, the Austrian born [1921] saxophonist who spent most of his career in Germany until his death in 2003.

Aside from one or two tracks on which Hans performed with fellow tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, I had barely heard Hans until the recent arrival of the Jazz-Haus CD entitled Legends Live: Hans Koller and Friends [N: 101733]. The CD is a collection of ten tracks that Hans recorded live at the SWF Jazz Session Pirmasens on November 13, 1959 and at the SDR Treffpunkt Jazz Stuttgart on September 20, 1960.

The music by Hans and his friends is splendid. For me, as someone who is rather unsophisticated about continental European Jazz, it is the musical equivalent of finding buried treasure.

Hans’ “friends” consist to Roger Guerin on trumpet, Michel de Villers on baritone saxophone, Martial Solal on piano, Fred Dutton on bass and Hartwig Bartz on drums. Percy Heath and Connie Kay of the Modern Jazz Quartet replace Dutton and Bartz on some of the tracks and tracks 7-10 feature the Hans Koller Brass Ensemble.

Klaus Schultz, has written extensively about Hans and his music, including this overview of his career which appears in Barry Kernfeld, Ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz.

“Austrian tenor saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. He studied at the Academy of Music in Vienna (1936-9) and, after serving in the army (1940-46), joined the group Hot Club Vienna (1947), of which he later became the leader. In 1950 he moved to Germany, where he played for a short time with Freddie Brocksieper and then formed a quartet, which made several successful recordings for Discovery in 1952; he also led the New Jazz Stars, which included Albert Mangelsdorff and Jutta Hipp. He worked with Dizzy Gillespie (1953), Bill Russo (1955), Lee Konitz and Stan Kenton (both 1956), Eddie Sauter (1957-8), and Benny Goodman (1958).

He led a quartet (with Attila Zoller, Oscar Pettiford, and Kenny Clarke or Jimmy Pratt) during the late 1950s, at the same time working in Hamburg as the music director of the Norddeutscher Rundfunk jazz workshops (1958— 65) and at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus (1968). In 1970 he returned to Vienna, where he formed Free Sound, the members of which included Wolfgang Dauner, Adelhard Roidinger, and Zbigniew Seifert; from 1975 to 1980 he occasionally led the International Brass Company, which included Kenny Wheeler, Mangelsdorff, and Dauner. He then worked in a duo with Fritz Pauer and performed with Warne Marsh.

Koller played all types of saxophone and also clarinet; he was the leading European tenor saxophonist during the cool-jazz era. He performed at many important jazz festivals and was heard on radio and television throughout Europe. He composed several extended pieces, including the ballet New York City (1968), which are influenced by contemporary art music.”

Here are Ulli Pfau sleeve notes to Legends Live: Hans Koller and Friends [JazzHaus N: 101733].

“At a time when jazz in Germany was still something of a protected species, Viennese-born Hans Koller arrived on the scene with all the electrical energy of a thunderstorm. He had wanted nothing more than to own and play a saxophone since childhood, and when his parents eventually capitulated, the young Hans was left to embark on the life of a musician. That was 1930s Vienna. Then came the Second World War – and with it the GIs. Hardly a night went by without Koller playing the American clubs. In 1950 he moved to Munich, but German boys still lacked experience in the swing and bop genre. Then suddenly: radio broadcasts, first recordings, a quartet with Jutta Hipp, and five stars from DownBeat in 1953 with Albert Mangelsdorff’s quintet; and ultimately a tour with Dizzy Gillespie, followed by a lengthy collaboration with Oscar Pettiford.

To round off the magical year of jazz that was 1959, Koller teamed up with an equally passionate Martial Solal, recently arrived from Paris with Roger Guérin (tp) and Michel de Villers (bs). What unfolded was a memorable SWF Jazz Session, full of the tension and excitement only a live performance can generate. These young men put their individual skills on display with a confident nod to colleagues overseas, where that same year Miles with Trane, Brubeck with Desmond and Coleman with his quartet had already demonstrated the “Shape of Jazz to Come”. The 1960s had arrived by the time these discs were spinning in Germany. And Koller had long since branched out with a very different group of musicians, establishing his credentials as both composer and arranger with his “brass ensemble” in Treffpunkt Jazz Stuttgart.”

The following video tribute to Hans has him performing his original composition Oscar with Roger Guerin on trumpet, Michel de Villers on baritone saxophone, Martial Solal on piano, Fred Dutton on bass and Hartwig Bartz on drums.

1 comment:

  1. Again an excellent research on a leading european saxophonist by Steve Cerra.
    Always interesting for me the special videos also this time coming up with some rare cover prints I had not seen. I add below some more recordings from my collection for interested readers.

    More records from Koller:
    Koller,Hans Hans across the Sea 1952-55 RST-Records 9032913
    Koller,Hans New Sound from Germany 1953 Vogue (jap) 10" 144
    Koller,Hans Hans Koller New Jazz Stars 1957 Bertelsmann 10" 8058
    Koller,Hans The German Years 1957-64 RST Records 903 219
    Koller,Hans u.a. Jazz Collector`s Classics 1953-70 Lufthansa 517621-2
    Koller,Hans u.a. Hello Baden-Baden 1956-60 Jazz Legacy 11095
    Koller,Hans u.a. The Concert 1958 Jazz Legacy 11098
    Koller,Hans u.a. Forum West (Lauth / Haider / Dauner / Ross) 1962-68 Sonarkollektiv 019


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