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The stationing of US Armed Forces in various parts of
Europe at the close of World War II helped give tremendous impetus to the
formation of a number of big bands and jazz combos in various countries.
Yet, many of the factors and personalities that shaped the advent of Jazz orchestra and groups were indigenous and unique, as well.
In combination, the circumstances that brought the music of the Orchester Kurt Edelhagen into existence in
are very different than the ones that
influenced the formation of the Ted Heath Band in Germany or those that created the resident
orchestras in Great Britain such as The Metropole Orkest or the Jazz Orchestra of the
It would appear that the incubators for much of the development of big band Jazz in
in the second half of the 20th
century were the regional radio [later television and concert] orchestras. Germany
These public radio stations play a special role in the German musical/orchestral landscape. They operate a total of 13 orchestras, including the large radio symphony orchestras [in
, Hamburg, Berlin , Leipzing, Cologne Frankfurt, Baden-Baden/Freiburg, Saarbrücken, and ] and several smaller radio orchestras. Munich
JazzHaus and its affiliates ArtHaus Musik and SWR Music [the “SW” refers to southwestern
] recently released another CD in its “Big
Band Live” series, this one entitled Orchester Kurt Edelhagen Featuring Mary Lou
Williams and Caterina Valente . Germany
The most basic of research led me to understand that Kurt Edelhagen, who was trained as a clarinetist and pianist in Essen, Germany, discovered Jazz during the Second World War, and after the war, along with his long-time associate, drummer Bobby Schmidt, formed a big band that originally played in the clubs of the occupying Allied Armed Forces and subsequently performed before German audiences.
Edelhagen patterned his music after the big bands of Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie and, the man who was to become his idol, Stan Kenton.
"Stan Kenton," said Joachim Ernst Berendt [the leading German authority on Jazz], "at that time was the last word in big band jazz and Kurt Edelhagen appeared to us from the beginning as the German response to the American challenge posed by Kenton."
It seems that Edelhagen’s big break came in March 1954 when he took his band on the weekly television series "Jazz Time Baden-Baden" which was produced and hosted by Joachim-Ernst Berendt. His appearance of the series made the band known far beyond the southwest of
. Edelhagen performed along with numerous
stars of the international jazz scene including Lionel Hampton, Mary Lou
Williams and Chet Baker, among many others. Looking for a singer for his
big band Edelhagen discovered Caterina Valente who joined his orchestra in
Herein lies the context for the JazzHaus Orchester Kurt Edelhagen Featuring Mary Lou Williams and Caterina Valente as it is made-up of November 29, 1954 concert performances by Mary Lou Williams, December 16, 1954 concerts featuring Caterina Valente and July 16/17 and December 20, 1954 baden-Baden studio recordings by the orchestra.
Ulli Pfau wrote these insert notes for the CD:
First Prussian, then Kenton
1954. Germany, a nation under Allied occupation and still bearing the scars of its Nazi past tunes its radios to witness the "Miracle of Bern" and world cup victory just nine years after being at war. At the same time in
a perfectionist bandleader with
horn-rimmed spectacles and a baton was recording Tuxedo Junction and You Go To
My Head. Kurt Edelhagen, dubbed "Prussian" for his legendary
rehearsal discipline and severity with players, harbored a single-minded desire
to match the great Stan Kenton. Südwestfunk had
already been broadcasting jazz for six years by the time Joachim-Ernst Berendt,
an editor with horn-rimmed spectacles and a mission, began organizing a concert
series of his own in March 1954: "Jazztime Baden-Baden". Baden-Baden
Then came the encounter between the Grande Dame of stride piano Mary Lou Williams, "Colonel" Edelhagen and his rhythm group. In November the orchestra headed to
to perform the "Miracle of
Basel": with the big band and All-stars unfettered, the orchestra at last
achieved that Kenton feel. Discipline and free thought combined, a rhythm
section in full swing mode. Tuxedo
Junction featured a Mulliganesque Helmut Reinhardt; clear and sweet, Franz
von Klenck's solo in You Go To My Head.
Yes, indeed: Lester Leaps In. And Switzerland succumbed to a frauleinwunder only the
previous year Edelhagen had turned Caterina Valente into a household name - and
here she was now being showered with admiration like Pennies From Heaven. One encore - a showpiece that ended up as a
suite: Alpha Jazz by Roland Kovac. Roll
on 1955! Basel
You can listen to Franz von Klenck’s beautiful alto sax solo on this audio-only version of You Go To My Head:
And, with the help of the ace graphics team at CerraJazz
LTD and the production facilities at
StudioCerra, here’s a video montage of rare Orchester Kurt Edelhagen LP covers
set to the very Kenton-esque 3X2 which
was composed and arranged by Roland Kovac. Don’t be surprised if the tune You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To plays
in your subconscious while you listen to this arrangement.