The Story Of A Great Band
D 77091 3 CD set
With Discipline and Precision
About ten metres below the stage of the large broadcasting hall, or “Großer Sendesaal“, in the catacombs of the Cologne broadcasting centre a treasure of jazz music was hidden for decades, which I am delighted to be able to present to you now on three CDs.
In April 1957 the new jazz orchestra of Kurt Edelhagen started to practise in the above mentioned wood-panelled broadcasting hall. Since then this stage was rehearsal room, recording studio and venue for the orchestra to meet with renowned European and American improvisers. The results of these studio and concert recordings were then stored as analogue documents – hidden deep down – in the archives of the West German Broadcasting Corporation (WDR). More than three thousand individual tracks and concert recordings offer a fascinating glimpse on the history of the Kurt Edelhagen Orchestra. With increasing fame and the numerous tours the name of the ensemble was changed to: The Kurt Edelhagen All Star Band.
Over the years a huge archive of recordings built up in the cellar. The chronological numbering of the analogue tapes allows us even today to sort the Edelhagen tracks – recorded upstairs on stage – by year. They are the supporting documents to the contract for work and services concluded between the orchestra and the WDR. All recordings, from the start to the dissolution of the contract, are labelled consistently: Kurt Edelhagen and his orchestra. Innumerable WDR radio programmes produced from 1957 to 1974 were based on this inexhaustible “material from the cellar”.
This Edelhagen-compilation strives to portray the development of the Edelhagen Big Band at the WDR Cologne and its reactions to the changes in the world of jazz over time - from cool jazz and hardbop to free jazz. This portrait of the Edelhagen Orchestra is also something else: A history of the predominantly European jazz musicians who have composed and arranged for the ensemble. It is thanks to Jimmy Deuchar, Derek Humble, Stuff Combe, Rokovic and other members of the orchestra that the early Edelhagen repertoire in Cologne developed into music for larger ensembles, breaking away from the traditional US-American Big Band sound. Leading European arrangers, such as the Dutch trumpeter Rob Pronk or the Belgian pianist Francis Boland, cooperated with the Edelhagen band. They all played their role in shaping and re-shaping this orchestra over the years. At the same time the projects with Edelhagen also played an important role in their own development. Boland for instance continued the ideas initially developed for Edelhagen in his own Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big-Band.
Large Orchestras and intimate Line-Ups
The large orchestras and intimate line-ups on this Edelhagen sampler, ranging from quartet to nonet, convey the impression of a buoyant European jazz-life in Cologne. Moreover, Edelhagen’s exemplary work as a teacher at the local academy of music also happened during these early years. His “Introductory Course Jazz” (Coppieters) quickly professionalised the involvement of improvisation in jazz. Also several other members of the orchestra taught jazz at the academy of music and other locations. The Edelhagen Orchestra, as it was recorded for a WDR-television special in 1957, had the following line-up:
Kurt Edelhagen & his Orchestra (1957):
Trumpets: Jimmy Deuchar, Milo Pavlovic, Fritz Weichbrodt, Dusko Goykovich;
Trombones: Helmut Hauk (b-tb), Christians Kellens, Ken Wray, Manfred Gätjens;
Saxophones: Kurt Aderhold, Jean-Louis Chautemps, Derek Humble, Franz von Klenck, Eddie Busnello;
Rhythm Section: Francis Coppieters (p), Johnny Fischer (b), Stuff Combe (dr).
During the early 1960s the regional activities of the orchestra took centre stage. Several recordings for radio broadcasts were made in various cities of North Rhine-Westphalia. These events were called “Concerts for Young People” (“Konzerte für die Jugend”) and introduced numerous American jazz stars and established the international fame of this big band from Cologne. Musicians from the US, such as the trumpeters Shake Kean and Rick Kiefer, saxophonist Wilton Gaynair and trombonist Jiggs Whigham brought change to the Edelhagen All Star Band. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the band’s cooperation with the WDR in 1967, the broadcaster produced a television special entitled: “Kurt Edelhagen on Kurt Edelhagen”:
Kurt Edelhagen & his Orchestra (1967):
Trumpets: Hanne Wilfert, Shake Keane, Rick Kiefer, Horst Fischer;
Trombones: Jiggs Whigham, Manfred Gätjens, Otto Bredl, Nick Hauck;
Saxophones: Derek Humble, Heinz Kretzschmar, Wilton Gaynair, Karl Drewo, Kurt Aderhold;
Rhythm Section: Bora Rokovic (p), Peter Trunk (b), Dai Bowen (dr).
These two line-ups (1957 and 1967) illustrate the change that took place at the orchestra during those years. As the bandleader, who concluded agreements with the WDR each year and which specified the repertoire as well as the number of concerts in North Rhine-Westphalia, could decide independently on the orchestration himself, the actual line-up of the recorded tracks – apart from the soloists – remains uncertain.
The Herne-born bandleader was among the few in West Germany, who provided important impulses to the young national jazz scene already during the early 1950s – starting with his big-band work for AFN Frankfurt, as of 1949 for the broadcasting station Sender Nürnberg and since 1952 for the Südwestfunk Baden-Baden. The quality of the formation became apparent at several international festivals (e.g. Salon du Jazz in Paris) and induced the renowned German magazine “Der Spiegel” to publish a lead story: “Eisgekühlter Hot. Bis die Lippen bluten: Jazz-Kapellmeister Edelhagen“. The article illustrated the work of the bandleader oscillating between big band repertoire and dance music. Also the premiere of the “Concerto for Jazz Band and Symphonic Orchestra“ by composer Rolf Liebermann and the performance of Stravinsky’s “Ebony Concerto“ reflect Edelhagen’s eagerness to compel respect for improvised music by his serious hard work.
Broadly-speaking, his work for the WDR was a continuation of what his band had already done at - what was then called - Südwestfunk (1952-1957). Joachim E. Berendt, an editor of this broadcaster, often presented the Edelhagen Orchestra in his television series “Jazz – Gehört und Gesehen”. In Cologne the workload increased significantly, encompassing music for ARD television shows, dance music recordings and soundtracks for movies. As a jazz orchestra the band worked predominantly for the WDR radio programmes or was sent to international festivals as a sort of “jazz ambassador” - for instance, by the German Foreign Office. Well received trips to the USSR and the Near East established the orchestra’s reputation as a leading big band on an international level. One of the last highlights in the band’s history was its performance during the parade of the nations at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.
“Discipline” and “precision” distinguished the work of this versatile bandleader, who passed away in Cologne in 1982. Ten years later members of his big band remembered their time with Edelhagen at the WDR studios in my WDR radio show.
“We were all employees of the Edelhagen Corporation”
A fictitious talk show on the history of the Kurt Edelhagen Orchestra - with bassist Jean Warland, saxophonists Bubi Aderhold and Wilton Gaynair, pianists Francis Coppieters and Bora Rokovic, trombonist Jiggs Whigham, trumpeter Rick Kiefer, arranger Jerry van Rooyen and bandleader Kurt Edelhagen. The conversations with the musicians, all of whom had worked with Kurt Edelhagen, were pre-recorded separately early in 1991 and formed the basis for a WDR radio broadcast on the 10th day of the bandleader’s death, who had passed away on 9 February 1982 in Cologne. The sound bites by Edelhagen himself were taken from three radio interviews recorded in 1964, 1967 and 1970.
Jean Warland: In 1956 I was working for a French bandleader. Kenny Clarke was his percussionists and a few other good jazz musicians were in the same band. Among them was also my friend Jean-Louis Chautemps, an excellent French tenor saxophonist. One day Jean-Louis came in beaming with joy and told me about an offer he had received from a certain Kurt Edelhagen, who was planning to establish an international jazz orchestra in Germany. Jean-Louis was invited to join. I was certain that I would also be contacted in due course, but Edelhagen just ignored me. That was my first “encounter” with Kurt Edelhagen. Soon we started to talk about this new band; some of its members were old friends, for instance the pianist Francis Coppieters, Stuff Combe on the drums and bassist Johnny Fischer from Vienna. The orchestra started to work with arrangers the likes of Rob Pronk and Francy Boland. Slowly we got used to listen to the WDR broadcasts in Brussels. This was a European band that played like none before.
Bubi Aderhold: What an excellent saxophone line-up that was, back then in April of 1957: Franz von Klenck and Derek Humble – alto, Jean-Louis Chautemps and I – tenor, Eddie Busnello – baritone saxophone. I got to know Kurt in December of 1948. We were on tour with the Joe Wick orchestra when the band broke up in Frankfurt. Then one evening Edelhagen came in and made us - trumpeters Fred Bunge, Arne Hülpers, trombonist Erich Well and myself - an offer to join him. We already knew his band from the AFN broadcasts. This was an interesting offer as his band was more mature and worked together quite harmonically. In 1950 we moved with the orchestra to Nuremberg and only two years later to Baden-Baden. Finally, in 1957 only three of us followed Kurt to Cologne. The Cologne band was way more aggressive, this was probably the influence of our colleagues from abroad.
Francis Coppieters: Hazzy Osterwald told Edelhagen about me and this is how I ended up in Cologne in April of 1957. I quite enjoyed the challenge because I already knew many of my new colleagues from concerts in various European cities, but also because I could write what I wanted. The fame of the orchestra was the result of the enthusiasm of the then young musicians; Edelhagen always succeeded in attracting enthusiastic young musicians for his projects.
Rick Kiefer: I met Kurt during his holidays in a hotel in Munich and he offered me the position of lead trumpeter: “Come to Cologne. From January on you can be the lead trumpeter.” “Ok, but I have to tell Max (Greger) and I have nothing on paper.” “But I am telling you.” He probably felt that this was not reassuring enough, so he grabbed a napkin from a table nearby and penned down a contract. This is how I came to Cologne.
Jiggs Whigham: The Edelhagen Orchestra soon became known in the US, although back then there existed a clear separation between European and American jazz music. A grooving and swinging German jazz band was quite unique.
Bubi Aderhold: In Germany it was always the same. An orchestra like ours never managed easily to develop its own distinctive character. They would say: “Play ‘Skyliner’, or play like Glenn Miller, or perform in the style of Kenton!” Nobody ever had the idea to ask: “Play like Edelhagen.” But the repertoire of the band – comparable to those of Basie and Kenton – slowly developed here in Cologne and was made possible by the persistent work of several first class arrangers.
Jerry van Rooyen: With his Cologne based band Edelhagen certainly did not want to copy American orchestras and was therefore constantly looking for gifted arrangers: His trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar has written a lot for him; Francy Boland, Rob Pronk and later Bora Rokovic have arranged music for him and they did not do it the way American musicians did it. I myself have also scored quite a bit for this orchestra.
Francis Coppieters: The audience welcomed the band with a wave of enthusiasm. This was an international orchestra with musicians from Germany, England, Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. In addition there were the television shows, which made the whole thing even more special.
Rick Kiefer: At the “Battle of the Big Bands“ (between the bands of Edelhagen, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis and Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland 7 September 1969) at the Sartory-Hall in Cologne our band was awarded the first prize. Especially the Americans in Edelhagen’s team were eager to demonstrate the quality of the band to the musicians of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis.
Francis Coppieters: You must not forget that back then Cologne had a thriving record industry. Kurt always did a great job with the recordings and put a lot of effort into it. He quite liked doing that.
Bora Rokovic: Precision was not forced upon the orchestra. It was already an integral part of the musicians’ work. This led to the development of an orchestra which – to this day – remains unique. The orchestra built a repertoire of its own; that was the decisive difference between Edelhagen’s band and other ensembles.
Jerry van Rooyen: I was often present at studio recordings and I didn’t get the impression that he wanted to do every piece 23-times over. But he was a perfectionist and demanded precision, and there is nothing wrong with that. I have learned from my work alongside jazz musicians that too many repetitions can create problems: The excitement and the crispness wear off.
Jiggs Wiggham: Edelhagen pushed us towards perfection. Sometimes a bit too hard if you ask me. There have been occasions when we worked on the recording of a single piece for four or even five hours. After the twentieth take you say to yourself: “Is this really necessary?” However, if a solo performance was good, he never tried to fine-tune it. That speaks in his favour.
Kurt Edelhagen: For me precision is no competition. I don’t try to outdo Krupp in producing the most precise things possible. For me precision is a certain wish to express oneself through music and to work on it down to the tiniest detail possible.
Jean Warland: Of course Derek Humble was one of my heroes, an unparalleled lead saxophonist – who always showed up too late for our rehearsals. One Monday Edelhagen brought along a new Francy Boland arrangement: “Sax No End”, which was later made famous by the Clarke-Boland-Band and which included a beautiful saxophone section. Edelhagen soon realized that the difficulty in this piece lay with the saxophones and he immediately started to practise this section with us – without Derek. This went on for about 20 minutes and Derek still didn’t show up. At that point trombonist Otto Bredl stood up, went to the door and told the other saxophonists: “When I see Derek I will give you a sign and you stop rehearsing. We will surprise him a bit.” Finally Humble turned up and took his place with the other saxophonists. Edelhagen gave the signal and the five saxophonists performed this long and extremely challenging unison sequence without a single mistake. Derek brilliantly played at sight and he was not the only musician performing at this level. All the instrumentalists were truly first class.
Wilton Gaynair: I joined the Edelhagen band in 1964 when the orchestra was swinging at its best and most of the musicians had great fun performing. They had just returned from Russia. We travelled on to Switzerland for three weeks and performed together with the Blue Angel-Girls from Paris and played “Chinatown” for them. The saxophone section was made up by Derek Humble, Karl Drewo, Heinz Kretschmar and Bubi Aderhold. Later Edelhagen repeatedly wanted to break up this group. I advised not to destroy this line-up with its truly fantastic sound.
Kurt Edelhagen: I usually appear to be very calm on the outside, but that is misleading. On the inside I am highly emotional and depend on strong feelings to work successfully. I realised this already very early in my career and practised not to listen to my emotions as much as I might have wished. This earned me the reputation of being an emotionally rather cold person. Furthermore, when one has to deal with so many different and highly individualistic people all the time as I do, one is pretty much forced to apply certain guidelines to treat everyone equally fairly and unemotionally as much as possible. I cannot deny that this might have a certain effect on the music. Basically, I don’t really like cold and sober music. I prefer the ecstatic, the beautiful, the rejoicing and the boundless joy for music.
Wilton Gaynair: Slowly the band’s repertoire started to change. We performed more commercial music. At the WDR the Edelhagen band was still a true jazz orchestra. However, at other occasions, for instance at the Chancellors Ball in Bonn, there were complaints almost instantly. “The band is too loud”. The dancers didn’t like the music, it was too jazzy.
Jiggs Whigham: When I joined the band in 1966 it had already been engaged by the WDR for several years. Back then, besides our regular work as a jazz big band we also performed at other television shows which we did not really enjoy. For “Varieté-Zauber” we had to sit for weeks in a studio that resembled a bunker and play light music. None of us was very pleased.
Jerry van Rooyen: I have written music for Edelhagen for many years. Even shortly before the band unwound we started working on a project for the Olympic Games (Munich, August 1972). Dieter Reith, Peter Herbolzheimer and I had the idea to welcome the participants from each country individually with a short piece of music at the opening ceremony. This idea turned into a show of almost one hour and a half. Of course this was a lot of work but we managed to get it on stage successfully.
Kurt Edelhagen: I have 16 individualists in my orchestra and I also have a responsibility for them. There are no big concert halls in Germany. Certainly not many. This leaves radio- and television stations as partners. The problem with this is that sometimes we have to play at a ball, then at a light music concert, then a jazz concert and after that we provide the music for some sort of television magic show. This leads to severe difficulties for me and the musicians: They have to perform “Rhapsody In Blue” and a day later “St. Louis Blues”- swing music. These musicians must have strong personalities.
Jiggs Whigham: After 1968 the traditional big bands faced difficult times, mostly caused by the rise of rock music. Edelhagen tried to get into the market for commercial music as a competitor to Max Greger and other dance-bands. This worked to some extent and there were some good times. Nevertheless, the band split up on 31 December 1972. On this day we received our notices from WDR and Kurt. I never fully understood the true story behind this development.
Francis Coppieters: We were basically all employees of the Edelhagen Corporation as only Kurt had a permanent contract with the WDR. However, we did work at the WDR almost every day.
Jean Warland: Later Kurt got invited to work on a monthly show for the WDR dance orchestra. He brought his own arrangers and so we performed dance music for Kurt Edelhagen. For Kurt this was a good thing. His health was slowly deteriorating and to me it seemed like a small compensation, a bit of joy for him. Again he could work with some musicians who had been members of his orchestra.
Bora Rokovic: To conclude I just want to add one thing about the 15 years this orchestra was active: You just cannot imagine the orchestra without Kurt Edelhagen. He even gave the name to this fantastic band. Kurt Edelhagen and his orchestra are a German legend; a legend of music, not war or politics.
Kurt Edelhagen: I love beauty and perfection and I also want to have the best orchestra. This was more than just some casual work to pay your bills. I love this orchestra!