Kurt Edelhagen & His Orchestra: The Unreleased WDR Jazz Recordings 1957-1974

I don't know if these three CDs represent the absolute cream of the Edelhagen Orchestra's legacy. However, I can't imagine the band cut too many better tracks than those to be relished here


I had heard of, but never heard, the Edelhagen Orchestra. After listening to this sumptuous selection of previously unreleased cuts from the Cologne-based outfit – retrieved recently, in top-notch audio condition, from the archives of the WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) – I realised just how much I had missed by not attending previously to the work of this exceptional band.

I don’t know if these three CDs represent the absolute cream of the Edelhagen Orchestra’s legacy. However, I can’t imagine the band cut too many better tracks than those to be relished here. Kurt Edelhagen (1920-1982) believed firmly in the pursuit of beauty and perfection – and boy, did he come close to both, time and time again.

As a fan of the Kenny Clarke / Francy Boland Big Band, I was interested to learn from Bernd Hoffmann’s informative sleeve-note how a large part of the historic importance of the Edelhagen enterprise lay in the fact that, as Dr Hoffmann puts it, “Leading European arrangers, such as the Dutch trumpeter Rob Pronk [who has a beautiful outing on the orchestra’s 1959 take on I Remember Clifford] or the Belgian pianist Francis Boland, cooperated with the Edelhagen band. They all played their role in shaping and reshaping 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.”

I was struck equally by the information that, in a “ Battle of the Big Bands” staged in Cologne in 1969, which featured the Edelhagen, Thad Jones / Mel Lewis and Clarke/Boland outfits, the Edelhagen Orchestra was awarded the first prize. This was the year after Derek Humble (1930-1971) – the outstanding lead altoist with first Edelhagen and then Clarke/Boland – had been seriously injured in a mugging incident in Cologne. You can hear authoritative solos from him on various tracks here, including the Adderley Brothers’ Blues For Bohemia, Nat Adderley’s Work Song and Gillespie’s Shaw ’Nuff.

The last-named has Humble leading his own quartet: these CDs cover the full Edelhagen Orchestra in its chief incarnations between 1957 and 1974 as well as a selection of small groups featuring players variously associated with it. A fair number of such players, like Humble, played with both the Edelhagen and Clarke/Boland bands: for example, Muvaffak “Maffy” Falay, Dusko Goykovich and Jimmy Woode.

In the discography below, I have had to distil the complexity of the information which accompanies Bernd Hoffmann’s sleeve-note into a bare – but I hope sufficient – indication of the many pleasures on offer, in music that ranges from the stride-piano tribute to Waller that is Fatsination (1958) to Triple Adventure and its punchy free interplay between Albert Mangelsdorff, Manfred Schoof and Ronnie Stephenson (1972), the fusion-flavoured Black Eyed (1973) and the meditative, ECM-touched Ow Dallab (1974), the last two both featuring Kenny Wheeler and Gordon Beck.

Over 20 special soloists help make this an essential purchase for anyone interested in the fast-evolving identity of European and British jazz in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, set in (if not, at times, against) the context of the continuing excellence of contemporary modern-mainstream American jazz. Sample spot-on work from, for example, Francis Coppieters (Fatsination), Herb Geller and Maffy Falay (A Cool Day), Philly Joe Jones (Mo’ Joe), Mark Murphy (McArthur Park), Shake Keane and Bora Rokovic (the in-part savagely stoked Russian Roulette, the most Clarke/Boland-like piece here), Wilton Gaynair and Jiggs Whigham (4 For Berlin, an eerily atmospheric piece) and Tubby Hayes (In The Night, composed by Hayes and featuring him extensively on flute). Totally engaging – and historically indispensable – music, this. Enjoy!

CD1: Tubbes; El Mo; Mosquito’s Nightmare; Snap It; K-JD 485; Fatsination; I Remember Clifford; Blues For Bohemia; Save Your Love For Me; Till; Sweet Georgia Brown; Sumphin’; Black Velvet; Bohemia After Dark; Flookey Pootsey; KE (68.32)
CD2: Yah-Yah Blues; Sabbath Message; Chinatown, My Chinatown; Blues Fifteen; Shaw ’Nuff; Beach; A Cool Day; Russian Roulette; Oliver Haydn Whigham 111; 4 For Berlin; Work Song; In The Night; I Will Give You (72.28)
CD3: Our Delight; Ole; Mo’ Joe; The Sentence; 4 + 3; McArthur Park; Oni Puladi; Not Later Now; Triple Adventure; Black Eyed; Ow Dallab (69.51)

Edelhagen Orchestra (1957): Jimmy Deuchar, Milo Pavlovic, Fritz Weichbrodt, Dusko Goykovich (t); Helmut Hauk (btb), Christian Kellens, Ken Wray, Manfred Gätjens (tb); Kurt Aderhold, Jean-Louis Chautemps, Derek Humble, Franz von Klenck, Eddie Busnello (reeds); Francis Coppieters (p); Johnny Fischer (b); Stuff Combe (d).
Edelhagen Orchestra (1967): Hanne Wilfert, Shake Keane, Rick Keifer, Horst Fischer (t); Jiggs Whigham, Manfred Gätjens, Otto Bredl, Nick Hauk (tb); Derek Humble, Heinz Kretzschmar, Wilton Gaynair, Karl Drewo, Kurt Aderhold (reeds); Bora Rokovic (p); Peter Trunk (b); Dai Bowen (d).
Plus intermittent participants & soloists: Mark Murphy (v); Gary Bogle (elg); Tubby Hayes (f); Ferdinand Povel (ts); Herb Geller (as); Manfred Lindner (as); Gerd Dudek (ts); Sahib Shihab (bar); Benny Bailey (t); Maffy Falay (t); Maynard Ferguson (t); Roger Guerin (t); Rob Pronk (t); Manfred Schoof (t); Kenny Wheeler (t); Raymond Droz (tb); Jean “Toots” Thielemans (h); Gordon Beck (p, elp); Rob Franken (p); Bob Carter (b); Peter Erich (b); Jimmy Woode (b); Tony Inzalaco (d); Philly Joe Jones (d); Ronnie Stephenson (d).
CD1: Cologne 1957-1961. CD2: Cologne 1962-1967. CD3: Cologne 1968-1974 except Black Eyed & Ow Dallab, 1973 & 1974, studio unknown.
Jazzline Classics / Delta Media D 77091