What you now hold in your hands is a collection of jazz music from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), compiled by Jazzanova. This mixture is an attractive blend of Latin-influenced swingers, tricky waltzes, bossa flavoured bop and big band monsters. Recorded in the 60's, these locked away treasures document the pure and individual sound of the little-known East German jazz scene. All the tunes were originally released by the state-owned Amiga label, the only record company available to East German jazz musicians. The unique and refreshing vibes of these rare recordings from behind the Iron Curtain are always in our DJ boxes, as they merge smoothly into the club sound of the 90's jazz movement.
The opener is Zwielicht by the Manfred-Ludwig-Sextet, with its straight to the hip bossa rythms and lifting hom sections. The sextet was founded by the saxophonists Ernst-Ludwig Petrowski, who became widely known across the East and West border, and Manfred "the Catcher" Schulze. Schulze acquired his nickname for his habit of using his fists during discussions about music.
Zwielicht and also the beautiful waltz Gral were recorded in 1964 during a tour by US singer Dorothy Allison through the GDR.
Uli Turkowski, Horst Kruger - Modern Jazz Big Band 65
Another warm and pulsating waltz by the Manfred-Ludwig-Sextet is Scandinavia, dating from 1963. We think the group must have made their trip to the North during the Spring. With its creamy floating solos by Heinz Becker (tp), Ernst-Ludwig Petrowski (as) and Siegfried GroB (p), this song has become one of our favourites.
On Chano's Track by Toby Fichelscher is a dedication to the legendary Chano Pozo, Dizzy Gillespie's percussion player. This is real drum & voice - big bongo business. The drummer and singer Fichelscher was a central figure in the flourishing Berlin jazz scene until 1961, when the Berlin Wall cut the musicians off from each other, preventing him from ever again recording in East Germany.
Theo Schumann Combo
From "Modem Jazz Studio 3", released in 1969, we took Episode, an electrifying theme by Volkmar Schmidt and Rien, a further exploration in jazz waltzes by Michael Fritzen. A planned contribution on that record by the piano wizard Joachim Kiihn was replaced with the recordings of Fritzen, after Joachim and his brother Rolf defected from the GDR shortly before record release. The state-controlled Amiga would not release any more of the dissident's work. We move on to the Werner Pfuller Quintet, which was influential in the jazz environment of the GDR during the 50s. It is represented here with a catchy version of Basie's tune Good Bait. Recorded in 1961, this standard is the only non-original composition in this compilation.
Klaus Lenz, the "Spiritus Rektor" of the East German jazz scene, echoes the big band sound of Clarke/Boland. Lenz, a trumpet player and arranger, formed the "Modem Jazz Big Band", which later became the "Modem Soul Big Band". These big bands were formed for a few weeks every year and were not only a set-up of all-star bands, but gave a foundation to new talents, many of whom became bandleaders, such as G. Fischer or Ulrich Gumpert. We found that the lovely Zottos and bossa-based Kleines Lied fiir Eric give a worthy impression of the work of Lenz. Kleines Lied fiir Eric, recorded live in East Berlin, was dedicated to Eric Dolphy, who died half a year earlier in West Berlin.
Another sensation for us while digging in the crates, was the discovery of an EP by the Theo Schumann Combo, which included this finger-snapping high-speed tune Karawane. If you are a treasure hunter, you will remember that special sensation when you salvage a record rarely seen or heard before. This precious gem - from which we also took our cover - is simply called "Jazz" and presents Theo Schumann in his first period of works. He became better known for his beat-influenced releases during the late 60s and also for his work as a bandleader.
Moving outside the collector circles, European jazz has become much more sought-after in recent years, as rumours of its quality spread. In our opinion, this compilation includes some of the finest examples of European jazz. Although created aside from the Western European jazz metropoles and without personal assistance by international stars, the ambitious circle of East German and East European musicians have founded an individual, deep and lyrical language in jazz. Sit back and listen, we will carry on digging for the nuggets...