Dizzy Gillespie Quintet/Hans Koller New Jazz Stars
(Moosicus Records N1301-1. NDR 60 Years jazz Edition. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)
The German record label Moosicus has a sense of humour — their corporate logo is a moose — but they also have great musical sense. With this album they’ve initiated a project of releasing, for the first time, classic jazz performances from the archives of Hamburg’s public radio NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk).
Since 1953 NDR has been recording the greats of jazz in both a concert and studio context and now these amazing sessions are being made available both on CD and — what concerns us here — vinyl.
The first LP in the series is a ‘split album’ with a different artist on each side. In this case side 1 features Dizzy Gillespie with Bill Graham on baritone sax, Wade Legge on piano, Lou Hackney on bass and Al Jones on drums. On side 2 is Austrian sax man Hans Koller and his New Jazz Stars. The group’s name is no mere hyperbole with high voltage support from at least two rising stars: Albert Mangelsdorff (then only 24) on trombone and Jutta Hipp (28, though the liner notes have her as a mere 18) on piano. Shorty Roeder is on bass and Karl Sanner plays drums.
Both groups were recorded on 9 March, 1953, which means that Gillespie and his merry men were rubbing shoulders in the studio with Germany’s most significant jazz quintet.
So, 60 years on, what does all this sound like? The 180 gram LP pressing is excellent, with immaculate noiseless vinyl on the run-in groove. And the recording is splendid. I don’t know what the NDR did to look after its tapes, but they sound magnificent. These studio sessions are treasures. The rich fullness of their sound will change your mind about listening to mono (high-end audiophiles often prefer it to stereo).
We start with the Gillespie Quintet. They Can’t Take that Away from Me is a deceptively leisurely groover. Dizzy is laid back and agile, blossoming to a huge sound, measured and assured, with deft support from Wade Legge on piano and Graham’s buzzing baritone. But the standout tracks are two Gillespie standards. Manteca, where Lou Hackney shines on strummed bass, Al Jones goes all Latin on percussion and the fat fullness of Bill Graham’s baritone sax begins to really make sense. And Tin Tin Deo where the leader is effortlessly soulful and adroit, enwrapped by Graham’s mournful tones, accompanied by virtuoso percussion from Jones and Wade Legge’s swirling, assertive piano.
The Hans Koller side is more cerebral, and cool (in a good way) where Dizzy was hot (also in a good way). But it swings like hell. The Way You Look Tonight, a showcase for Albert Mangelsdorff’s trombone, is taken at a pace which should be breakneck but is eloquent and engaging, with a dazzling, limpid solo from Jutta Hipp. Koller spirals and plunges nimbly. You Go To My Head is haunting, dreamy, yet precise with Karl Sanner on brushes. Jutta Hipp’s piano has a delicate, lovely quality: sliding, gliding and exploring while maintaining absolute precision, like a hip metronome. Koller is throaty, thoughtful and entreating here.
All the Things You Are has a Bach-like pulse from the rhythm section that calls to mind the Modern Jazz Quartet (then only a year old) with Koller gliding over it and Mangelsdorff providing the foundations.
The 1950s was the heyday of high quality analogue sound recording, before the purity and simplicity of the technology was compromised by multi-tracking and solid-state electronics. And Germany has always been a world leader in this area, so perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that this album sounds as good as it does. It’s wonderful that such fine music has been preserved so beautifully.
These NDR 60 Jazz recordings are beautifully and lavishly packaged. They are strikingly designed, with excellent photographs (Dizzy in a Tyrolean hat) and extensive liner notes. As I mentioned, they are also available on compact disc, if that’s your bag. And indeed you can find a review by Sebastian Scotney of the second release, a tasty Dave Brubeck concert, on CD here.