Mangelsdorff Times Two Play Swinging Jazz

Mangelsdorff cover

MANGELSDORFF & MANGELSDORFF: EARLY DISCOVERIES / PARKER: Now’s the Time; Air Conditioning. A. MANGELSDORFF: Dada Marsch; Set ‘em Up; He Went This Way; Ba-Hu-Cha. COSMA: Autumn Leaves. GETZ: Hershey Bar. PETTIFORD: Laverne Walk. GERSHWIN: Embraceable You. DAMERON: Philly J.J. / Günter Kronberg, a-sax; Bent Jeadig, t-sax; Albert Mangelsdorff, tb; Peter Trunk, bs; Hartwig Bartz, dm. FREUND: Anything Else; Gertie; Madame B / Gerry Weinkopf, fl; Rolf Kühn, cl; Albert Mangelsdorff, Conny Jackel, tb; Emil Mangelsdorff, a-sax; Hans Koller, Joki Freund, t-sax; Helmut Brandt, bar-sax; Horst Jankowski, pn; Wolfgang Schlüter, vib; Trunk, bs; Joe Ney, dm. / A. MANGELSDORFF: Studie für Posaune / A. Mangelsdorff, tb; Trunk, bs. / FREUND: Mademoiselle Butterfly; Vielaf; Nico. GILLESPIE-PAPARELLI: A Night in Tunisia / E. Mangelsdorff, a-sax; Freund, Koller, t-sax; Heinz Sauer, bar-sax; E. Mangelsdorff, tb; Trunk, bs; Lex Humphries, dm. / A. MANGELSDORFF: Blues for Joe / Egon Denu, tp; A. Mangelsdorff, tb; E. Mangelsdorff, a-sax; Koller, Helmut Brandt, t-sax; Jankowski, pn; Bill Grah, vib; Attila Zoller, gt; Johnny Fischer, bs; Karl Sanner, dm. / DUKE: I Can’t Get Started / A. Mangelsdorff & Zoller only / A. MANGELSDORFF: Mademoiselle Butterfly; Vielaf. GILLESPIE-PAPARELLI: A Night in Tunisia / Bud Shank, a-sax; Bob Cooper, t-sax; A. Mangelsdorff, tb; Joe Zawinul, pn; Fischer, bs; Victor Plasil, dm. / SWR Jazzhaus JAH-459 (2 CDs)

The Mangelsdorff brothers, Emil (b. 1925) and Albert (1928-2005), were two of the most famous and celebrated of German jazz musicians. Although Emil, the reed-playing brother, studied clarinet at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, he was quickly bitten by the jazz bug and began woodshedding at the illegal Hot Club in that city. This led to his being arrested by the Gestapo, forced into the German army, and sent to fight on the Russian front. Unfortunately Emil was one of the unlucky ones who was taken prisoner and held for four years. Happily he survived, returned to Frankfurt in 1949 and became a jazz legend in his home country. Younger brother Albert took violin lessons as a child and then studied guitar, but was introduced to jazz by Emil. For whatever reason, Albert didn’t get arrested or sent to war. In 1946 he began working as a professional guitarist, taking up the trombone in 1948. Albert became famous for being able to play multiphonics on his instrument.

This two-CD set follows the Mangelsdorff brothers, particularly Albert, through a series of live and studio performances recorded between 1956 and 1963. As one can see from the assembled forces, the two brothers were extremely busy individually and thus rarely had the chance to play together, at least on occasions when a tape was rolling. My general impression of both of them is positive on many counts. They swung and swung hard, not always a feature of German jazz musicians during this period; they were inventive; and they always seemed to be enjoying themselves. That in itself would recommend this set to many a jazz collector. My sole caveat is that, in retrospect, they didn’t sound much different from their American models most of the time. This isn’t to say that they slavishly copied famous American musicians, but their solos had much the same contours and patterns of contemporary Americans. It’s the kind of jazz that would certainly perk up your day if you were having a bad one—as I say, their sheer enthusiasm is contagious—without imprinting itself on your mind as outstanding. But this is why people preferred Phil Woods and Benny Golson to Bud Shank (who plays on the last set here), Horace Silver and Duke Jordan to Pete Jolly, etc. It’s a matter of degree rather than lack of talent, and the Mangelsdorff brothers were nothing if not talented.

Indeed, I would defy anyone in a blindfold test listening to the first set, 12 live tracks by the Albert Mangelsdorff Quintet from 1961 with alto saxist Günter Kronberg and tenor saxist Bent Jeadig, to tell me who the musicians were. I seriously question whether they’d be able to guess the names, but at the same time they’d be suitable impressed by their jazz chops. It’s that kind of album. Nearly all the performances on this 2-disc set are bright and exhilarating, and nearly all are wide-open blowing dates with little or no arrangements.

Aside from the Americans Shank and Bob Cooper on the last set, a studio recording from March 1957, the names that will pique the most interest are the outstanding bassist Peter Trunk, who plays on all of CD 1 and part of CD 2; the excellent tenor saxists Hans Koller and Joki Freund; and pianists Horst Jankowski, who later became a big name in pop music, and Joe Zawinul. These musicians add an extra dimension to the tunes on which they play, which in turn sparks a bit more creativity among the surrounding musicians.

In short, if you want to explore German jazz at the nexus of its “cool bop” phase, you can do no better than to acquire this set. Every track is a delight on its own terms regardless of the caveats noted above.

— © 2016 Lynn René Bayley

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Read my book: From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed history of the intersection of classical music and jazz

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