|The Bundesjazzorchester in concert.|
Schloss Rheinsberg, 17th August 2012
In this first of two articles celebrating the Bundesjazzorchester as it starts its 25th year, we describe a band which deserves to be better known outside Germany.
Meet the band. The German equivalent of NYJO is entering its 25th year. BuJazzO (pronounced Boo-Yats-Oh, and short for Bundesjazzorchester) was founded in 1988 by the late Peter Herbolzheimer (1935-2010) who ran it for nearly twenty years until 2006. Students enter the band from age of 18. There is an upper age limit of 24. Members can only remain for two years, or for a total of four twice-yearly, week-long courses (known by the utilitarian word Arbeitsphasen - workphases). The winter course normally takes place in Trossingen in Southern Germany. The summer course - such as the orchestra's 50th course since inception, which I witnessed - in the former East.
In the Herbolzheimer era, the band played a lot of the Rumanian-born bandleader's charts. Every year fresh faces would come along and learn a limited repertoire. Those muscular Herbolzheimer charts, littered with punchy brass stab chords are still in the band's pad, but BuJazzO now plays in many more idioms, and works under different directors. Artistic Director - installed this year, but with a history of working with and inspiring the band - is Jiggs Whigham. The Cleveland-born trombonist and bandleader, at the forefront of the music has made his home in Germany, and in the Cologne/Bonn area where the band is based, since the mid-1960's. He speaks perfect Rhineland German, and the young members of BuJazzO clearly enjoy his lively and sympathetic leadership.
The band also has a Music Director, saxophonist/ composer Niels Klein, and on this course a Guest Director, Maria Baptist from Berlin, has also been directing the band in her own vivid compositions.
The office of the band is in Bonn, in the offices of the main funder, the Musikrat. The full-time administrative staff of three had been led since inception by Peter Ortmann. The summer the band's management has been taken on by Dominik Seidler. The 50th course which I witnessed marked the handover, Ortmann's major contribution right from the start being rightly celebrated.
|The Bundesjazzorchester trombone section in rehearsal|
The course I witnessed had thirty-eight members: a big band with alternates playing in all sections, plus a vocal jazz ensemble of eleven. These players are the top of the tree, with up to three thousand players eligible to apply as they emerge from the school-age bands in each of the Laender in Germany which fee their alumni into BuJazzO. At its foundation just before the fall of theBerlin wall - the band could only draw on the West German Laender. The band I saw had about a dozen fine young players whose jazz education has prospered in completely new entities during their lifetimes in the former East Germany. These players and youth jazz in East Germany are, in fact, more or less the same age.
I will review last night's Schloss Rheinsberg concert in the second piece -meanwhile the band is off to play two more concerts in the East of Germany, one in Rostock, another in Werder an der Havel.
Contact details for BuJazzO are here. We have further information - just get in touch.