Report: Big Band Concert , International Jazzwerkstatt, Saarwellingen

Rhythm section, Jugend Jazz Orchester Saar. Photo Melody McLaren

Sebastian Scotney writes: 

The strength, depth and quality of Germany's big band scene never fail to impress. Last night's double bill, which brought to a close - well, another close -  the International Jazzwerkstatt Saarwellingen, offered two very contrasted bands, well supported by a full house in the former dynamite factory in Campus Nobel.

The older generation Jailhouse Big Band, directed by Alfred Hedrich, are amateurs from the region who meet just once a week. The band started 22 years ago as a community band in and for the town. This kind of unit inevitably comes to a fork in the road after a few years where it has to decide either to remain in the community, stay loyal to the players it has, performing functions for friends, family etc, or to start to aim higher. A few years ago Jailhouse opted for the latter route, and the results are impressive. They have a very characterful soulful singer in Jessica Schöfer. Gilad Atzmon joined the band for an unfamiliar - to me - Peter Herbolzheimer chart called Ulla in Afrika, which caught the township vibe very effectively. Atzmon took the cue of it being an African adventure... to play an Egyptian-inspired solo. Atzmon has built a substantial following and fan base in this part of Germany, and his humour and his tendency to free expression act as counterpoints/goads to the  Germans' adherence to convention and to order.

The second set brought the regional youth jazz orchestra, the Jugend Jazz Orchester Saar, very effectively and tightly directed by Martin Sebastian Schmitt, who inspired energy, and real commitment across a broad range of charts. One soloist caught the ear in particular, trumpeter Thomas Feid, who made a solo on Chick Corea's Spain build effectively, inexorably, thinking in sentences and paragraphs. Feid is worth looking out for: the Youtube clips of him all come from outings across the border in Metz, where he has clearly also made his mark. He's moved on quite a few notches since THIS - recorded in 2011.

Thomas Feid. Photo credit: Melody McLaren

I can't help wanting to put the presence of the Global Music Foundation and musicians like Jean Toussaint, Tina May and Bruce Barth in Saarwellingen into some kind of  context: Saarwellingen, population just 14,000 is tiny. It is in the Saarland, which has a population of less than a tenth of that of either NordRhein-Westfalen or Berlin-Brandenburg. And yet these lucky young Saarland musicians have been working with the calibre of international professional which would definitely match those of the best available to their counterparts in either Berlin-Brandenburg  or NRW/Cologne. They appeared to love it, to thrive on it. The commitment of the Gemeinde Saarwellingen to bring international calibre jazz into its midst, and to punch way above its weight, is to be saluted.

Melody McLaren's photostream of the Jazzwerkstatt

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