One thousand (1,000!). That’s the impressive amount of amateur jazz bands that were active in Germany in 1960, according to an article in Time magazine. Unfortunately very few of them were ever recorded, leaving future generations of jazz fans and collectors puzzled about how they sounded. A handful of those amateur bands, however, were luckily documented by their participation in The Deutsches Amateur-Jazz-Festival of Düsseldorf (1955-1966), and the recorded remains spotlight a generation of gifted musicians who played a creative repertoire of unique compositions. This is an attempt to an overview of twelve golden years of amateur jazz bands in Germany (and beyond).
Initially baptised ‘Jazz Jamboree. Amateur-Konkurrenz der deutschen Jazz-Fäderation’, the tournament was founded in 1955 by the Hot Club of Düsseldorf with support of the German Jazz Federation. During the first edition 26 bands, divided into a modern and a traditional category, competed for the first place. The victory was eventually shared by the Birdland Four, a Düsseldorf based band, and the Stefan von Dobrzynski Quartet from Kiel (500 kilometers up north from Düsseldorf).
The initiative was a succes and attracted more and more participants at every edition. The fifth edition in 1959 counted no less than 230 orchestras, almost ten times as much as in 1955. Participating in such a competition was of course an interesting opportunity for amateur musicians. Not only did they have the chance to perform for a jury of music professionals (musicians, critics and record company executives), the festival cooperated with many regional radio stations (which broadcasted parts of the competition) as well as record labels (which cut some of the winners of the festival to disc). It was simply the best possible way for an amateur musician to get exposure and launch an eventual career as a professional musician.
The festival indeed proved to be a breeding ground for jazz talent. Many well-known musicians from the 1960s made their first steps on the scene as youngsters at the Amateur-Jazz-Festival in Düsseldorf. The Birdland Four, the winners of the first edition, included no less than Klaus Doldinger and Ingfried Hoffmann. In the coming years, the competition put the spotlight on the talent of artists like Modern Jazz Group Freiburg (incl. Bruno Spoerri), Jack Van Poll, Joe Haider, Wolfgang Dauner, Eberhard Weber, Manfred Schoof, Walter Strerath, Volker Kriegel, Alexander von Schlippenbach, indeed some of the greatest names of the European jazz scene in the coming decades. After two international editions in 1965 and 1966, the festival ceased to exist.
The recordings and (very extensive) program booklets that remain of that twelve-year-period offer a very interesting insight in the German amateur jazz scene of the 1950s and 1960s.
The laureates in the ‘modern’ category were:
1a Birdland Four (Düsseldorf)
1b Stefan von Dobrzynski Quartett (Kiel)
2 Oskar’s Trio (Düsseldorf)
3 Hans Buchmann Quintett (Halle/Saale)
4 Helmut Breuer Quartett (Frankfurt)
5 Starlight Swingtet (Hannover)
It’s interesting to see a few well-known names among these, at first sight obscure, groups. The Birdland Four included Klaus Doldinger (as), Ingfried Hoffmann (p) and Günther Lennartz (b), who at the same time formed the Oskar’s Trio, where Doldinger switched to piano and Hoffman to drums.
In 1956, the festival was officially named “Amateur-Festival der Deutschen Jazz-Föderation Düsseldorf” and featured no less than 64 participants. Once more, the Stefan von Dobrzynski Quartet had to share the first place, this time with the Helmut Breuer Septet. Some of the most noteworthy participants were Wolfgang Dauner Combo (Stuttgart), Modern Jazz Group (Freiburg), Oskar’s Trio (Klaus Doldinger‘s group, Düsseldorf), the Birdland Five (another Klaus Doldinger group, Düsseldorf) and the Joe Haider Combo (Stuttgart). Here’s the complete line-up of all bands:
I currently have very limited information on the 1957 edition of the festival. The winners in the modern category were the Helmut Breuer Septet and the Modern Jazz Group Freiburg. Please contact me if you have more information.
In 1958 an LP with recordings of the laureates of the festival was issued for the first time by Metronome Records. Side A was devoted to the traditional bands, while Side B was reserved for the modernists. This is the discographical information:
B1 Modern Jazz Group (Freiburg) – Carroll’s Interlude (H. Mobley)
Personnel: Umberto Arlatti (tp), Francis Notz (ts), Ewald Heidepriem (p), Karl Theodor Geier (b), Eberhard Stengel (d)
B2 The Bertlanders (Berlin) – The Lady Is A Tramp (Rodgers/Hart)
Personnel: Heinz Wulfestieg , Carl-Wolfgang Wiesenthal (tp), Aribert Knopf (tb), Dieter Siebert (as), Hansjoachim Leidel (ts), Detlev Clausen (p), Joachim Gielow (b), Kurt Giese (d)
B3 The Jazz Ambassadors (Viersen) – Wee Dot (M. Davis)
Personnel: Koos Van Beurden (tp), Jack Van Poll (ts), Manfred Welslandt (p), Günther Lennartz (b), Kurt Bong (d)
B4 Gerhard Hoffmann Septett – Taps Miller (C. Basie)
Personnel: Manfred Schoof (tp), Gerd Hoffmann (tb), Horri Michels (ts), Frank lemaire (bs), Hors Heuser (p), Siegfried Maroldt (b), Hans Liebezeit (d)
B5 Mac Reimann Sextett (Marburg) – Pre-Amp (A. Farmer)
Personnel: Pete Schmidt (tp), Olaf Kübler (ts), Mac Reimann (g), Karl Immel (p), Heribert Frotz (b), Heiner Cramer (d)
B6 Swing Group (Gelsenkirchen) – Rose Room (Williams/Hickman)
Personnel: Theo Sevin (vib), Ernst Dittke (cl), Rolf Büsing (g), Hans Günter Quass (g), Hennes Jacob (b), Kurt Tasche (d)
All titles recorded 4-5 October 1958, Düsseldorf.
It’s interesting to see the name of Manfred Schoof appear, as he would become one of the leading voices of the German free jazz scene. Also noteworthy is the name of Dutchman Jack Van Poll, who was playing a lot of this kind of festivals in those days (and seemed to be always winning them). Metronome also issued an additional EP with traditional jazz recordings of the festival that is not pictured here because it’s outside of the scope of this blog.
In 1959 Metronome Denmark again released a LP with recordings of the festival. This is the discographical information:
B1 Amateur-Festival-Combo ’58 – Raumknoten 114a (Siebert)
Personnel: Umberto Arlatti (tp), Luigi Pelliccioni (as), Klaus Doldinger (ts), Detlef Claussen (p), Günther Lennartz (b), Peter Baumeister (d)
B2 Frankfurter Jazz Trio (Frankfurt) – Charmain (Rapee/Pollack)
Personnel: Heinz Sauer (ts), Peter Troschke (b), Peter Baumeister (d)
B3 Modern Jazz Trio (Freiburg) – Contour (Drew)
Personnel: Umberto Arlati (tp), Bruno Spoerri (ts), Ewald Heidepriem (p), Karl Theodor Geier (b), Eberhard Stengel (d)
B4 Oskar’s Trio (Düsseldorf) – Tenderly (Gross/Lawrence)
Personnel: Klaus ‘Oscar’ Doldinger (ts), Günther Lennartz (b), Kurt Bong (d)
B5 Mo-Tett, Berlin – The Preachter (H. Silver)
Personnel: Aribert Knopf-Liesendahl (tb), Günther Praetzel (tb), Allan Truusmann (tb), Thomas Micahel Fest (tb), Christoph Möhle (tu), Detlef Claussen (p), Klaus Verwibe (b), Max Krüger (d)
All tracks recorded 26 October 1959, Düsseldorf
I currently don’t have any more information on the winners of the 1960 edition, but the program booklet mentions some very interesting names among the participants like Manfred Burzlaff Sextet (Berlin), Gunther Hampel Quintet (Göttingen), Modern Jazz Group (Freiburg), Oskar’s Trio (Düsseldorf), Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio (Köln) and the Walter Strerath Trio (Rheydt).
The winners of the 1961 edition, modern style:
- Dieter von Goetze Trio (Frankfurt-am-Main)
- Jack Van Poll Tree-oh (Roosendaal, HOL)
- Fritz Hartschuh Quartett (Frankfurt-am-Main) & Gert Rathje Trio (Kiel)
- Lothar Behr Sextett (Berlin)
- Schmidt-Oehm Quartett (Stuttgart)
Besides Jack Van Poll and Fritz Hartschuh, there aren’t any really familiar names to be found, except for the bass player of the Schmidt-Oem Quartett, which was Eberhard Weber.
To my knowledge, no recordings were issued in 1961.
By 1962, the rights of the recordings had been retrieved by Columbia Records, which released two separate LP’s with traditional and modern jazz recordings of the festival in their ‘Jazz In Europe’ series. This is the discographical information for the second volume (‘folge 2’):
A1 Jack Van Poll Tree-Oh – Oleo (S. Rollins) (Roosendaal, HOL)
Personnel: Jack Van Poll (p), Günther Lennartz (b), Dieter Flimm (d)
A2 The Modern Jazz Group – Round Midnight (Williams – Hanighen)
Personnel: Gerhard Rebernick (tp), Lothar Behr (tb), Gerlach Bommersheim (vib), Joe Kienemann (p), Uli Warlich (b), Christoph Winklmann (d)
A3 Fritz Hartschuh Quartet – Summertime (G. Gershwin) (Frankfurt, GER)
Personnel: Fritz Hartschuh (vib), Rolf Lüttgens (p), Dieter von Goetze (b), Rolf Quenzel (d)
B1 Manfred Welsandt Trio – Nardis (M. Davis) (Essen, GER)
B2 Manfred Welsandt Trio – Many’s Waltz (M. Welsandt) (Essen, GER)
Personnel: Manfred Welsandt (p), Helmut Tügg (b), Joachim Weiler (d)
B3 Klaus Wellen Quintett – The Nearness Of You (Carmichael – Washington) (Krefeld, GER)
Personnel: Koos Van Beurden (tp, tb), Tony Vos (as, cl), Manfred Welsandt (p), Rudi Olbrich (b), Klaus Wellen (d)
B4 Fritz Hartschuh Quartet – Sat Six (Hartschuh)
Personnel: Fritz Hartschuh (vib), Rolf Lüttgens (p), Dieter von Goetze (b), Rolf Quenzel (d)
In 1963, Columbia returned to the old concept and released one LP, with traditional jazz on side A and modern jazz on side B.
B1 Jack Van Poll Tree-Oh – St. Thomas (S. Rollins) (Roosendaal, HOL)
B2 Volker Kriegel Trio – Django (J. Lewis) (Wiesbaden, GER)
B3 Joe Pentzlin Trio – A Little Three Quarter (L. McCann) (Göttingen, GER)
B4 Modern Jazz Crew – St. Tropez Waltz (Kalke) (Stuttgart, GER)
Personnel: Wolfgang Trattner (tp), Jürgen Schmidt-Oehm (tp, tb), Wolfgang Löhnert (fh), Dieter Riemmp (tb), Rainer Braun (tb), Helmut Wilberg (as, ts), Hermann Klempt (as), Siegfried Seyffer (bs), Walter Hüber (bs), Thilo Kalke (p, arr, ldr), Eberhard Weber (b), Roland Wittich (d)
I currently don’t have any information on the 1964 edition of the festival. It seems like no more recordings were issued from that year on. Please contact me if you do have any information on which bands participated.
In 1965, the festival opened its stage to international participants for the first time, changing its name to the ‘Internationales amateur-jazz-festival Düsseldorf’. The winners of the 1965 edition, modern style:
- Harald Eckstein Sextett (Bremen, Germany)
- Jack Van Poll Tree-Oh (Roosendaal, The Netherlands)
- Jazz Combo Usti Nad Labem (Czechoslovakia)
- Volker Kriegel Trio (Wiesbaden, Germany)
- The Free Sounds (Basel, Switzerland)
I currently don’t have any information on the winners of the 1966 edition, but some of the interesting participants were: Walter Strerath Trio, Jack Van Poll Sextett (second place), Joe Tauscher Group, Harald Eckstein Sextett and the Modern Jazz Quintet Karlsruhe.
All pictures: Jazztime Europe collection.