Tag Archives: New Release

Inge Brandenburg: I Love Jazz

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Inge Brandenburg was “the German jazz singer” of the 1960s.  Despite of her incredible talent she was not able to succeed commercially as a Jazz musician. This year would be her 90th birthday but it is also the 20th anniversary of her death.

German film-maker and producer Marc Boettcher released a portrait of Inge Brandenburg in 2011 called “Sing! Inge, Sing!”. The Berlin based label unisono-records edited and remixed 18 unpublished songs out of the material for this film and released them with this album “I Love Jazz” for this anniversary.

Born 1929 in Leipzig, and grown up in difficult circumstances in Nazi-Germany, Inge Brandenburg was used to stand on her own feet. During the German economic miracle, she was suddenly celebrated as the best European jazz singer, compared by Time magazine with Billie Holiday. But the German audience ignored the talent of the outstanding jazz singer and the record industry tried to reduce her (unsuccessfully) to „Schlager“-music. The story of her life became a sad story: after being ignored by record labels she became an alcoholic, she lived from social welfare and she died alone and almost forgotten in 1999 in Munich. The film and now this album are a great reminiscence of Inge Brandenburg and the Jazz orchestras of the radio stations in the 1960s in Germany.

The 18 songs of the album are a colorful mix of Jazz standards, musical and pop songs,  sung in German or English, recorded live or in the studio with combos and jazz orchestras and contain illustrious names of the German jazz scene like Paul Kuhn & SFB Big Band, The Klaus Doldinger Quartet, WDR jazz orchestra with Dusko Gojkovich and Erwin Lehn & the SDR big band.

The songs have been carefully revised and remastered by Patrick Römer from unisono-records and they show not only the amazing voice of Inge Brandenburg but also the vitality of the scene in the 1960s in Germany with all those great jazz orchestras and their incredible arrangers.

The album starts with “A Taste of Honey”, recorded in 1970 with Erwin Lehn & SDR big band, straight and easy played and sung.

We hear the same band in the next song “Like A Straw”, a composition by Wolfgang Dauner and lyrics by Inge Brandenburg. A quite challenging melody with big interval jumps that are mastered perfectly.

“Cry Me A River” comes next, again with Erwin Lehn and his orchestra, recorded in 1963. The remarkable arrangement was done by Joki Freund and Inge shows that she is able to interpret this well known song in her own and unique way.

The next song “Zeig Mir Was Liebe Ist (Show Me What Love Is)” is a composition by trombonist Peter Herbolzheimer with lyrics from Inge Brandenburg. This is a pop song from the 1970s, very entertaining with a mad trumpet solo. The lyrics are in typical “Schlager” style, but I like this song a lot, nice harmonies and a great band.

“Summertime” comes next. This song was recorded in 1963 with the Klaus Doldinger Quartet. After a free first verse the band plays the song just easy swinging in an unusual 3/4 meter.

“Was Weisst Du von Liebe (You Don’t Know What Love Is)”, one of my favorite ballads, was recorded in 1964 again with Erwin Lehn and his orchestra and impresses with the sound of that era, sweet saxophones and dampened trumpets.

“Moritat von Mackie Messer (Mack The Knife)” is the next song.  The Berlin-based RIAS orchestra plays this classic nice and easy swinging and I enjoy to hear a version with the original German lyrics by Bertolt Brecht.

“Stella by Starlight” from 1959 with the WDR big band (with Dusko Gojkovich on trumpet) is definitely my highlight on the album. Inge Brandenburg always wanted to sing jazz and this song is for me the proof that she really understood this music as good as the great jazz singers from the US and it’s really a shame that she never could make a career with her talent.

“What’s the Matter Daddy” live recorded in 1964 with the Klaus Doldinger Quartet shows the bluesy side of Inge’s singing. Highlight of the song is the last verse where she and Klaus Doldinger on sax have their duet-duel and really push it to a grand finale.

The album continues with the jazz standard “But Not For Me”.  A very clean and transparent recording with pianist Klaus Koenig and his trio. The song was live recorded in 1965 in Zurich for the Swiss radio series “Jazz Live”.

“Zähle nicht immer die Stunden (Do Not Always Count The Hours)” by Heinrich Riethmüller (he became famous by writing the German lyrics of Disney’s The Jungle Book) is the next song. This ballad was recorded in 1961 with the NDR big band and impresses with an outstanding arrangement and Inge’s soft but accurate singing.

“Makin’ Whoopee” sung in German with an excellent translation of the lyrics by Paul Kuhn and Inge’s humorous interpretation keep the spirit of this funny song.

“St. Louis Blues” again with Klaus Koenig and his trio is very jazzy and bluesy and right in line with Inge Brandenburg’s favorite kind of music. Great pleasure in this jam-style song.

“Hello Little Boy” is a rock’n’roll tune recorded in 1961.  Inge is singing and growling and she and the band have a lot of fun in this up-tempo song that is full of energy.

The next song is the classic Jazz standard “On The Sunny Side of the Street” with the SFB orchestra. A great arrangement by Jerry van Royen and Inge shows her ability to sing in a low pitch. Patrick Römer from unisono records told me that he found out that his father Rolf Römer (sax) plays with the SFB orchestra on this recording. Nice surprise.

“Round Midnight” with the Michael-Naura-Quartet from 1963 comes next.  Inge’s voice alone carries us through the song, not much of background is needed and the band plays very discreet and reserved.

The song “Das Riesenrad (The Ferris Wheel)” brings us back to the recording session from 1970 with the SDR big band which we could hear in “Like A Straw” – another composition by Wolfgang Dauner with lyrics from Inge. A nicely swinging medium fast song with a challenging arpeggio-like melody.

The last tune on the album is the title song “I Love Jazz”. This dixie-style tune was recorded in 1961 with the NDR big band, that plays here more like a marching band then as a swing orchestra. A funny closing song for this album and another perfect example of the versatility of Inge Brandenburg singing.

The 18 songs on this album are a great reminiscence of Inge Brandenburg and an entertaining and impressive compilation of an almost forgotten incredible Jazz singer from Germany. The bands and the arrangers are the best you could find at this period and so this album is also a great retrospective of German big band music.

Also, special thanks to Marc Boettcher and Patrick Römer for collecting, analyzing and selecting the material and for polishing it in a way that the spirit of this era and the sound expectation of today blend well with each other.

This album is a perfect combination of vocal jazz and big band music and if you enjoy this you will not be disappointed.  For all non German-speaking readers it is a great opportunity to discover that it is possible to swing and groove in German.

This is the English press info PDF file with all the details about the album: I Love Jazz – Press Info

Here is the (German) trailer of the movie “Sing! Inge, Sing!”:

I added the press info PDF for the movie (in English) which contains a great biography: Movie – Press Info

And finally a playlist on Spotify:

Dann Zinn: Day of Reckoning

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California based saxophonist Dann Zinn has just released his fantastic album “Day of Reckoning” where he presents nine new original compositions along with a great version of the classic ballad, “Blame It On My Youth.” Zinn created this project specifically for his longtime collaborators Taylor Eigsti on piano, bassist Zach Ostroff and drummer, Mark Ferber.

“Day Of Reckoning” was recorded in the final weeks of the legendary Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA. Dann Zinn explains: “We ended up being in Studio A, which is actually the best sounding room in Fantasy Studios. However, we could only isolate the bass, which made for a really live situation. A live vibe but a studio sound. So, what you’re hearing is just full on takes we played beginning to end.”

The album starts with the title song “Day of Reckoning” a fast and energetic composition inspired by John Coltrane and Michael Brecker. The song starts at full throttle, with a great saxophone solo, slowing down for the bass solo and gathering speed again for the piano solo. This song is one of my favorite songs on the album and what impresses me most is the energy and the power of drummer Mark Ferber. Dann Zinn has some more details about Mark Ferber: “I wanted the New York vibe on drums, kind of more energy and excitement then you typically find on the west-coast kind of musicians.” Excellent choice.

“Longing” comes next and this tune is Dann’s favorite tune on the album. It starts very calm with a centered and pretty piano intro inspired by cinematic music. The melody is played in different keys like in classical music. The solo part alternates between piano and saxophone and the song winds down at the end with the theme from the intro. Dann has again some more information: “It was written very quickly. I turned on the voice memo on my mobile phone and played the melody. I played it to the guys and they came with all those elements. The melody changes keys and the band keeps adding stuff.”

The album continues with “Continental Divide”. It starts very energetic as a duet between sax and drums in the tradition of Michael Brecker (to whom the album is partly dedicated) and Jack DeJohnette. The singable melody is very much inspired by pop-music melodies and the bridge makes some weird jumps. We hear brilliant solos from Taylor Eigsti on piano and Dann Zinn on saxophone.

“Blame It On My Youth” the only standard on this album comes next. Dann has some more details: “We played it in the studio and everybody took a solo. The song was about 10 minutes long and we had to shorten it. For the piano solo the changes move twice as fast with a half time speed and for the sax solo the changes move normal but with double time feel. This helped to compress the tune. The end was played very spontaneous and is one of my favorite parts of the record.” A very beautiful ballad and also one of my highlights of this album.

“Brave New World” was written in “one fell swoop” as Dann Zinn explains in his podcast: “I picked up my sax, pulled out my phone, hit voice memo and played the song from beginning to the end, so the melody you hear came out in one fell swoop. I wrote it down, went to the piano and made chords, and voila. For a song I would like to give a good anchor, give a good beat and have a melody that can stick in your head.” This song is no exception. Great melody and and an easy to follow form with a very traditional Latin/Swing mix for the groove. Dann plays a fantastic saxophone solo and we hear the live sound during the bass solo with Zach’s voice accompanying his improvisation.

Dann has started a nice podcast where he presents once per week a lot of background information for each song and where I could collect all those details for the first five songs of the album. So for the remaining five songs I would recommend that you follow this podcast under:
https://www.dannzinn.com/podcasts/

Dann shows his versatility on “Infinity Road” where he switches to soprano sax and on “The Journey Home” where he picks up the flute.

“Family Reunion” and “Don’t Look Back” impress with singable melodies and “Time’s Up” is a nice grooving modern jazz composition.

Altogether this album is a great example of contemporary jazz music where saxophonist Dann Zinn has gathered some fine musicians and recorded the music he loves to play. The focus is jazz music but the inspiration and the compositional elements come from different sources like jazz, pop, cinematic and classical music and lead to an excellent album which I can really recommend.

Two official CD release concerts take place on May 30 in San Jose and May 31 in Oakland. So, time enough to organize your trip if you don’t want to miss these events.

Dann has a nice website with a lot of background information and updates on live performances under:
https://www.dannzinn.com/

And finally a complete playlist for the album on Spotify: