Tag Archives: Engelbert Wrobel

WAY OUT WESTOVERLEDINGEN / PAPENBURG JOYS (APRIL 8-10, 2016)

I don’t always speak to my college students about Literature; more often, I find myself standing at the intersection of Literature and Life.  So that when a student says to me that (s)he is exhausted because of working too many hours to pay for “things,” I encourage that student to consider, before springing to buy a glittery object, exactly how many hours of work it will cost.  I don’t know if my parental exhortation has any effect, but it is part of a cost / benefit calculation that has sometimes led me to put back something I was about to buy.

Cost and benefit is relevant here, because the person writing these words is still seriously exhausted by the previous weekend’s travel to the Rathaus, in Papenburg, in the larger territory of Westoverledingen, where the Generous Man of Jazz Manfred Selchow lives and has been staging concerts and tours for thirty years.  I know I spent more hours in transit than I did listening to music, but the ten-plus hours of the latter were and are precious.  A few notes follow. But first, a photograph (by my new friend Elke Grunwald):

Rathaus photo by Elke Grunwald

From the left, that’s Engelbert Wrobel, tenor saxophone; Helge Lorenz, guitar; Matthias Seuffert, tenor saxophone; Nicki Parrott, string bass / vocal; Menno Daams, cornet; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Moritz Gastreich, drums.  Others on the program were Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Niels Unbehagen, piano; Bert Boeren, trombone; Bernard Flegar, drums; Nico Gastreich, string bass.  And in the audience there’s a balding fellow with a turquoise shirt and a video camera, as close to the music as he can get without ascending the stage.

Friday night featured a two-set concert by Engelbert, Stephanie, Paolo, and Nicki — a group coyly termed SWINGIN’ LADIES PLUS 2.  The music was lively (TEMPTATION RAG), funky (BLUEBERRY HILL), riotously exuberant (THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE), multi-colored (THANKS FOR THE MEMORY), classic (SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, SHINE, LIZA, ST. LOUIS BLUES) tender (THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU) and Brazilian (Nicki sang BRAZIL and played a samba medley).  I heard delicious echoes of Goodman, James P. Johnson, Garner and Don Lambert, but the quartet was itself as well as evocative, full of sweet surprises in ensemble and solo.

FROM JOPLIN TO JOBIM

If you weren’t in the audience, you can still hear this group — their wonderful CD, FROM JOPLIN TO JOBIM, is available on iTunes and elsewhere.

And that was Friday.

Saturday, post-breakfast, was devoted to a necessary exploration of Sleep.  But at night, there was JAM SESSION NIGHT — four hours and more of sheer pleasure.  It began with a set devoted to Eddie Condon’s music and world, which was started off in just the proper spirit by Nico, reading aloud from WE CALLED IT MUSIC — in German — the passage where Eddie has to go to the induction center to determine if he is fit for service.  (The punchline, in English, is something like, “Get this man a drink!”)  After the laughter died down, Menno, Rico, Bert, Matthias, Niels, Nico and Moritz offered songs directly related to Eddie’s recordings and performances: LOUISIANA, WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE, DIANE, OH, BABY!, THEM THERE EYES, a ballad medley, and MEET ME TONIGHT IN DREAMLAND.  The music also honored Milt Gabler and George Avakian, appropriately.  And it honored Eddie, with beautiful hot lyricism from everyone.

A short pause, and then Paolo introduced his clever AROUND BROADWAY — jazz classics that were originally show tunes in one way or another — with Engelbert, Stephanie, Nicki, and Bernard.  Berlin, Youmans, Gershwin, with intelligent but never pedantic commentary by Paolo.  And we heard HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, BLUE SKIES, OVER THE RAINBOW, ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND, THE MAN I LOVE, and I WANT TO BE HAPPY.  (The audience and the musicians were already happy.  I saw this.)

One of the highlights of the weekend followed, a Hoagy Carmichael set featuring Menno, Matthias, Engelbert, Paolo, Nicki, and Moritz.  The classics were beautifully played and sung: SKYLARK, RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE, NEW ORLEANS, STARDUST, RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE, LAZY RIVER — with two delicious surprises: SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE, which Carmichael’s Collegians had recorded, although not a Carmichael composition, and THANKSGIVING, which was his work.  My marginal notations (what Stephanie called my “grades”!) were very enthusiastic.

Finally — who or what could follow that? — a set led by Rico in tribute to his mentor, idol, and ideal Louis.  A brief AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ led off, then a seriously intent CHINATOWN, a more relaxed MY WALKING STICK, WILLIE THE WEEPER, a Rico-Niels duet on SWEET LORRAINE (unplanned and elegant), two versions of I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA, YOU’RE LUCKY TO ME, A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON, and a two-tiered finale, merging STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE and WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD.

A seemingly insatiable audience called for more, and got it — eleven players assembled for a Benny Carter-flavored I NEVER KNEW and a promise, WE’LL MEET AGAIN.

Delighted, thrilled, elated, exhausted, I went to bed as soon as I could.

After a perfect German breakfast buffet (I dream of these lavish assortments of food, I confess) it was time for Sunday’s JAZZ FRUSCHOPPEN (I now know that the second word means “morning / lunchtime drink,” another linguistic morsel for the word-hoard).  Bert, Rico, Engelbert, Niels, Stephanie, Helge, Nico, and Moritz took on the pleasure of honoring Basie in under an hour, with MOTEN SWING, SPLANKY, a plunger-muted feature a la Al Grey for Bert on MAKIN’ WHOOPEE, SHINY STOCKINGS, ALL OF ME (for the rhythm section) and a searing JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE.

Nicki led Menno, Matthias, Stephanie, Paolo, and Bernard through a tenderly swinging evocation (not imitation) of Billie, Teddy, and Lester, with ME, MYSELF AND I, LOVER MAN, PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE, SAY IT ISN’T SO, THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT, STORMY WEATHER, and WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO — drawing on the best songs that Billie ever recorded, instead of A SUNBONNET BLUE.

And — a proper climax — a JATP set with a five-horn front line backed by Paolo, Helge, Nicki, and Moritz, which presented long versions of TEA FOR TWO, STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY, I SURRENDER DEAR, IDAHO, a BLUES FOR MANNIE, THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME, LADY BE GOOD with Lester’s 1936 solo for two tenors, and an encore of PERDIDO, with swing rather than honking.

It was wonderful.

Yes, I video-ed the weekend, so those who weren’t there should not grieve.  It will, however, take some time for the videos to emerge: courtesy to the musicians requires that they be given a chance to see what they like or loathe.

A Manfred Selchow weekend is a jazz feast, and he’s been doing this and more for three decades.  We are all so grateful.

May your happiness increase!

Advertisements

WHEN IT’S APRIL IN WESTOVERLEDINGEN, GOOD SOUNDS HAPPEN (April 8-10, 2016)

Westoverledingen

Westoverledingen, Germany, a city with an imposing name, is not known worldwide as the cradle of jazz, but memorable music has been created there for the past thirty years and more by Manfred Selchow.  Manfred doesn’t play an instrument, but I feel secure in writing that he has done more for jazz than many people who do play.

I first encountered Manfred, or Mannie, as people call him, as a jazz scholar, because of his splendid documentation of clarinetist Edmond Hall’s life, performances, and recordings in a substantial book, PROFOUNDLY BLUE. Then he did the same thing for another hero of mine, trombonist Vic Dickenson, in a book he called, properly DING! DING!.

But Manfred likes the real thing, created on the spot, as much as he adores recordings — so he has invented and produced concert tours and festivals of some of the greatest musicians of this era.  (Many of his concerts have been recorded and the results issued on the Nagel-Heyer label.)

I first met Manfred and his wife Renate in 2007, when I also had the distinctive pleasure of encountering Menno Daams, Frank Roberscheuten, Colin T. Dawson, Oliver Mewes, Chris Hopkins, Shaunette Hildabrand, Bernd Lhotzky, and others.  At the time I didn’t have a blog or a video camera, so perhaps I only documented those evenings for the much-missed The Mississippi Rag.  

Jazz im Rathaus

Here’s a wonderful example of what takes place under Mannie’s amiable direction — a 1992 romp by Marty Grosz, Peter Ecklund, Dick Meldonian, Keith Ingham, Bob Haggart, Chuck Riggs (video by Helge Lorenz):

and more recently, a 2013 session with Menno Daams, Nicki Parrott, Bert Boeren, Antti Sarpila, Engelbert Wrobel, Joep Peeters, Chris Hopkins, Helge Lorenz, Jan Lorenz:

And since I gather that “Jazz im Rathaus” means roughly “Jazz at the Town Hall,” the shades of Louis and Eddie Condon are properly approving.

Now, for April 2016!  Consider the listings below:

Friday, April 8, 2016 – 8:00 – 10: 30 p.m.

Swingin’ Ladies + 2
Jazzfestival
(with Engelbert Wrobel, reeds; Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, piano; Nicki Parrott, bass / vocal)
Rathaus Ihrhove
Bahnhofstraße
26810-Westoverledingen
Germany

Saturday, April 9, 2016 – 8:00 – midnight.

Jazzfestival “Jam Session Night”
(with Engelbert Wrobel, Paolo Alderighi, Nicki Parrott, Menno Daams, Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Bert Boeren, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Niels Unbehagen, piano; Nico Gastreich, bass; Moritz Gastreich, Bernard Flegar, drums)

Set One: “We Called It Music”: Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren, Matthias Seuffert, Niels Unbehagen, Nico Gastreich (leader), Moritz Gastreich.

Set Two: “Around Broadway”: Engelbert Wrobel (leader), Paolo Alderighi, Stephanie Trick, Nicki Parrott, Bernard Flegar.

Set Three: “The Stardust Road”: Menno Daams (leader), Matthias Seuffert, Engelbert Wrobel, Paolo Alderighi, Nicki Parrott, Moritz Gastreich.

Set Four: “What A Wonderful World”: Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren, Matthias Seuffert, Niels Unbehagen, Nico Gastreich, Bernard Flegar.

At the finale all the musicians join in.

same location as Friday

Sunday, April 10, 2016 – 11:00 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Jazzfestival “Jazz Frühschoppen”
(with Engelbert Wrobel, Paolo Alderighi, Nicki Parrott, Menno Daams, Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren, Matthias Seuffert, Niels Unbehagen, Nico Gastreich, Moritz Gastreich, Bernard Flegar)

Set One: “Basie Jam”: Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren (leader), Engelbert Wrobel, Niels Unbehagen, Stephanie Trick, Helge Lorenz, guitar; Nico Gastreich, Moritz Gastreich.

Set Two: “To Billie, Teddy, and Pres”: Menno Daams, Matthias Seuffert, Paolo Alderighi, Stephanie Trick, Nicki Parrott (leader), Bernard Flegar.

Set Three: “Jazz at the Philharmonic Remembered”: Matthias Seuffert (leader) plus all of the other musicians in various combinations.

same location as Friday and Saturday

And here is another version of that information.  (And now I know what “Vorschau” means, so don’t let anyone tell you that blogging isn’t educational.)

Vorschau

I’m going.  How could I resist?  So I hope to meet some of the faithful there — even people who know of this blog — for good music and good times.

My dear friend Sir Robert Cox tells me that there are many good hotels in Papenburg and Leer only minutes away at €90 – €100/night ($100-110) with breakfast.

For more information, use the phone number on the bottom of the program:

(0049) 04955 933225. (Mainly German speaking, possibly some English)
email: helmer.alberring@westoverledingen.de

or Manfred Selchow (0049) 04955 8216. (English and German)

or Bob Cox (0044) 01634 232934. (English)
email: coxes@tesco.net

May your happiness increase!

THE EARREGULARS ASK THE DEEP QUESTION: JON-ERIK KELLSO, ENGELBERT WROBEL, NICKI PARROTT, JAMES CHIRILLO (April 26, 2015)

“Please don’t do that.  That’s mean.”

As adults, we don’t always hear that particular reproach for unkind behavior, but I wish more people said it when needed, and more people heard it, because meanness — whether it comes at us without a disguise, or it is cloaked in “acerbic humor” — is painful.  And it sticks.

MEAN TO ME one

The great songs that also seem so casual sometimes address the deepest issues. Thus, MEAN TO ME (music by Fred Ahlert, lyrics by Roy Turk) asks this huge question, “Why must you be mean to me?”  Even though it is put forth in the context of romantic love, it is a deep inquiry.

Even when I hear a medium-tempo instrumental version — which will follow — I also hear Annette Hanshaw’s plaintive voice, or perhaps Billie Holiday’s, asking that question.  Why must you be mean to me?

When I most recently heard the song, at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on a Sunday night function — one of those gloriously fulfilling get-togethers that make New York so rewarding — I didn’t hear the words, I confess, because the instrumental joy was so deep that it commanded, in the nicest way, my attention.  The wondrous players were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Engelbert Wrobel, clarinet; Nicki Parrott, string bass; James Chirillo, guitar:

The music they made has no trace of meanness.  Such beauty could, for those who understand it, make us better, kinder, more loving people.  Thank you, James, Nicki, Angel, and Jon-Erik.  Making the cosmos lighter, one note at a time.

May your happiness increase!

THE EARREGULARS SPECULATE ON AMOROUS VENGEANCE IN SWINGTIME: JON-ERIK KELLSO, ENGELBERT WROBEL, NICKI PARROTT, JAMES CHIRILLO (April 26, 2015)

For all the songs that celebrate new love, ecstatic love, surprising love, there are a number where the singer stands, feet planted solidly on the ground, arms crossed, with an accusing expression.  The tears have dried up; what’s left is somewhere between annoyance and rancor.  I think of SOMEDAY SWEETHEART, GOODY GOODY, SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY, I WANNA BE AROUND, and there must be two dozen others.  (YOU RASCAL YOU is related but not in the same thematic skein.)

Our text today is WHO’S SORRY NOW? — often taken at a fast tempo a la James P. Johnson’s Blue Note Jazzmen.

But on April 26, 2015, another glorious Sunday night at The Ear Inn, the EarRegulars were feeling groovy — perhaps groovy as a ten-cent movie — and they knocked everyone in the house out with this version of WHO’S SORRY NOW?  They were, for the record books, Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Engelbert Wrobel, clarinet; James Chirillo, guitar; Nicki Parrott, string bass:

No one expressed a whisper of regret or acrimony, I assure you.

And here is another instant classic from that night at The Ear Inn.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN SWING BECOMES BLISS: ADVENTURES WITH ENGELBERT WROBEL and FRIENDS

EngelSax2010

The man smiling at you might not be a familiar sight, but he is a superb reed player named Engelbert Wrobel.  (Ask Dan Barrett about this master of the saxophones and clarinet).  Wrobel is a splendidly swinging player on his own — who also puts together irreplaceably gratifying jazz ensembles.

Before we proceed, how about some evidence?  Here’s LADY BE GOOD — performed a few years ago by Engelbert, clarinet, tenor; Chris Hopkins, piano; Rolf Marx, guitar; Henning Gailing, string bass; Oliver Mewes, drums — with reed guests Antti Sarpila and Frank Roberscheuten.  Thus, THE THREE TENORS OF SWING:

Evocative without being an exact copy — except when the frontline launches into a delightful reading of Lester’s 1936 solo, something I look forward to.

3_tenors_nahga

This group has made one recording for its own Click label (which delightfully duplicates the black-and-white splendor of a 1938 Brunswick 78 label — we care about such things!) and a new one is just out — THE THREE TENORS OF SWING ON STAGE, recorded at two concerts in 2011.  (In the photograph on the left, it’s Antti Sarpila on the left, Frank Roberscheuten in the center, and Engelbert on the right.)

The sound on the CD is wonderful, the musicians delightfully inspired, and the repertoire varied.  I was listening to it for the first time this afternoon, and when the disc was about halfway through, I stopped it, and said to myself, “I have to write about this right now.  It is so good.”  It features Antti Sarpilla, Frank Roberscheuten, and Engelbert on reeds, with a rhythm section of Rolf Marx, guitar; Chris Hopkins, piano; Henning Gailing, string bass; Oliver Mewes, drums.

Three_Tenors_on_Stage__2_

The songs will say a great deal about the variety and range of this group, evoking (but not copying) Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Benny Goodman small groups, the Ellington reed section, the Basie band, Bob Crosby’s Bobcats and more: BEAN STALKING / SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT / BLACK AND TAN FANTASY / THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE / ANTTIBERT WROPILLA / JUBILEE STOMP / LA VIE EN ROSE / SOUTH RAMPART STREET PARADE / LESTER’S BOUNCE / SIX CATS AND A PRINCE / THE MOOCHE / I LET A SONG GO OUT OF MY HEART / TILL TOM SPECIAL / MISTY MORNING / WEBSTERITY.

I expected a smooth — but not slick — ensemble sound, with a swinging rhythm section, and I wasn’t disappointed.  What was even better was the writing: not just three horns playing in harmony or in unison, but clever arrangements that made this septet sound full and rich.  And although the repertoire (except for four original compositions) predates 1945, there isn’t the slightest hint of “repertory” stuffiness.  One track seems even more fresh and creative than the last, and it’s amazing that this was recorded in concert, with the energy built in to that situation.  It’s the kind of CD about which I say, “I want to go hear that again right now.”  You will, too.

My involvement with the second CD — featuring the International Hot Jazz Quartet (Engelbert, Duke Heitger, trumpet / vocal; Paolo Alderighi, piano; Bernard Flegar) is more personal.  I had heard, replayed, and much admired the first effort by this group — with Mewes on drums — on the Arbors label.

Some readers may know that I write liner notes for jazz compact discs.  But since my range is admittedly (or proudly) narrow, I don’t get asked to write about music outside my pleasure zone . . . and I won’t write about something I don’t like.

I read on Facebook that Engelbert had completed this disc and, perhaps coyly, sent him a message, “Do you need liner notes for this CD?”  Happily, the answer was yes . . . and the music is even happier.  Here are pictures of the covers and you can, I hope, read what I wrote — with no artificial ingredients.

still havin´ cover 200

Inside . . .

still havin´2

And . . . .

still havin´3

And . . . .

Still havin´4

Finally . . . .

still havin´back 200

Now you have it all — all except the music contained within, which is a thorough pleasure.  (I don’t know why the four members are photographed at school desks — they surely have graduated from any institutions of higher swing learning.  But no matter.)

To purchase this CD or others with Engelbert and friends, visit here.  You’ll be lifted into bliss — or your money back.

May your happiness increase!

ENGELBERT WROBEL’S SWING SOCIETY: 20 YEARS

Here’s a new, quite extraordinary compact disc: 

ENGELBERT WROBEL’S  SWING SOCIETY featuring Dan Barrett: 20 Years

Click Records (Recorded 11.08.09 – 12.08.09 in Bonn, Germany) 

Engelbert Wrobel – Clarinet, Soprano, and Tenor / Chris Hopkins – Piano / Rolf Marx – Guitar / Ingmar Heller – Bass /

Oliver Mewes – Drums.  Special Guest: Dan Barrett: Trombone, Cornet (Titles 1, 2, 5, 8, 10, 13)

Titles 4, 10 & 14 plus String Quartet (arranged by Dan Barrett): Nathalie Streichardt (violin), Maria Suwelack (violin), Martina Horesji (viola), Ulrike Zavelberg (cello)

 Wang Wang Blues / Blues For Ben / Pick Yourself Up / Estrellita / Long Live The King / Opus 3 /4 / Cachita / Medley: Take Me In Your Arms – And The Angels Swing / After You’ve Gone / Serenade in Blue / Tricotism / It Might As Well Be Spring / Way Down Yonder In New Orleans / Danny Boy 61:01.

Those are the facts.  What distinguishes this disc from twenty others by living jazz musicians considering many aspects of an older style?

Expertise, originality, passion, and precision for starters. 

I don’t ordinarily comment on the cover pictures of compact discs, but this one is a good guide to what’s inside.  My discerning readers will notice that it places he band, smartly dressed, with their instruments, in an older color picture.  And the blending is seamless, which isn’t a tribute to someone’s mastery of Photoshop, but an indication of how beautifully this small group melds the eternal Present and the hallowed Past.  That Past, in jazz terms, is the Benny Goodman small groups, the Keynote Records sessions created by Harry Lim, the Kansas City Six [Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Eddie Durham, freddie Green, Walter Page, Jo Jones], the Lucky Thompson – Oscar Pettiford –  Skeeter Best trio, and more. 

But this CD isn’t a repertory exercise: the Swing Society would think it an impiety to copy recorded solos off the records.  And although the musicians in this band admire and revere Benny Goodman, Dave Tough, Sidney Catlett, Charlie Christian, Johnny Guarneri, Teddy Wilson, Vic Dickenson, Shorty Baker . . . and on.  But they don’t imitate.  The closest they come is an occasional note or gesture, beautifully executed, in a solo of their own.  So, listening to the swinging drummer Oliver Mewes, I would say, “Damn, that Chinese cymbal of his sure sounds as if he admires Dave Tough,” but you know it’s Mewes making his own delighted way upstream. 

In fact, the whole rhythm section works together in a way that would surely guarantee them a long run on Fifty-Second Street if Swing Street were still musically thriving.  Listen to their seductively nudging playing behind Barrett on TAKE ME IN YOUR ARMS — at the kind of medium-tempo most bands find it hard to sustain for long.  In fact, it would be both instructive and uplifting to listen to this whole CD just for the rhythm section — their groove, their sonorities.  The padding momentum of Mewes’ brushes; the togetherness of Marx and Heller, their ringing solo lines; the just-right accompaniment and romping solos of Hopkins.

But to listen only to the rhythm section would be to ignore Barrett and Wrobel.  For me, Barrett’s name on a disc is a guarantee of swing, wit, and taste.  His trombone sound — so creatively varied — is beautifully captured here, and his trumpet playing (one of the wonders of the age, I think) is as well — although only on WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS.  When will someone get Dan into a studio with just his cornet or trumpet and a sympathetic pianist?  I’m waiting.  His string-quartet arrangements are a revelation: who knew?  And there’s the famous Barrett sly wit, as in the interpolation of A BLUES SERENADE into SERENADE IN BLUE.  Dan also contributes delightful arrangements and a tribute to Benny — LONG LIVE THE KING — that improvises on some of Mr. Goodman’s favorite chord changes. 

That fanous name brings us to the brilliant intelligence of Engelbert Wrobel, who has absorbed the whole reed-playing jazz tradition, digested it, and made it his own.  He is a marvelous player with more than enough technique, but he’s never swallowed up by his own abilities.  Many clarinetists who revere BG spend their lives tossing off one calculated phrase after another, often at a high volume and with a shrill tone.  Not Wrobel: his tone glistens, his fingers fly, but you immediately listen to the music he’s making, the beautiful phrase-shapes and how they add up to cohesive statements.  And he’s a compelling yet understated soprano player (on CACHITA), too; turning to the tenor with great effect on TRICOTISM.

The sum of these parts is a band, mellow and rich — on a compact disc that glides from one rewarding performance to another, with a few surprises along the way.  It’s a wonderful musical banquet.

To purchase it, you can visit http://www.engelbertwrobel.de/html/cdshop.html or http://www.echoes-of-swing.de/.