Tag Archives: Henning Gailing

REBECCA KILGORE and ECHOES OF SWING: “WINTER DAYS at SCHLOSS ELMAU”

Before writing this post, I was thinking about Rebecca (or Becky or Roo — she has many names, as appropriate to a multi-faceted personality) someone I have been listening to with awe and pleasure since 1994, perhaps beginning with I SAW STARS (Arbors).  As for Echoes of Swing, I got to hear them in person in Germany (in 2007, thanks to Manfred Selchow) and could tell them how I admired them.  It’s one of my dreams to have musicians and groups of musicians I revere play together, and the new CD is just such a dream. . . . one that you and I can hear and re-hear.

The disc also affords us a chance to adjust our perspectives, to shake off some preconceptions.  Some listeners have perched Rebecca on a sunny windowsill in the country of Light, Bright, and Sparkling. Yes, she may prefer PICK YOURSELF UP to GLOOMY SUNDAY, but for me a little darkness will suffice.  Hear her on this disc as she sails through I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM and her reputation as an antidote to darkness is intact.  But only shallow listeners will mistake optimism for shallowness: she has depths of feeling.

Echoes of Swing plus Two: Chris Hopkins, Bernd Lhotzky, Rolf Marx, Oliver Mewes, Henning Gailing, Colin T. Dawson. Photo by Katrin Horn.

Echoes of Swing has also been slightly mis-characterized, praised for their large orchestral sound (the core unit is four players, count them, four — even though on this CD they add a string bass and guitar as well as Rebecca) — as if they were somehow marvelous simply for this magic trick, and critics have heard them as successors to the John Kirby Sextet, which is both plausible and confining.  But on this CD, the players — whom I should name now: Bernd Lhotzky, piano and musical director; Colin T. Dawson, trumpet and flugelhorn; Chris Hopkins, alto saxophone; Oliver Mewes, drums, with Henning Gailing, string bass, and (on four tracks) Rolf Marx, guitar — create such rich varied sounds inside and outside of the arrangements by Bernd and Chris that I felt as if I’d wandered into a universe scored by, let us say, Gil Evans, spacious and resonant.

Other artists have created records and CDs devoted to Winter.  And many of those jolly efforts are avalanches of fake snow from the arts-and-crafts store.  Christmas music looms, no matter how many chairs might be wedged against the studio door, or there’s LET IT SNOW, the now-troublesome BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE, or WINTER WEATHER.  Sweet, certainly, but not always true to the reality of the season, for Winter is a time for introspection as the world becomes colder and darker.  This disc, I assure you, is not a descent into Seasonal Affective Disorder, and there are a few familiar cheery songs on it, but it is not the usual forgettable fluff.

Here’s a wonderful example, the text being the 1931 WINTER WONDERLAND, where the focused purity of Rebecca’s voice balances against a complex, shifting orchestral background:

Bernd’s quirkily cheerful setting of the most famous Robert Frost poem:

Rebecca’s own witty and sweet song:

You’ll have to explore the other surprises for yourself — songs I’d never heard by Frishberg, Berlin, and Jobim, and a few poems set to music by Bernd — performances that are remarkable on the first hearing and grow more so.

The disc is dense — which is not to say difficult or off-putting — but it has levels and levels of musical and emotional pleasure.  Some discs make wonderful background music — the soundtrack for rearranging one’s spice rack — but this one has the delicious resonance of one short story after another.  It’s available in all the old familiar places.  Details here. WINTER DAYS is ambitious, heartfelt, completely rewarding.  You won’t regret it, no matter what the temperature.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN SWING BECOMES BLISS: ADVENTURES WITH ENGELBERT WROBEL and FRIENDS

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Inside . . .

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And . . . .

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And . . . .

Still havin´4

Finally . . . .

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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!