April 1997

NDR Big Band
Bravissimo 50 Years
Lush Life Records

The Nord Deutscher Rundfunk Big Band (conveniently known as the Big Band) is one the world's most enduring jazz repertory ensembles. Established in 1945 as a German regional radio dance band, NDR began its unwavering commitment to jazz in 1971 when Wolfgang Kunert took over as producer. Over the years, NDR has hosted numerous American jazz artists like Chet Baker, Johnny Griffin, Howard Johnson, and Joe Pass during its performances throughout Germany and even China. This collection of twelve performances is a noteworthy testimony of the sheer energy, high level excellence, and breath of scope that has made this band one of the world's greatest bin bands of our time.

From smile-inducing gems like Monk's "Blue Monk," Dizzy's "Night In Tunisia," and Ellington's "Mood Indigo," to lesser known compositions like Albert Mangelsdorff's "Supraconductivity," and Christof Lauer's "Descent," NDR convincingly explores these compositions with sparkling vigor, and laser-sharp wit. Although this collection features a number of American jazz celebrities, it's quite evident that the Germans can hold their own. On the amazingly tender and meditative reading of Strayhorn's "Take The A Train," tenor saxophonist Roman Schwwaller caresses the melody with so much romantic yearning that one almost forgets that the composition was originally a dance tune, while fellow tenor saxophonist Christof Lauer bursts with a gruff, full-bodied tone and flawless dexterity on the blistering "Descent".

Bravissimo offers a wonderful insight into the majestic power and repertoire of Germany's NDR Big Band. Highly recommended.

Originally published in April 1997
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