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Focus Jazz – Modern Jazz From The Wewerka Archive (1966-1969) – compiled by Jazzanova & Stephan Steigleder

“I can’t remember.” This is the statement you’re most likely to hear from producer and publisher HANS WEWERKA when you ask him about specific moments in his long career. And this is certainly not due to old age – although he is well into his eighties – you should hear and see the man in action! He is still managing his publishing house and keeping up to date with the diverse trends in modern music. (Asked about plans to leave the business, he stated that he thought of leaving it on January 12, 2033.) As for forgetting details – well, who could blame him? WEWERKA claims to have supervised more than 20,000 recording sessions, many of them arranged ad hoc late at night after a gig. “Once a session was done, I couldn’t bother with it any longer, since a thousand new projects awaited their realisation. We offered them to record companies, but most of them turned the music down, claiming it had too little sales potential. So the renewed interest in these recordings proves that I have been right from the start. I always believed in this music and knew that its time would come.” And when you consider that producing music was not his only field of action (he’s been a successful TV producer for many years), you’ll realise that storing the details of all of these sessions is way beyond the capacity of any human brain. And even in record production, he wasn’t restricted to Jazz – he produced children’s records, albums of folklore, he recorded opera, modern music – you’d be better off by asking him what he hasn’t done. (For the biography of HANS WEWERKA, please see the extensive liner notes by STEPHAN STEIGLEDER for the first part of this series).

Anyway, here it is: The second volume in the series of findings from the WEWERKA archive. For this compilation, the JAZZANOVA collective and STEPHAN STEIGLEDER descended even deeper into WEWERKA’s Munich vaults. As a result, the variety of the music is much wider than that on Volume One. Hearing them talk about the amounts of tape they trawled, one gets the impresion that there is no limit to this archive. This volume bears further testimony to the fact that only a percentage of the history of Jazz is known, that much of it still slumbers in archives and that there are a lot of secrets still to uncover – thanks to people like HANS WEWERKA.

“Most of the Jazz I recorded just for fun” says the man whose energy level seems to have been at least 50% above that of ordinary people ever since he started his business after the war. (“I’ve never been tired all my life – why should I?”) He often recorded musicians on recommendation without knowing what they played. Other times it was chance meeting with musicians who happened to be in a studio next to the one he was working in – and so he asked them straight away if they would like to be recorded by him. “And some I had heard on records. And when I liked what I heard, I said: I’d like to record this musician. Get me that guy!”

On this second volume, the compilers have put the emphasis on the publishing company, which WEWERKA named Edition Modern. Of the fifteen tracks assembled here, only five were issued before (the Milcho Leview-track on the MPS release Bulgarian Jazz Quartett – Jazz Focus ’65, the Heinz Sauer-track on the CBS record Albert Mangelsdorff Quintett – Folk Mond & Flower Dream and the Dusko Goykovitch- and Mal Waldron-tracks on the Goykovitch-album Swinging Macedonia for Philips’ Twen-Series in 1967).

“It is very European music, especially the stuff coming from the east” remarks WEWERKA. “Saying exactly what is so European about them is beyond me. But one thing I can tell you: American Jazz used to be more American, whereas in the last 20 years, it became more and more European. That may be because we’re communicating more intensely. But it seems to me that nothing really new has been coming out of America for quite some time. Somehow for me it seems that the Americans have lost their feeling for Jazz.” Strong words from a man, who has watched the Jazz scene for these last 60 years like few others.

Forum West put the focus on Jazz in West Germany during the Sixties. For this volume, the focus has been switched to two other main themes: Soundtrack music (hence many of the short tunes) and WEWERKA’s forays behind the iron curtain. The first explains why so much of this music seems to “moody” – though WEWERKA denies giving any advise to the musicians as to what kind of scene he wanted this music to suit. If one listens to a track like Colours Of Sea by pianist JOE HAIDER, pictures are evoked almost immediately in the listener’s mind. (The only fact about that could be established by the HAIDER -Tracks in the sense that they were recorded for a movie titled Die Welt und ihre Menschen (The World And Its Human Beings), which JOE HAIDER remembers as an animated cartoon. Apart from that, nothing is known about it.) The other focus of this volume is on the Jazz in Eastern Europe. The three tracks by the DUSKO GOYKOVICH Sextett included here (one of them attributed to MAL WALDRON, since he was the composer) stem from an album titled Swinging Macedonia, original vinyl copies of which are by now – needlesss to say – ultra-rare (if you feel you really have to listen to all of that LP, here’s good news: the German company ENJA has re-released the whole album on CD – albeit with different artwork). Listen to GOYKOVICH’s sprawling but energetic track Macedonia or WALDRON’s driving Macedonian Fertility Dance (one of the signature tunes of this compilation due to its immediately recognisable theme) and a whole new world of Jazz seems to open up.

Putting further empasis on the “eastern connection” is the very intimate and atmospheric track “Blues 10”, composed by MILCHO LEVIEW and played by the BULGARIAN JAZZ QUARTET (which had already been released on the LP Jazz Focus ’65, produced by LIPPMANN & RAU, legendary German concert promoters).

Composer KAMIL HALA hails from what used to be Czecheslowakia, and again little is known about him, even in his own country it seems. But fellow Czech PAVEL BLATNY is a rather established name. If you haven’t heard about him (which I doubt you will), check out the excerpt from his Suite For Jazz Orchestra (a full version might be put up for download on the Sonar Kollektiv-homepage). This synthesis of jazz and classical music which has often received the name “third stream” is an eclectic mix of Jazz, twelve tone music and STRAVINSKY and a lot of other sources. In 1966 and 1967, BLATNY even appeared on the critic’s poll of the American jazz magazine Down Beat before falling into international obscurity once again. But his Suite is so beautifully strange and unique that it asks us to explore the music of these days in depth.

Yet another cup of tea is the work of composer ERICH FERSTL. Apart from the moniker THE MODERN STUDIO BAND, we could not establish any details as to who played on these two tracks from 1966. The man himself is almost as elusive. If he is known, it is primarily through his compositions for films during the 1960s and 1970s. He scored the music for, amongst others, the PETER FLEISCHMANN – Movie Die Hamburger Krankheit” (The Hamburg Disease) and the cartoon classic Die Konferenz der Tiere” (The Animals’ Conference). He studied composition and is also a classically trained pianist and guitarist. Since 1979, he has been a freelance teacher for rhythm and improvisation. His compositions are colourful and intimate. They put a very different perspective on the word “Jazz” in this context.

Listening to the track by HANS POSEGGA will give you another idea of what kind of music was played in Germany in the sixties. Unfortunately, no further information on this track is available. POSEGGA composed primarily for film and television. His soundtracks for several films by (in)famous German filmmaker PETER SCHAMONI rank among his bestknown work. And even though few will have heard his name, 95 out of 100 Germans will know one of his compositions. POSEGGA scored the title theme to what is probably the most popular German TV-series for children ever, Die Sendung mit der Maus (The Program With The Mouse). And it is tempting to think that its jazz-tinged melody might be responsible for having put many young German jazz musicians on their way – and that for the last 35 years! Thus calling this compilation “a secret history of Jazz in Europe” might not be the exaggeration it seems.

This compilation once more shows us what talent there is in the world and how much of it goes by unrecognized by the masses. Thus, the bottom line of all this must be a heartfelt thank you to the enigmatic HANS WEWERKA for preserving all this wonderful (and wonderous!) music. May the years to come be filled with more exploits from your vast archive. The man himself has no problems with that idea: “We still have so many recordings that we could provide the world with exciting music for decades to come!”

Ralf Bei der Kellen

Press Quotes:
“I love old and unusual jazz but never know where to start looking for it because there’s just so much obscure stuff. So thanks to Sonar Kollektiv for pointing me in the right direction – definitely made we want to dig out more”
Paul Clarke –

“Jazzanova dug through the best of the Focus catalogue in order to bring us some truly spellbinding modern European jazz.”
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