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Forum West – Modern Jazz From West Germany Wewerka Archive (1962-1968) – compiled by Jazzanova

Despite the increasing number of compilations of rare jazz recordings in recent years, there has been very little focus on West German jazz from the sixties. How come?

A lack of creative output during this era cannot be blamed. Especially in the sixties, when a new generation of jazz musicians emerged in Germany. This generation was stylistically open, somewhere between modern jazz and avant-garde with a unique European style of expression. Recordings from artists such as Wolfgang Dauner, Joachim Kühn and Albert Mangelsdorff were beginning to appear. These artists would, among others, later establish the world-wide reputation of German jazz musicians. The question “How come?” still remains.

One clear reason is, apart from the major music companies with their jazz departments, the relatively small number of independent jazz labels that existed at the time. A well-known example of an independent German label is the SABA record label. It was founded in 1962 and was headed by Hans Georg Brunner Schwer. He was later in 1968 to found MPS (Musik Produktion Schwarzwald). Although the label MPS became the biggest independent in Europe, by far the most jazz releases on the German market at this time were predominantly recordings from America or random releases from neighbouring countries such as France or England.

So where are all the recordings, which must have been produced in this highly creative period, if they weren’t brought out as records? They have, in fact, been slumbering, partly forgotten, partly hidden in publishers’ archives. They had acquired the rights to most of the recordings of the time.

This compilation is a result of the Hans Wewerka’s music publishing company, which is one of the most comprehensive publishing archives in West Germany. Its repertoire contains more than 12,000 titles of all music styles and, in particular, a jazz catalogue with recordings from the sixties by top-ranking national and international musicians. From this archive we have chosen tracks that will be released for the first time, except the recordings from Wolfgang Dauner and Albert Mangelsdorff (vinyl only).

Who is the man behind these recordings? Right from his birth Hans Wewerka was surrounded by music. Famous soloists of their time visited and performed contemporary chamber music in his parents’ house in Vienna. Consequently, he has always had contact to the music industry. Hans Wewerka progressed through life with two professions. On the one hand, he was a film and television producer — he began as a production manager in 1945 for the Austrian news reel and film production company in Vienna and from 1949 onwards he oversaw the introduction of the first commissions for American TV series. On the other hand, he also headed his own publishing company from 1946 onwards.

Wewerka, who is a complete autodidact and plays two instruments (piano and bassoon), never committed himself to one particular style. His goal was always to work with the best musicians. Whether as in 1949, when he made the first TV series for America and was busy with the Vienna Philharmonic as a TV and music producer, or when working on the many jazz recordings which form the foundation for this compilation. Wewerka never allowed himself to be restricted. Be it folk music, wind or light opera, the quality of the recordings and the participating musicians was of crucial importance to him. It was the same with jazz, which holds a special place in his heart. He established Vienna’s first jazz club, where from the beginning, he had contact to world class musicians. For example, Joe Zawinul and Friedrich Gulda played jazz on two pianos in his club.

However, it would have been too one-sided for him to concentrate only on the jazz label. He focussed more on his publishing company and continually tried to combine the mediums of music and TV. He describes himself happily as a cross-mediant. In 1952 he moved from Vienna to Germany and continued work on his publishing company, Edition Modern in Neuburg by the Donau. In the following years, Edition Modern developed into one of the leading jazz publishers in Germany. Another example of his affinity to jazz, is the fact that in 1947 Wewerka set up the magazine Musikwelt, this was the predecessor of today’s German Jazz Podium. He acquired a very good reputation among musicians and especially among the young German jazz enthusiasts thanks to his many connections and contacts, his commitment, openness and finally his willingness to take financial risks. Wewerka was quick to act whenever a famous jazz musician was in his new home town, Munich, and would invite them for spontaneous sessions in his studio. Because of this, many first class recordings with national and international greats exist, especially from the sixties. He was and still is a workaholic, who produced jazz out of pure enthusiasm. In his long career, he can look back on about 1500 LP productions of all different musical branches and about 400 TV and film productions. In the fifties he belonged to the most sought-after film producers and received offers from Metro-Goldwyn Mayer in America. He worked as a music producer not only in Germany, but also in America and England and soon acquired a reputation in the scene as a trouble shooter.

Why has the overwhelming majority of his jazz productions never been released?

Wewerka had a contract with EMI for a short time, but, for many reasons, his sub-label “Orange” was never taken seriously by the record company. He was also too busy as a producer and publisher to be able to bring in the required income to make the label successful. This meant that many of the recordings just lay in his archive and the majority of them were never commercially released. Due to Wewerka’s worldwide connections, the recordings were also available in large international archives and were used in England and America for film and TV productions.

His very high production standards are obvious. Many of the recordings here were recorded on the first take. Wewerka was helped by many experienced recording technicians, particularly Willi Schmidt. According to Wewerka, his personal relationship with the musicians was of utmost importance for the quality of the production. As a kind of patron he brought the musicians together in varied sessions and gave them the possibility to express themselves in new formations and artistic ideas. Because most of the sessions had no commercial purpose, Wewerka offered the musicians a unique creative forum.


The opening track is from the Wolfgang Lauth sextet with the fitting title of “Intrada”. His composition from 1967 features, in addition to Emil Mangelsdorff on the flute, in particular the vibraphone player Fritz Hartschuh. Lauth was born in 1931. Since the mid-fifties he belonged to the leading jazz pianists in Germany. He regularly worked on productions for TV and radio, for cabaret, radio plays and the film industry. Due to his skills he was twice voted Germany’s most popular jazz musician.

The Austrian Hans Koller is one of the few musicians here, who already had an international reputation in the sixties and extensive artistic experience. Already since the fifties he had developed such a unique expressive playing style on the tenor saxophone, that jazz from the German-speaking world was often described as being from “Koller-Land”. Hans Wewerka had a very long-lasting close friendship with Koller from the beginning of his career to the end. So it is no surprise that he described him as one of his driving forces in jazz and he was one of the first who produced him. This recording with Fritz Pauer, Hans Rettenbacher and Victor Plasil from 1962, possesses such a high standard that six tracks alone from this extraordinary session are included on this compilation. Each of Koller’s compositions, such as the modern swing interpretations “Mingus Privat”, “Call Me Eric” and “Zoot”, as well as his exploration of Bossa Nova in the pieces “Casa Loma” and “Lucky Tom” or the waltz “Saint John Perse”, represent timeless pieces of modern jazz.

Another musician, who was a close friend of Hans Wewerka and who spent many hours in the studio with him, is the pianist Joe Haider. They often worked together because Haider had opened the jazz club “Domicile” in Munich in the sixties and was the house pianist in this internationally renowned venue for many years. The two tracks “Straight Out” and “Eternal Oil Lamp” stem from numerous sessions with Haider. Haider’s septet performed these with the exiled American Benny Bailey. Haider und Bailey often worked together in the years to come. Both of them later taught at the Swiss Jazz School in Bern, where Joe Haider was the director from 1984 to 1995. This was after Haider had founded his labels Ego Records und JHM (Joe Haider Music). In addition to the two septet pieces, this compilation also includes another, “Hymnus For Che”, a homage to the rebel Ché Guevara. Haider’s septet was enlarged here to include a trombonist and a trumpet player.

A musician of the same calibre is the pianist, Wolfgang Dauner. Born in Stuttgart in 1935, he formed his own trio in 1963 with the bassist Eberhard Weber and the American drummer Fred Braceful. Two of the trio’s tracks “Freefall” and “Ten Notices” appear here. Dauner belonged to the avant-garde pianists in Germany. He is regarded as one of the most experimental pianists in the whole of Europe. Like many German musicians he released several recordings on the previously mentioned label MPS. In 1975, he set up his own band United Jazz Rock Ensemble and he ran his own record label Mood Records. The chosen recordings from this trio were originally released by CBS in 1964. Due to the long-lasting cooperation between Horst Lippman, Wolfgang Rau and Hans Wewerka, the recordings became part of the Wewerka archive.

When writing about outstanding pianists, one name can obviously not be ignored, a name which, more than any other, helped German jazz to international recognition. Joachim Kühn, born in 1944 in Leipzig. He formed his first trio and later his first quartet with his older brother Rolf Kühn in 1966. Unfortunately only a very few recordings from this quartet, which played until 1969, exist. One of the first and only sessions by this unique formation which was made up of the bassist Günter Lenz and the drummer Ralph Hübner, took place in the winter of 1966. This historic quartet also represented a reunion for the two brothers, shortly after Joachim had followed Rolf to West Germany. “Arabia Rock” is an impressive testament to how the quartet, very early on, set itself aside with a new sound and strived to achieve new forms of jazz expression. This approach to jazz is something, which both brothers in their long careers have consistently pursued.

Another excellent pianist is the Vienna-born Fritz Pauer. After studying, he was member of Fatty George’s band and the Hans Koller quartet until he founded his own trio in 1964. In 1966 he toured throughout Europe with this trio and was “Winner of the International Competition of Modern Jazz” in Vienna. At the same time, Pauer worked as an arranger for the SFB Radio band and as a composer for theatrical plays. Later he was a member of and composer for the ORF Radio band. Fritz Pauer and Hans Wewerka also had a long friendship from which many productions resulted. The titles “Beta Draco” und “Red Roof” were chosen from two of these recording sessions in 1966. These are examples of the Pauer trio, which consisted of drummer Joe Nay and bassist Dieter Gützkow, at its best.

Ronnie Ross, who unfortunately died in 1991, was possibly the leading European jazz baritone saxophonist of the sixties. He owed this to Don Rendell, as he persuaded him to change from the tenor saxophone to the unpopular baritone saxophone in the fifties. Initially, he played at the beginning of the sixties in small groups. He received further international recognition by working together with the Clarke Boland big band, and was a much sought-after side man. Without a doubt, Ronnie Ross, who was often a guest in Germany, was one of the main advertisements for British jazz. As was the case when Wewerka produced him and his band in Munich in 1965. Apart from Joe Haider, Don Menza, Rick Kiefer, Rudi Füssers und Cees See, one has to highlight Peter Trunk. This exceptional bassist tragically died in 1973 following a car crash. He added a few brilliant compositions to the sessions, from which “Tranquology” as well as Ross’ own composition “Last Of The Wine” have been chosen.

Bonus Track LP:
Albert Mangelsdorff was the first jazz musician to develop the multi-tone playing style. As early as the fifties, he was already ranked among the premiere league of European jazz musicians due to his unique style – a mixture of free and cool elements. He was introduced to jazz at the age of 12 by his brother Emil, who also appears on this compilation (see Wolfgang Lauth). It was only at the age of 19, that Albert Mangelsdorff settled for the trombone, the instrument that he would, a few years later, revolutionize with his multi-tone style of playing. One of his numerous tours was to Asia for the Goethe Institute in 1964. The result of the tour was a unique recording, a homage to the different Asian music cultures with the title “Now Jazz Ramwong”. This album brought him international recognition and is one of the most important milestones of his long artistic career. “Sakura Waltz” has been chosen from it for this compilation. Mangelsdorff established his quintet in 1961 and it was made up of Heinz Sauer (tenor), Günter Kronberg (alto), Günter Lenz (bass) und Ralf Hübner (drums). It was to last until 1971.

This compilation can only provide a glimpse into the vaults of the Hans Wewerka archive. Nevertheless, the chosen tracks bear witness to a very important creative period in the West-German jazz-scene. Almost 40 years after being recorded, these tracks well deserve to be finally released.

Stephan Steigleder, Berlin, October 2003
Translation by Fiona Grace with a little help from Daniel W. Best

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