Big band, ensemble, and combo – these three groups shine a light on the decades before 1960 while pointing the way towards the shape of things to come. American Eddie Sauter was composer/arranger for the Swing Era big bands of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman. In 1957 German jazz czar Joachim Ernst Berendt invited Sauter to take over the SWR big band. Sauter brought American flair and looseness as well as a US rhythm section to what was already a crack organization. He defines Kinetic Energy as “microcosmic particles in constant rotation”, and with his intertwining of three rhythm sections, it’s an apt description. Dedicated to Henry Miller at a time when his ‘Tropics’ were still illegal in the States, Tropic of Kommingen features Austrian Hans Koller’s virile tenor sax. The band performs a stellar version of the iconic Austrian Mozart interpreter and jazz enthusiast Fredrich Gulda’s Dodo.
Best known for his incisive writing on jazz, French critic Andre Hodeir was also a respected composer at the forefront of European jazz who had studied under Messiaen and was influenced by Schönberg. Hordeir’s arrangement of the jazz classic Jordu and his own Paradoxe II demonstrates that he led the pack when it came to pushing jazz’s harmonic-melodic envelope.
The Modern Jazz Quartet highlighted the festival. Formed in 1952, this iconic group would continue playing for over 40 years, performing a sophisticated mix of cool jazz and bop. Spearheaded by the introspective pianist John Lewis, and the outgoing vibraphonist Milt Jackson, their rendition of the three pieces Lewis wrote for the Roger Vadim film Sait-on jamais… along with Lewis’ J.B. Blues, underscores the well-worked combination of Lewis’ sensitive approach and Jackson’s more extraverted style.