Being in charge of the Bonn Jazz Youth Orchestra (JJOB) must be like being manager of a top football team. You spend a lot of effort creating a talented team – and before you know it, the stars have moved on. .. and it’s time for a new team. Not that either of the ‘trainers’ Thomas Kimmerle or Thomas Heck would complain in this case, both men clearly love introducing youngsters to the music they themselves love (see my INTERVIEW with Thomas Kimmerle last year). Now in it’s fourth year the JJOB ‘Prom Night’ was upon us – The LVR Landesmuseum was our venue and a bright evening of Jazz in it’s many colours awaited.
The LVR Landesmuseum in Colmantstrasse is a strikingly modern facaded building of light and glass. The auditorium too has a modern feel about it but at the same time a size that had me thinking of old British theatres and wondering why halls don’t have fire curtains hiding the stage anymore. I miss the magic of two curtains drawing open to reveal the evenings entertainment. Instead there is a considerable line of smart/casual dressed youngsters snaking from stage side to assorted chairs – an inordinately large amount of which have saxophones on them. Saxes are obviously ‘in’ for keen young musicians. Thomas Kimmerle ( a sax player himself) admits he would love to see a few more ‘wanna be’ trombonists. Time will tell.
The enthusiasm of the almost thirty strong musicians onstage tonight thoughproves that here and now there is no shortage of interest in the orchestra. There’s no doubting either, given the breadth of material on offer too, that a good deal of hard work has gone into this evening. A “Buntes Mischung” was how Kimmerle described what awaited us just before the off and he wasn’t kidding. Good to hear some Blues early on with Thad Jone’s ‘Backbone’ and particularly good to hear the name Billie Holiday before an enjoyable rendition of her ‘God Bless The Child‘.
Want some Bossa Nova? try Bonn’s own composer Thomas H. Graf and his ‘Tender Feelings’. Some Stomp? ‘Stomping at the Savoy’ has been covered by every band worth it’s salt over the years including Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong. Likewise, everyone and their band seems to have tried David Mann’s ‘In the wee small hours of the evening’. Put them all in the same set though and you are stretching your band – especially such a young one. Luckily the band rose to the occasion.
‘A Handful of Soul’ came from the pen of legendary Serbian born trumpet player Dusko Gojkovic who was himself a guest this year opening the New Pantheon’s Jazz season in April, followed by a fifteen minute break before we were treated to ‘Let the good times roll’ A favourite of mine via BB King but I believe this was a Quincy Jones arrangement which shows the breadth of the music we were being treated too.
Each title with a chosen soloist, each soloist calmly stepping bravely up to the mark – each man/woman Jack of them getting ten out of ten for bravery and enthusiasm – and scoring pretty well too quality wise. Yes the aim here was to get the notes right – real improvisation will come later and ultimately sort the will be’s from the wanted to be’s. But some excellent soloing and I did especially like Dirks trumpet on ‘Let the Good times roll’ though and it was good to see a female soloist, Miriam, and even better, a trombonist, taking centre stage for Donal Fagen’s ‘The Goodbye Look’.
Part two was a much more traditional collection. Not without it’s surprises though as the Bonn University Jazz Choir led ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ from in front of the already full stage. Rounding off the evening were numbers that would I’m sure be well recieved down at the Rhine by ‘Klassik Picknik’ later this year. ‘I can’t stop loving you’, ‘Sir Duke’ and the perennial Danny Williams meets Andy Williams classic ‘Moon River’ are sure fire winners and tonight that could be said of the whole orchestra. At a time when the words ‘Jazz Band’ often conjure up elderly gents blasting ‘When the Saints go marching in’ on their tubas it is very refreshing indeed to see that there is a good harvest of young Jazz enthusiasts. I leave you with the words of Thomas Kimmerle:
“The Orchestra is way bigger than a standard big band setup, but we want to give as many players as possible the chance to play that kind of music and learn und to have serious fun”.
Mission accomplished Thomas!