One of my favorite discoveries at last year’s Jazztube was the trumpet playing of Cologne based Jazz trumpeter Peter Protschka. When Thomas Kimmerle announced then that Protschka would be a part of his band at the Ortszentrum in Bonn Dottendorf there was only one place to be on Thursday night. Outside it was cold and rainy, but inside was a hall bathed in warm light and a full house to see the Thomas Kimmerle Jazztet.
That cold rain was still dripping from my hair as I arrived in the small but ‘gemütlich’ Dottendorf Ortszentrum. I was expecting a medium sized audience with a good choice of places to sit, but by 7.45 pm all the chairs set out beforehand were taken and the stack of extra seats also began to diminish rapidly. I start to remember that Bonn is actually something of a Jazz town. Those big audiences at the Rheinaue and enthusiastic crowds filling up the underground entrances during Jazztube…
By the time Thomas Kimmerle sweeps past me with tenor sax in hand, all the places I’d planned on standing in for shooting pictures have gone. Thank goodness for that adjustable screen on the back of my Nikon – the only way for pictures tonight is very definitely up above my head.
Drinks are drunk, last seats are taken and the big figure of Thomas Kimmerle bends down to his microphone like a parent anxious to impart some words of advice to an errant child. It’s not too far from the truth as it turns out – for me at least. This ‘errant child’ has neglected his education in most things Jazzy. Fortunately Mr Kimmerle is an enthusiastic teacher. By evenings end I am certainly more up to scratch on Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers, one of whom, trumpeter Lee Morgan, was tragically killed by his own wife at the age of just 33. Morgan’s death brings the music itself to life. It’s one of the many and quirky strands in the life of a most venerated time in Jazz: The Blue Note Era is just a little bit older than me but lived it’s life to the full. Even so, it seems a good deal younger in the hands of tonight’s enthusiastic band.
Not surprisingly, the Jazztet kick off with an Art Blakey number, ‘Reflections in Blue’. Kimmerle apologies that the between song chat will be short “There was so much music that I wanted tonight’s band to play – even they were taken by surprise” he smiles. His enthusiasm is understandable. Besides the already mentioned talents of Peter Protschka on trumpet there is excellent trombone from Michigan born Andy Hunter who showed why Snarky Puppy amongst many other bands have made use of his musical talents. There is also sublime piano accompaniment from one of Berlin’s favorite Jazzmen Lionel Haas. The rhythm section rolls along smoothly and meticulously courtesy of Fritz Roeppel on Contra bass – eyes closed much of the time as he feels his way through the material and on drums, Claus Schulte is a familiar face on the Bonn Jazz scene.
Great music isn’t created by great musicianship alone though. It still has to come from the heart and this band were clearly enjoying themselves. With Kimmerle leading there were of course quite a few tenor sax tunes to be heard. Hank Mobley’s ‘Looking East’ Benny Golson’s ‘Whisper Not’ for example. There’s not much time for talk but Kimmerle has a tale to tell of meeting Golson, one of his heroes – but the tale is kept short because there is much great music to fit in…
It was my first chance to actually hear Thomas Kimmerle playing a saxophone and he certainly did not disappoint. Particularly later in the second set there was much to enjoy from the big man; his soloing on Bobby Watson’s ‘Lemoncello’ was a particular delight, and whilst we’re talking cool saxophone we can’t miss out on some Dexter Gordon and the lively ‘Hanky Panky’.
Much as I enjoyed the sax playing though it was good to see that there was space for the trumpet of Peter Protschka, including Clifford Brown’s ‘Sandu’. Another tragic story in here in that Brown was just making his mark when at the age of 26 he died in a car accident. He though, like all the writers and players being remembered from the Blue Note days this evening, left us a wonderful legacy of music played with respect and enthusiasm from an excellent band.
It was left to Art Blakey to close the evening as his music had opened it. It could be expected even that ‘Moaning’ onstage would be met with moaning off stage that an excellent evening of heartfelt Jazz must come to an end. Luckily though there is plenty more Jazz where tonight’s came from – so check out the events calendar at the Dottendorfer Ortszentrum – especially Jazz fans.