Perhaps it’s the location but the atmosphere half an hour before the start of this year’s Jugend Jazz Orchester Bonn (JJOB) Anniversary Concert seemed reminiscent of waiting for curtain up on the first night of a new theatre play. There’s no doubting though that The Pantheon is a wonderful venue for such an event. Shortly after 8pm, the metaphorical ‘curtain’ was raised and the two Thomas’s (Kimmerle and Heck) introduced their latest show that’s been a year in the making. Would it be a thriller, a romance, a suspense? Enter the band…
The evening got in swing, literally, with a short piano intro before hitting full band power with Thelonius Monk’s ‘Straight No Chaser’. Horace Silver’s ‘Jody Grind’ was slightly more laid back and Silver being a pianist it was good to see former JJOB member Andreas Theobald taking the keys as he did on a couple of occasions during the evening. Time also to make a mention of another JJOB ‘Old Boy’ as Malte Viebahn came in to cover bass for the whole evening at short notice.
Short of bass player’s the current young local Jazz scene may be, but it was once again not short of saxophone players – there were times when it seemed like they were queueing up to take solos. I guess that’s what happens when both the bosses are also sax players. It was good though to see (and hear) a couple of young ladies in the queue – Aitana and Sofia are the names on the set-list. Perhaps there’s another Candy Dulfer waiting in the wings? My favourite piece of the evening though featured an enjoyable duet with (I think) Leon and Carlo both on tenor saxophones for Bob Mintzer’s ‘Get Up’.
My favourite title for the evening has to be ‘John Brown’s Other Body’ which again was a sax powered number. So many sax players even that Thomas Heck had to be reminded the young lady on baritone saxophone was named Lea – that became the evening’s running gag on a good-humoured night that saw the two Thomas’s hopping on and off the stage like they were hopping on and off the back of old London busses. An exception was the appearance as conductor of Malte Grönemann for Kenny Wheeler’s ‘Kayak’.
Back to that question at the start. If this were a theatre piece in what style would the evening be? A lot of votes would go on ‘Romantic’: WE had two numbers from what Thomas Kimmerle laughingly described as the World’s first ‘Boy Group’ those four Liverpool Mop-Tops had a couple of compositions in tonight’s mix. Set one saw the melancholy ‘She’s Leaving Home’ which my song sheet describes as a ‘Swing Waltz’. Funny to see Pop music put into a proper musical ‘bag’. Part two saw a stirring ‘Eleanor Rigby’ with bossa nova groove. The love theme was covered too with Van Heusen’s ‘Like Someone in Love’ (nice tenor sax by Leon) and for some reason, Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ seemed obligatory after it was played at last year’s JJOB Finale.
Lots of deserved applause, two excellent encores in Maria Baptist’s ’36th Street’ and Thomas Reich’s ‘Up To Date’ and the 5th Anniversary JJOB Concert ended on loud applause for the many excellent young musicians who were clearly playing from the heart and the two genial JJOB creators Kimmerle and Heck – both of whom had radiant glows on their faces throughout the evening and deservedly so. Where saxophone is concerned Bonn/Cologne could soon be World leaders. We clearly need a few more bass players though, and still no sousaphone.
I described these shows as akin to graduation day in my interview with Kimmerle and Heck and of course, that means starting all over again next year. New blood is keenly welcomed – as Thomas Kimmerle said before the show and as he, Thomas Heck and the whole Orchestra proved this evening, playing Jazz can be ‘Serious Fun!’ The Band tonight proved it!