Jazz in Germany

Jazz in Germany

An overview of the evolution of Jazz music in Germany reveals that the development of jazz in Germany and its public notice differ from the "motherland" of jazz, the USA, in several respects.

The 20s

One of the first books with the word "jazz" in the title originates from Germany. In his book "Jazz - eine musikalische Zeitfrage" (Jazz - a musical issue) of 1927, Paul Bernhard relates the term Jazz to a specific dance. When dancer Josephine Baker visited Berlin in 1925, she found it dazzling. "The city had a jewel-like sparkle," she said, "the vast cafés reminded me of ocean liners powered by the rhythms of their orchestras. There was music everywhere." Eager to look ahead after the crushing defeat of World War I, Weimar Germany embraced the modernism that swept through Europe and was crazy about jazz. In the "dancing mania" of the post-war period, there were not only modern dances such as the tango and foxtrot, but in 1920 also the Shimmy and in 1922 the Two-step. In 1925 the Charleston dominated the dance halls.

In 1917, in the United States, the first jazz title, "Tiger Rag," was recorded. By January 1920, it had already been marketed by a German record company. As early as the 1920s, the clarinetist and saxophonist Eric Borchard played his own recordings, which were comparable to those of the American jazz greats. But from 1920 to 1923, due to both economic turmoil and inflation, larger German jazz orchestras that played the new jazz dances were a rarity. Initially, a trio with a pianist, a drummer and a "Stehgeiger" (standing violinist), who also played the saxophone, was most common. Only after 1924 an economic stability was achieved, and an economic basis for larger dance orchestras was possible, like those founded by Bernard Etté, Dajos Béla, Marek Weber and Stefan Weintraub, [M. H. Kater, "Gewagtes Spiel", p. 24f.] . It was the predominant element of improvisation that lacked understanding in Germany, where people had always played concrete written notes; Marek Weber, for example, demonstratively left the podium if its nightly band played jazz interludes.

In the 20s, Jazz in Germany was primarily a fad. The "Salonorchester" turned to the new style, because dancers wanted it so. By 1924, the first jazz could be heard on the radio; after 1926, when Paul Whiteman enjoyed sensational success in Berlin, regular radio programmes were broadcast with jazz played live. His music was also available on record and in sheet music. The Weintraub Syncopators were the first hot jazz band in Germany at their summit beginning around 1928. Musicians from many musical backgrounds, composers of classical music concerts such as Paul Hindemith, Ernst Krenek and Kurt Weill, turned to the new music genre that came from America and incorporated it in their musical language. For the classical composers, the orchestral casts, the timbre, syncope, and the blues harmonies of jazz were a synonym for the modern era. This new music genre was recognised not only as a fashion and entertainment music, but as real art. However, as early as in 1927, the composer Karol Rathaus called it somewhat prematurely a "Jazzdämmerung" (jazz dawn). Theodor W. Adorno spoke negatively about Jazz, saying it was a part of the art industry [M. H. Kater, "Gewagtes Spiel", p. 62f] .

Years of National Socialism, the 30s and the missing 40s

In neighbouring European countries the trend continued in the 1930s. Fan magazines were created for jazz and so-called "hot clubs". The Nazi regime pursued and banned the broadcasting of jazz on German radio, partly because of its African roots and because many of the active jazz musicians were of Jewish origin; and partly due to the music's certain themes of individuality and freedom. For the Nazis, jazz was an especially threatening form of expression. An anti-jazz radio broadcast "From the Cake Walk to Hot" sought a deterrent effect with "particularly insisting musical examples."

In 1935, the Nazi government did not allow German musicians of Jewish origin to perform any longer. The "Weintraub Syncopators" - most of whom were Jewish - were forced into exile. They worked abroad during much of the ‘30s, touring throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East before settling in Australia in 1937. Even people with a single jewish grandparent like swing trumpeter Hans Berry were forced to play undercover or to work abroad (in Belgium, the Netherlands or in Switzerland).

Other dance bands and musicians were not even that fortunate. For example, Mitja Nikisch, son of the celebrated classical conductor Arthur Nikisch and himself a respected classical pianist, had created a fine, popular dance ensemble in the '20s, the Mitja Nikisch Tanz Orchester, which played in prominent venues. The Nazi regime brought about its demise, leading Nikisch to commit suicide in 1936.

From 1937 onward, American musicians in Europe stopped at the German borders. Admittedly, in spite of such persecution it was still possible, at least in major cities, to buy jazz records until the beginning of the war; however, the further development of, and the contact with, the American Jazz World were largely interrupted. Officially the "Reichsmusikkammer" (Reichs Music Chamber) supported dance music that bore some traits of Swing, but listening to foreign stations, which regularly played jazz, was penalised from 1939 on.

Some musicians did not want to obey this command. The clarinetist Ernst Höllerhagen for example, left Germany, when Jazz was finally prohibited by the Nazis at the beginning of the war, and went to Switzerland into exile.

At that time, only a relatively small number of people in Germany knew how jazz music sounded in America - at that time, swing - and that it was Jazz. The Nazis even re-developed and newly produced some pieces, giving them new lyrics, in special studios. One example is the song "Black Bottom", which was presented as "Schwarzer Boden". For some Germans, the banned foreign stations with jazz programs were very popular. The Allies' stations were on one hand disturbed, but also copied by the Nazis. The band "Charlie and His Orchestra" is considered as a negative example, also called Mr. Goebbels Jazz Band. Here the Nazis replaced the original texts with their own provocative propaganda texts. The situation intensified in 1942 with the entry of the United States in the war. For diplomats of foreign embassies and Wehrmacht members a couple of jazz clubs continued to remain open in Berlin. In addition, there were individual, not legitimate venues and private parties, where jazz was played. In 1943 the record production was stopped. "Charlie and His Orchestra" was moved in the still bombproof province. [ M. H. Kater, "Gewagtes Spiel", p. 302]

The Nazi regime passed notorious edicts banning jazz records and muted trumpets calling them degenerate art or entartekunst. In the documentary film Swing Under the Swastikalooks at Jazz music under the Nazi regime in Germany, and at the cases of the Madlung sisters who were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp merely for owning jazz records. There are also interviews with jazz drummer Coco Schumann and pianist Martin Roman who were saved in the camps so they could play for SS officers and during executions in Auschwitz as part of the `Ghetto Swingers'.

Postwar period and the 50s

In the postwar period, and after nearly 20 years of isolation, many music fans as well as musicians themselves were very interested in the movements of jazz they had missed. In fact jazz gave young people the enthusiastic hope to rebuild the country. In the jazz clubs, jazz lovers played important records even before they could organize concerts. The post-war jazz was able to develop well, particularly in the American-occupied zone. Berlin, Bremen and Frankfurt were centers of jazz. Young German musicians could perform before a larger audience in American GI venues. In the 1950s, "Existential" jazz cellars (Existence in the french way of philosophy), following the model established in Paris, emerged in numerous West German cities.

April 2. 1951 Erwin Lehn founded the dance orchestra of the South German Radio (SDR) in Stuttgart, which he led until 1992. In a short time it developed from a radio-band to a modern swinging Big Band: Erwin Lehn and his Südfunk (southern radio) dance orchestra. 1955 Lehn with Dieter Zimmerle and Wolfram Röhrig initiated the SDR broadcast "Treffpunkt Jazz". There Lehn played with international jazz greats such as Miles Davis and Chet Baker. In addition to the band of Kurt Edelhagen at the Southwestern Radio (SWF), the "Südfunk" dance orchestra established as one of the leading Swing-Big-Bands in the Federal Republic of Germany in the following years. 1953 Edelhagen discovered Caterina Valente in Baden-Baden as a singer for his big band.

American jazz musicians were heard at the Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts and at events in the major concert halls in western Germany. Primarily, local musicians played In the clubs. In order to raise the level of cultural recognition, concert tours by the German Jazz Federation (a merger of the clubs) were increasingly organised. Until the end of the 1950s, the German jazz scene was strongly fixated on imitating the American jazz and on regaining the period of development it had previously missed. However, from 1954 onward West German jazz slowly departed from the pattern established by this musical role model. The quintet of pianist and composer Jutta Hipp played a central role in doing so; this group included the saxophonist Emil Mangelsdorff and Joki Freund, who also wrote instrumental compositions. Although Hipp's music was heavily influenced by American role models, she impressed the American jazz critics with her sovereign and independent performances. The peculiarity of her music was an asymmetrical melody in the improvisations, the beginning and end located in unusual places.English New Orleans jazzbands were fervently welcomed: particularly Ken Colyer & Sonny Morris.

The rhythmically-accented and innovative Bebop enjoyed a heyday in America until the mid-1950's. To it, the German musicians were not accustomed, unlike the Cool Jazz that had also boomed in the 1950s. Cool Jazz was less explosive, more soft and slow, with its emphasis on brass melodies, and its interaction, as well as the tone, was preferred by West German musicians.

Authorities in German Democratic Republic (GDR) were highly skeptical of jazz due to its American roots. Karl Heinz Drechsel was dismissed from his job at the GDR broadcasting organization in 1952 because of his fondness for jazz and was prohibited from organizing jazz broadcasts again until 1958. The founder of the jazz group Leipzig, Reginald Rudorf, held well-attended lectures on jazz, which also explained the culture of the United States. But they were stopped with disruptive actions by the state security organization ("Staatssicherheit"). In 1957, the Dresdner "Interessengemeinschaft Jazz" (community of jazz interests) was prohibited in connection with the trial of the regime against Rudorf, as a suspected spy [compare R. Bratfisch, "Freie Töne: die Jazzszene der DDR."] .

While the GDR dance orchestras still played a few Swing numbers, it was Modern Jazz, which could not be integrated in the dance combos, that was officially criticized. It was later denounced as "snotnosed Jazz" by André Asriel. [A. Asriel, "Jazz: Analysen und Aspekte." Berlin 1966, S. 168ff. This value judgment is no longer found in the 4th edition of this book, dated 1986.]

In 1956 the clarinettist Rolf Kühn moved to America, gave a guest performance with Caterina Valente in New York and performed with his quartet at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957. From 1958 to 1962 Kühn played (as the first German musician) with the orchestras of Benny Goodman and as a solo clarinetist with Tommy Dorsey - as replacement for Buddy DeFranco - one and a half years later. In 1962 Rolf Kühn returned to West Germany.

The 60s

After the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, West and East German jazz musicians were separated.

On West German television, the great American musicians were introduced to audiences in prime time. Around 1960, Western music producers' interest in recording musicians such as Wolfgang Lauth waned as jazz music no longer seemed to be a good sale. In 1964, Horst Lippmann had noted [Liner notes from John Lewis and Albert Mangelsdorff's "Animal Dance", released on Atlantic Records] : "The German record industry neglected all modern German jazz musicians and only occasionally presented records with amateur Dixieland bands in the area. No German record company seems to be prepared on the artistic obligation to publish the modern German jazz appropriate as it is the case in the field of symphonic and chamber music." As if this appeal had been heard and had caused a new generation of jazz producers, such as Siegfried Loch, and Hans-Georg Brunner Schwer, to emerge, records of Klaus Doldinger, Albert Mangelsdorff, but also by Attila Zoller or Wolfgang Dauner came onto the market shortly thereafter .

The music critic and producer Joachim-Ernst Berendt took a special, outstanding, position at this time; he has influenced the German Jazz mainly in the 1960s and 1970s. Without him, neither the European Free Jazz, even as individual musicians like Mangelsdorff, Doldinger and others would have gained the importance that they have for the German jazz today. Berendt was the first and only global player of the jazz critics and producers of the German jazz scene, who introduced jazz from Germany abroad.

The best-known jazz groups in West Germany were the quintets of Albert Mangelsdorff (with Heinz Sauer and Günter Kronberg), Michael Naura (with Wolfgang Schlüter), and the quartet of Klaus Doldinger (with Ingfried Hoffmann.) Innovators were also the Lauth Wolfgang quartet with Fritz Hartschuh and the trio of Wolfgang Dauner (with Eberhard Weber and Fred Braceful). Musically there was a deliberate, but careful delineation of the American model. With their growing popularity, Doldinger and Mangelsdorff could also perform abroad and publish records. Naura had to retire from active life as a musician because of illness, and later became an editor of the Jazz part of the NDR (Northern German Broadcast). For the GDR, the Manfred Ludwig sextet has to be mentioned firstly for a long time the only band, which turned to the style of modern jazz.

In 1965, the quintet of Gunter Hampel, a moderate Free Jazz maintainer, with musicians such as Manfred Schoof, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Buschi Niebergall and Pierre Cour Bois, stepped on the German jazz scene and performed many concerts in the "province". Free jazz, without compromises, could be heard from the Manfred Schoof quintet (Voices) and an octet by Peter Brötzmann (Machine Gun). Especially in the smaller towns of western Germany, the jazz music clubs disappeared with the advent of the Beat. From the mid-1960s in the GDR onward, the trio of Joachim Kühn (who migrated to the West in 1966), Friedhelm Schönfeld, and Manfred Schulze found their own ways into free jazz.

The 70s

The 1970s were marked by the globalization and commercialization of the German jazz world. Jazz was combined with various other music genres. Successful jazz musicians such as Christian Burchard's Embryo, Klaus Doldinger, Volker Kriegel, and the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble followed this trend in the direction of rock music in West Germany. At the same time, younger musicians like Herbert Joos, Alfred Harth and Theo Jörgensmann stepped into public acknowledgment and aroused the attention of the jazz scene with their music. It is noteworthy that the German musicians achieved an acceptance with the local audience on par with american jazz musicians. The Theo Jörgensmann quartet an avant-garde jazz group, for example, was even in the Best-of Lists of Popular Music in the Music-Yearbook "Rock Session" [Musik-Jahrbuch "Rock Session" Nr.2 1977/78 ] . At the same time the German record labels FMP, ECM and ENJA established in the market. Also acoustic-romantic performances by Joachim Kühn and other pianists like Rainer Brüninghaus came into fashion. In Moers and other West German towns, festivals were held that focused on these new developments in jazz.

In the 1970s, scholastic learning of jazz was also achieved in West Germany. The annual summer course at the "Akademie Remscheid" (Remscheid Academy) was very popular among young jazz musicians. There is hardly a professional jazz musician, born between 1940 and 1960, who did not attend this course as a student or teacher.

After 1970, the mighty ministries of East Germany gave up their antagonism towards jazz music, giving the "explanation" that jazz had become an integral part of East German culture and politics. Klaus Lenz and the Modern Soul band found its own way to the Fusion of rock and jazz music. In East Germany in particular, free jazz musicians developed their own gestures and improvised first on apparently East German-specific material in such a way that the idea of an "Eisler Weill Folk-Free jazz" [ Program booklet for the "Taktlos-Festival" ("Taktlos" is a worplay between barless, beatless and indiscreet) Zürich. Cited after Uli Blobel "Wie Peitz zur Hauptstadt des Free Jazz in der DDR wurde" (How Peitz became the capital of Free Jazz in the GDR)] could take hold abroad. The self-assertion was more strongly pronounced in East rather than in West Germany. Among the better-known artists of this era were Conny Bauer and Ulrich Gumpert (Zentralquartett), as well as Manfred Hering and Günter "Baby" Sommer. This music communicated with a very broad, young audience, and was very successful. The jazz journalist Bert Noglik noted in retrospect: "In the course of the seventies in the GDR in the evolution of jazz the Free Jazz (in a broader sense) has cristallized to be the form of the major direction of practice and its majority passes and exists both in quantitative and in qualitative respects. This statement refers to the musicians, the audience and also on the organizational structure of the concert and tour management. All of this is even more astonishing when one considers that in the eastern and western neighboring regions always flowed a relatively strong mainstream music." [Cited after U. Blobel, "Wie Peitz ..."]

The 80s

In the 1980s, the jazz audience, as well as the jazz scene, split in many different directions in West Germany. There were forms which included traditional repertory, the various currents of free jazz and fusion music, a turning to Neobop, but also style elements that hinted to the Modern Creative, and the neo-classical jazz. In Cologne, there was a strong initiative for Jazz, founding the initiative "Kölner Jazz Haus" (Cologne Jazz House), from which projects such as the Kölner Saxophon Mafia (Cologne Saxophone Mafia) emerged. A new interest awakened for the work of Big Bands. Jazz arrangers such as Peter Herbolzheimer raised this genre in Germany to an international level. New venues were opened in mid-sized cities. Due to the large number of different jazz styles, such concerts were poorly attended, especially in the larger cities.

In East Germany, the development was more clearly arranged. In the 1980s, there was a greater exchange between jazz musicians from West and East Germany. If the cooperation took place within the borders of the GDR, normally a non-german musician was also invited to give this event an international complexion. Economically jazz musicians in the GDR lived in comparatively assured or prosperous circumstances, because they worked in an environment of subsidized culture, and unlike their western colleagues did not need to follow the regulations of the free market economy. In addition to a comparatively wide Dixieland scene in the area and mainstream american-style jazz, free improvisational music developed in a way that Fred Van Hove (later relativated) spoke misguidedly of the, "Promised Land of Improvised Music" [Günter Sommer, "Über einige Besonderheiten der Jazzszene der DDR." In: Darmstädter Jazzforum 89. Hofheim: Wolke Verlag 1990, p. 120-134] .

The 1990s to the present

In 1992, the jazz researcher Ekkehard Jost discerned two basic trends of the jazz scene: one, jazz as a repertoire music and two, jazz in stable and dynamic development. The latter survives through musical practice and is based on the origins of jazz. In the 1990s, even more than in the 1980s, the marketing of music styles dominated the music business, and jazz in particular. Helge Schneider, a well-known entertainer, knew how to integrate jazz into his own comedic art. Another well-known German jazz musician and entertainer is Götz Alsmann, as well as the successful trumpeter Till Brönner. A number of other jazz musicians became established through entertainment-jazz in the scene as well. However, these are not the only musicians who work as jazz musicians sometimes under difficult conditions in Germany, and who are responsible for creating such diverse styles of jazz.

In addition, between East and West Germany, an alignment of styles occurred, much to the detriment of the East German jazz culture. In the course of time, elements of jazz were often integrated into other styles like hip-hop, and later in Drum 'n' Bass and others. These results were assessed as Acid Jazz or as Nu jazz if there is sufficient jazz participation. Today jazz can be found in a variety of musical styles, such as German Hip-Hop, House, Drum 'n' Bass, dance music, and many others.

Jazz is in low demand on German television. Jazz clubs and other venues still must face the fact that the number of visitors is often difficult to predict and highly variable. Often, younger audiences stay away. Even for tax purposes (so-called "Ausländersteuer" i.e. foreigner tax), the major international musicians, in particular the Modern Creative musicians, who play in Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy and France, increasingly skip Germany on their routes and tours.

Although there are much more jazz musicians in Germany now than in the 1960s and 1970s, it is much easier for the public to form their own individual opinion of the jazz musicians and their music because of electronic media. Traditional opinion makers like the public broadcasters editorial offices for jazz lose influence. Even organizers and concert agencies no longer set up the liking of the audience, as in the past, but they only follow the latest trends.

It is uncertain in which direction the German Jazz will move in the future. The situation of Germany's most renowned jazz festival (JazzFest Berlin) is perhaps symptomatic for this. Since the 1990s it is criticised regularily, and its artistic directors fell back on highly elaborate concepts without a clear artistic line being visible. [ Where is jazz bound for? One knows less after the Berlin Jazz Festival than before. There was Blues-Rock (Derek Trucks Band), Noise-Rock (Steve Piccolo, Gak Sato, Elliott Sharp), and Jazz-Rock ( the loudest was Joe Zawinul and the WDR Big Band). You could also hear Norwegians playing Bulgarian wedding music (Farmers Market), Hungarians presenting Norwegian Chamber jazz, known from ECM (Ferenc Snétberger Trio) and, finally roman immigrants making everything world music offers (L'Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio). Zeit online 8.11.2005 ]

Known Jazz events (selection)

*JazzFest Berlin
*Total Music Meeting
*Internationales Dixieland-Festival Dresden
*Leipziger Jazztage

Numerous other Jazz festivals exist in Germany.


* Michael H. Kater (1995): "Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany". Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195165531 (cited after German translation: "Gewagtes Spiel. Jazz im Nationalsozialismus." Köln : Kiepenheuer & Witsch)
* Mike Zwerin (1988): "Swing Under the Nazis: Jazz as a Metaphor for Freedom" ISBN 978-0815410751

German books

* Rainer Bratfisch (Pb., 2005): "Freie Töne : die Jazzszene der DDR." Berlin: Ch. Links
* Mathias Brüll (2003): "Jazz auf AMIGA - Die Jazz-Schallplatten des AMIGA-Labels von 1947 bis 1990." Zusammenstellung von Mathias Brüll. (RMudHwiW / Pro Business Berlin - ISBN 3-937343-27-X)
* Rainer Dollase, Michael Rüsenberg, Hans J. Stollenwerk (1978): "Das Jazzpublikum : zur Sozialpsychologie einer kulturellen Minderheit." Mainz, London, New York, Tokyo : Schott
* E. Dieter Fränzel/Jazz AGe Wuppertal (Pb.) (2006): "Sounds like Whoopataal. Wuppertal in der Welt des Jazz." Essen : Klartext
* Frank Getzuhn (2006): "Wandeljahre öffentlicher Lerngeschichte zum Jazz in Deutschland von 1950 - 1960 : Lernangebote und Lernen in Zeitschriften und Sachbüchern zum Jazz." Berlin : wvb Wiss. Verl.
* Bernfried Höhne (1991): "Jazz in der DDR : eine Retrospektive." Frankfurt am Main : Eisenbletter und Naumann
* Ekkehard Jost (1987): "Europas Jazz : 1960 - 1980." Frankfurt a.M. : Fischer paperback
* Wolfram Knauer (1986, Pb.): "Jazz in Deutschland." Darmstädter Beiträge zur Jazzforschung 5. Hofheim : Wolke Verlag
* Horst H. Lange (1996) "Jazz in Deutschland : die deutsche Jazz-Chronik bis 1960." Hildesheim ; Zürich ; New York : Olms-Presse (2. run)
* Martin Lücke (2004): "Jazz im Totalitarismus : eine komparative Analyse des politisch motivierten Umgangs mit dem Jazz während der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus und des Stalinismus." Münster: Lit
* Rainer Michalke (Hg., 2004): "Musik life – Die Spielstätten für Jazz und Aktuelle Musik in Nordrhein-Westfalen." Essen: Klartext Verlag
* Bert Noglik (1978): "Jazz im Gespräch." Berlin (DDR) : Verlag Neue Musik, ders. (1992): Swinging DäDäRä. Die Zeit, 8. Mai 1992, S. 60
* Bruno Paulot (1993): "Albert Mangelsdorff : Gespräche." Waakirchen: Oreos
* Fritz Rau (2005): "50 Jahre Backstage : Erinnerungen eines Konzertveranstalters." Heidelberg: Palmyra
* Werner Josh Sellhorn (2005): "Jazz - DDR - Fakten : Interpreten, Diskographien, Fotos, CD". Berlin Neunplus 1
* Fritz Schmücker (1993): "Das Jazzkonzertpublikum : das Profil einer kulturellen Minderheit im Zeitvergleich." Münster ; Hamburg : Lit
* Werner Schwörer (1990): "Jazzszene Frankfurt : eine musiksoziologische Untersuchung zur Situation anfangs der achtziger Jahre." Mainz ; London ; New York ; Tokyo : Schott
* Dita von Szadkowski "Auf schwarz-weißen Flügeln" Focus Verlag 1983 ISBN 388 349 3074
* Robert von Zahn (1999): "Jazz in Nordrhein-Westfalen seit 1946." Köln: Emons; ders. (1998): Jazz in Köln seit 1945 : Konzertkultur und Kellerkunst. Köln : Emons-Verlag

Magazines in German about Jazz

* Jazz Echo
* Jazzpodium
* Jazzthetik
* Jazz thing
* Jazz Zeit
* Jazz Zeitung


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