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Made in Germany: Top Ten Jazz and Fusion Tunes

All over the world, people go for the ‘Made in Germany’ label when they purchase new Audis, tanks and other weapons, ice cream, bread, washing powder, cuckoo clocks or other useless items. Yes, they love Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner, they read Schiller Goethe, Grass, Mann and others. But what about Jazz?

To be precise: What about Jazz-Funk and Fusion or Jazz-Rock recordings? Do the Germans have what it takes? Well, you be the judge. These are ten brilliant examples for Jazz-Rock, Jazz-Funk and Contemporary Jazz made in Germany.

Wolfgang Haffner ‘Simple Life’ (live)

Wolfgang Haffner is definitely among the ten best drummers in Germany. And he has proven to be versatile by playing killer off-beats in Jazz-Funk tunes, but also Straight Ahead Jazz and other forms of Contemporary Jazz with a lot of sensitivity. ‘Simple Life’, a sophisticated Jazz-Funk piece composed by the master himself, features the Hungarian sax hero Tony Lakatos. The album ‘Live & Real’ was released in 2002.

Curt Cress ‘The Indian Call’

Curt Cress is an all-in-one master. As a music professor he teaches the new generation, as a producer he has cooperated with a gazillion German and international artists. The same applies to the drummer Curt Cress, the same guy, who played with Tina Turner, Meat Loaf, Saga and Passport (see below) plus many other bands. On top of it all, he released five solo albums, including ‘Avanti’ in 1983. In ‘The Indian Call’ he is being accompanied by a slap bass only. This piece used to be a hymn for amateur drummers and ‘Real Music’ people, back in the days.

Bruno Müller ‘Jam’

Bruno Müller is one of the most gifted Jazz, Pop and Funk guitarists in the country of Sauerkraut, vehicles with stars on their hoods and Diesel scandals. His Funk grooves are legendary and have helped artists like Gloria Gaynor, Frank McComb or the Icelandic Jazz-Funk group Mezzoforte which he toured with like crazy. He has also played and recorded with countless German acts including vocalist Jeff Cascaro and Pop artists. In 2016, Bruno Müller released his first solo album ‘Inner Back Home’. This one is entitled ‘Jam’.

Barbara Dennerlein ‘Take Off’

Barbara Dennerlein got her first organ at age 11 and turned out to be brilliant on that instrument, simultaneously playing the keyboard and the bass pedal part in a way hardly anyone else in Germany could match. She even did so at a very young age. Soon she was known as the ‘organ tornado’, when she played with countless Jazz groups. Later Barbara Dennerlein started recording solo albums featuring her own compositions. There are 21 of them today, not counting collaborations and live albums. This one, ‘Take Off’ features Dennis Chambers on the drums. It is the title track of her 1995 album ‘Take Off!’.

Peter Herbolzheimer Rhythm Combination & Brass ‘Corean Chick’

The late Peter Herbolzheimer was a prominent trumpeter, composer, arranger and band leader. He played with everyone in the Jazz world. On German TV, he lead the studio band for the popular TV show ‘Bio’s Bahnhof’. Apart from his own bands, he also headed Bujazzo, Germany’s Youth Jazz Orchestra. The bigband ‘Peter Herbolzheimer Rhythm Combination & Brass’ recorded the most brilliant pieces, including ‘Corean Chick’. This Jazz-Rock composition was ahead of its time when it was released on the album ‘The Catfish’ in 1975, and it still is today.

Joo Kraus ‘San Fran Safari Club’

Joo Kraus is a trumpet hero, singer, rapper, composer and arranger from the southern German town of Ulm. As a teenager, he already won prizes for his smooth trumpet playing style. Later, he performed with German Rock bands, before moving over to several forms of Jazz. In 2006, he did something called ‘recording one of the best German Jazz albums of all time’. His project was known as Basic Jazz Lounge, the album title was ‘The Ride’. ‘San Fran Safari Club’ is a killer Jazz-Funk tune which progresses with every minute. There are no words.

Passport ‘Albatros Song’

Klaus Doldinger, who is 83 years old today, is a Jazz icon in Germany. During his long career, the saxophone master founded the Jazz-Rock band Passport, which toured the world in the 1970s. But he is also known as a composer of movie scores (‘Das Boot’) and melodies for TV serials (‘Tatort’). In Passport, he played with all German Jazz greats, including the late Volker Kriegel (see below) and with international colleagues. His work includes a legendary 22-minute version of ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ with the Average White Band and countless other performers. The ‘Albatros Song’ is part of Passport’s 1974 album ‘Cross Collateral’.

Volker Kriegel ‘Circus Gambet’

Volker Kriegel was an incredible Jazz and Fusion guitarist. In 1965, he started playing with Klaus Doldinger (see above) in a quartet. On and off, this cooperation lasted until Kriegel’s early death in 2003. During his career, the genius became one of the most important Jazz-Rock influences in Germany and other European countries. His compositions and solo albums were just as convincing as his performances as a sideman for other acts. Kriegel was also an author and illustrator. ‘Circus Gambet’, this tune of his, was also interpreted by the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, which Volker Kriegel was part of as well. His music lives on.

Nils Gessinger ‘Bilma’

Nils Gessinger is a Contemporary Jazz and Jazz-Funk pianist and keyboarder. Until today, he is the only German musician ever to be accepted at Larry Rosen’s and Dave Grusin’s record label GRP. Gessinger lead his own 11-piece band and played his own compositions on many stages, until he suddenly disbanded the group and stopped playing some eight years ago. This is ‘Bilma’, an unconventional Contemporary Jazz piece with many guest musicians and just as many stunning solos from Gessinger’s album ‘Jam It Up!’.

Bajazzo ‘Brass Dance’

Bajazzo was a Jazz-Rock band from the GDR (communist Germany). They delivered some killer sounds with expensive arrangements. We chose their piece ‘Brass Dance’ because we did not find ‘Maracuja’ on Youtube. This one, ‘Brass Dance’, was recorded in 1988, a year before the Berlin Wall suddenly fell. To a former Western German collector, the author of these lines, it was surprising to find a brilliant Fusion group like Bujazzo decades ago, because most musicians in the GDR did not have access to many influential albums of this genre, including recordings from across the Atlantic Ocean.

Related article: Made in Germany: Top Ten Iconic Pop and Rock Music Tunes

Note: All ten Youtube clips above were available on July 24th, 2019. We are not responsible for any legal aspects connected to linked websites.