Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Swiss Jazz School Big Band feat. Bobby Shew

The Swiss Jazz School is the first independent jazz school in Europe which was founded in 1967. In this video from 1997 the school's big band enjoys a 30th anniversary concert at the local Bern Jazz Festival.

The first solo, on trumpet, is beautifully played by the American trumpeter Bobby Shew. The second soloist is the Swiss George Robert on alto saxophone. I don't know the name of the rest of the musicians in the band. Any Swiss jazz expert out there to give us some names?

January 15 update: Bobby Shew Remembers

Thanks to the digital age, I found Bobby Shew's email address, sent him the link to this video and managed to exchange a couple of emails with him. He kindly answered my questions about the band and his own career:

- Who was leading the band?

It's Bert Joris. the director of the band. He is a totally GREAT jazz trumpet player and a great composer/arranger. He also was and maybe still is, a teacher at the Swiss Jazz School in Bern. He also directs the Brussels jazz Orchestra, one of the truly GREAT ones.

- Were you a guest in Switzerland or also one of the teachers at the school?


- Who was arranging for the band?

They were playing a combination of published, well-known and historical tunes from the big bands. And possibly things by Bert.

- Did you bring anything from your past experience of working with big bands of Buddy Rich and Woody Herman to this fine school orchestra?

Of course. All of those experiences are part of who I am.

- How was the time you spent with Louie Bellson?

Very special. I played with Louie's band for around 33 years, off and on. And recorded maybe 11-12 albums with him.

- I've seen a video of you playing a double-bell trumpet. What is that instrument?

It's called "the SHEWHORN" by its' designer-builder, Dave Monette. It was based on an old cornet called the ECHO CORNET. It had a second very small "bell-like" extension on the left side that sounded like an "echo". It was built to perform a piece called "ALPINE ECHOS". It is a rare instrument and only a few were made, to my knowledge. I wish I HAD one but they are rare and EXPENSIVE when located for sale.  Anyway, Dave had the humorous idea to build one for me that was initially a "piece of junk", barely playable but comical to look at. After messing with it, I asked him about building a "serious and playable version" which he did. There is a youtube track from a TV show on BBC in Birmingham, UK [see below] that has me playing "Stompin' at the Savoy". I quit playing the horn many years ago because it was becoming more comical rather than musical and I did not want my performances to be associated with comedy. The SHEWHORN is in storage. A duplicate of it is in the Streitweiser Music Museum in Austria.

January 16 Update: Joris Bert email

It is amazing that how a short video can bring back so many memories for musicians in it. (I was wondering what memories are hidden in my VHS tapes lying out there!)

After Bobby's reply, it was the time to hear from Joris Bert who was called by Bobby "a totally great jazz trumpet player [and] composer/arranger." Today I heard from Mr. Bert:

Thank you for picking this up. I didn't remember there was footage on this, and it's great to enjoy  Bobby's incredible skills again. Little correction : I'm not the musical director of the Brussels Jazz Orchestra (as Bob said in his answer to you). The musical director is Frank Vaganee. I did however compose a lot of music for that band and was invited as a soloist/conductor many times. I'm still conducting the Swiss Jazz School big band (since 25 years now) and we still appear on the same festival almost every year. Kind greetings from Belgium, Bert


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