FAZ – LJJO and Dianne Reeves in the Rheingau Musik Festival

Translation of an article published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 4th August 2015


Heart-Rending Adulations

By Ulrich Olshausen


Top-drawer American guest: The Hessen State Youth Jazz Orchestra plays host to Dianne Reeves in Wiesbaden.

The Hessen State Youth Jazz Orchestra and its founder Wolfgang Diefenbach have been together for 30 years. The enterprise is financed by the Hessen State Ministry for Science and Art. The demands on the person in charge of such a gathering, which by definition is in a permanent state of change (more than 1800 musicians have been members of the band), are almost impossible to satisfy — he must be a good teacher and have enormous knowledge of what’s in the jazz repertoire and what still needs to be written; and then there are the tours to all five continents. A special balancing act that needs to be mastered: for many of its transient members the orchestra is quite clearly a stepping-stone to a professional career with all that this entails; for others it’s just the best hobby imaginable. The choice of music must neither overtax nor disappoint. Wolfgang Diefenbach eased this dilemma to some extent when he created a junior band five years ago. The members of the junior band are free to choose whether to move up into the main orchestra. In addition, for the last six years there has been a vocal group (also with a junior formation) in which professional ambition and pure amateur motivation coexist side by side.

Wolfgang Diefenbach has made a habit of casting international stars with his young men and ladies (currently five of the latter). Nat Adderley, Randy Brecker, Herb Geller, Madeline Bell and the New York Voices, as well as composers/arrangers James Morrison, Bob Mintzer and Manny Albam have worked with the band. For the anniversary concert in the park of the German spa city of Wiesbaden, Diefenbach invited a particularly exacting guest: the singer Dianne Reeves, with whom he arranged a reunion at a chance meeting last year in South Africa.

Working together with the carefully prepared band, the American star and multiple Grammy-winner proved to be a unique singer, with gentle tones in the high soprano and blacker-than-black blues and soul sounds, from evergreens to new chamber music, with the spectacular ability to use — or not use — her vibrato like a finely-adjustable sound of its own. The band had no problems with the arrangements, some of which are of considerable difficulty. Taken as a whole, it is on a par with the radio stations’ orchestras, and individual soloists, for example the trumpeter Felix Blum, who emulated the Cuban superstar Arturo Sandoval in a piece in Cuban style, the alto saxophonist Stephan Hoffmann and the drummer Julian Camargo play just as well as the professionals.

Dianne Reeves, who shed tears of emotion when she heard so much youthful talent during the rehearsals, put the emphasis on integration in her announcements, in her numbers with the German vocal group and above all in a freely-improvised duet with tenor Christopher Klassen, whom she “thawed out” in the best tradition of the American ’40s and ’50s nightclubs, motivating him to ever more intense affirmations of love. The enthusiastic young jazz musicians paid a musical tribute to Wolfgang Diefenbach to celebrate his birthday (his age is kept a discreet secret); we are sure that all like-minded enthusiasts will endorse this.

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