THE MAX GREGER BIG BAND – MAXIMUM
Polydor LP, GERMANY, 1965
I must confess that until recently I had little knowledge of Max Greger’s achievements in the field of jazz. Max Greger was a name I associated with German Schlager / dance music, in the same category as James Last or Bert Kaempfert. I never paid much attention if I saw a Max Greger LP in a record bin. With the benefit of hindsight, I realize I should have been more adventurous.
This album is a perfect example of the quality of big band jazz Max Greger could achieve. When he was offered a job as Musical Director for Germany's second television channel in the early sixties, Max Greger’s ambition was to have the best big band in Europe. This recording from 1965 clearly demonstrates that he wasn’t far from reaching his goal. Count Basie himself stated that the Max Greger Orchestra was the best European band he'd ever heard.
I shall quote extensively from the article on the Max Greger Orchestra on the Jazz Professional website.
Dick Spencer from Florida was already in the band, having just completed his military service in Germany.
Benny Bailey, who has the distinction of having worked with both Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie, had been playing with Harry Arnold in Stockholm for six years when the Quincy Jones band came to Europe with the ill-fated Free and Easy show. Benny joined, then found himself stranded in Paris when the show folded. He moved over to the Radio Free Berlin orchestra to work with Herb Geller, Nat Peck and Joe Harris in 1962, eventually leaving to become featured jazz trumpeter in the Max Greger orchestra.
Don Menza,did a stint with Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson before getting an offer from Max.
Other non-Germans in the band are Ferenc Aszodi, Pierre Favre and Branko Pejakovic. Ferenc, who hails from Bucharest, was the original trumpet lead.
The rest of the brass section are German: Rick Kiefer in the trumpet section, Karl-Heinz Donick from Dresden, an excellent lead trombonist; Helmut Rink from Chemnitz (trombone) and Fritz Glaser from Drebach (bass trombone).
Pierre Favre, from Switzerland, was a small-band drummer before joining Greger.
Branco Pejakovic, a Yugoslavian, is the bassist. . He deputised in the Duke Ellington band on the recent tour when Ernie Shephard was taken ill.
Armin Rusch, on piano, comes from Hanover. Both he and Manfred Mende, the second alto, have the uncanny power of being able to understand English without being able to speak a word of it.
Freddy Brock, who plays fourth trumpet, is a nationally famous TV and film comedian. He comes from Karlsruhe.
Re-issued on CD in 1999 (OOP)
With thanks to Onxidlib for the rip and Quimsy for the original art.