Various Artists: Jazz At Berlin Philharmonic IX: Pannonica


Most definitely a CD for fans of class jazz, this is an enjoyable live set from some of the top European jazz players.

The backstory is interesting: the concert paid tribute to the baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. The concert was held on 6th February this year, 30 years after her death, and focused on pieces by musicians she supported (money, a roof, friendship). The musicians often dedicated compositions to her in thanks, people like Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Bud Powell and Sonny Rollins.

“Nica” got into jazz after hearing Monk’s ‘Round Midnight on a trip to New York in the 1950s, turning her back on Europe and becoming a supporter of American jazz.

The CD is out on ACT; the label’s founder Siggi Loch was 15 when he heard a concert by Sidney Bechet and was equally smitten, dedicating his life to jazz.

Monk contributes a number of tracks — the last six years of his life were spent as a guest in Nica’s home — including opener ‘Round Midnight, which is bluesier / more big band-ish than our version of the original, and features Charenée Wade on vocals.

This is followed by Boliviar Blues (also Monk), no vocals but lots of classy solo breaks (and also the same few opening bars — repeated — of the Cruella de Vil song from 101 Dalmatians; a Google hunt revealed that Mel Leven wrote the Cruella song in homage to Monk).

After that, it’s pretty well unrelenting quality jazz, taking in Little Butterfly (Monk / Jon Hendricks, Wade on vocals) and Get It Straight (Monk / Sally Swisher). The lepidopterous theme continues with Poor Butterfly (Raymond Hubbell / Rollins) Nica’s Dream (Silver) and Powell’s Celia — a treat for bass fans — closing, with some scat from Wade. The two saxes work well together, but it’s all music played to the highest standard (and sometimes very fast).

If you want a complaint, it’s very smooth, any rough edges, and indeed edge, polished off.

The package design is by Siggi Loch and this is out on ACT 9889-2.

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