Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra

Big band formed in 1988 by Alexander von Schlippenbach.

The liner notes included in the two recordings of the BCJO, the first by Steve Lake, the second by Alexander von Schlippenbach, provide useful background information. The BCJO played its first concert in May 1988, the year following the last concert given by Schlippenbach's earlier large aggregation, the Globe Unity Orchestra. This first concert took place at the radion station RIAS Berlin and the station has continued to support the orchestra providing access to studios, equipment and time over the (so-far) seven year existence of the group.

In its beginnings, the artistic goal was to 'perform new works by contemporary jazz composers and make them ready for recording'; in pursuing this goal, the orchestra has commissioned and performed works by Misha Mengelberg, Kenny Wheeler, Carla Bley, and Willem Breuker as well as working on a body of compositions by Schlippenbach himself (recorded on The morlocks).

The original intention of the musicians being drawn entirely from a single city appears to have been quickly superceded by (probably) pragmatics and the recordings indicate more than a smattering of German (i.e. outside Berlin), Dutch, English, Japanese and US players. The 1995 version of the orchestra, assembled for four days of rehearsals and a radio broadcast and recording in June - the world premiere of a commissioned composition by Manfred Schoof - consisted of:

Henry Lowther, Thomas Heberer, Axel Dörner, Bruno Leichu, trumpet; Felix Wahnschaffe, Gerd Dudek, Evan Parker, Walter Gauchel, saxophone; Rudi Mahals, bass clarinet; Dan Gottshel, Mark Boukouya, Jörg Huke, trombone; Utz Zimmerman, bass trombone; Aki Takase, Alexander von Schlippenbach, piano; Nobuyuki Ino, bass ; Paul Lovens, drums.

In 1996 the BCJO toured Japan with a mixture of its 'standard' personnel and some Japanese musicians, and in June 1997 they performed concerts in Berlin and Hamburg premiering compositions by Manfred Schoof.


1989, Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, ECM 1409.
1993, The morlocks, FMP CD 61.
1996, Live in Japan '96, DIW-922.

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