I was in Berlin for a music education workshop in March and asked a local music teacher where I should go to hear good music. My new found friend recommended the b-flat-berlin in the Rosenthaler Strasse and I found myself packed into a small venue being blown away by an 18 piece orchestra. Yes, orchestra is the right word: partly because this ensemble uses instruments not usually found in the big band, including French Horn, and mainly because that´s what the leader calls it. If it´s good enough for Ed Partyka it´s good enough for me.
This is power music. Only the rhythm section and the singer were amplified, so we were listening to the pure sounds without the interference of a sound system. Even so, the combined power of this ensemble was electrifying. Many players were multi instrumentalists, changing from baritone sax to bass clarinet, or from alto to flutes, including alto and bass flute and this gave a wonderful range of textures for us to enjoy. There was even a superb duo of baritones: I don´t think I have ever heard that in a live show before.
Ed Partyka is US born and based in Berlin. His arrangements are detailed to perfection and he swings the mood from lyrical to raw in a flash. Several of the tunes on the set list were Mr Partyka´s original compositions and the standards sounded fresh and interesting because he is not afraid to make substantial changes, in harmony, rhythm and tempo, to the material. The singer, Julia Oschewsky, sang some standards and also her own compositions.
The programme lists the players as follows: saxes/reeds: Malte Schiller, Anna-Lena Schnabel, Mark Wyand, Tini Thomsen, Edgar Herzog; trumpets: Tobias Weidinger, Benny Brown, Florian Menzel, Jörg Engels, Martin Auer; French Horn: Linus Barnoulli; Trombones: Klaus Heidenreich, Lukas Wyss, Hannes Oppel, Jan Schreiner; Piano: Hendrick Soll; Bass: Paul Imm; Drums: Reini Schmolzer; vocals: Julia Oschewsky; Conductor/composer/arranger: Ed Partyka.
I started thinking of Woody Herman energy and then some screaming trumpet playing made me think of Maynard Ferguson. Whatever, the comparisons were always to the advantage of this home team, packed with huge talent, sensitive musicianship and team spirit, and to Mr Partyka.