Kurt Edelhagen (5 June 1920 – 8 February 1982) was a major European big band leader throughout the 1950s.
Edelhagen was born on June 5, 1920 in Herne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany as Kurt Ludwig Edelhagen. He was trained as a clarinetist and pianist in Essen, Germany, discovered Jazz during the Second World War, and after the war, along with his long-time associate, drummer Bobby Schmidt, formed a big band that originally played in the clubs of the occupying Allied Armed Forces and subsequently performed before German audiences.
Edelhagen patterned his music after the big bands of Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie and, the man who was to become his idol, Stan Kenton. "Stan Kenton," said Joachim Ernst Berendt [the leading German authority on Jazz], "at that time was the last word in big band jazz and Kurt Edelhagen appeared to us from the beginning as the German response to the American challenge posed by Kenton."
Edelhagen was a natural bandleader and his band did radio recordings for the American Forces Network (AFN) in Frankfurt/Main in 1948 He also headed ensembles for the radio station in Frankfurt, in Nuremberg (1949-1952) and most notably the orchestra of Sudwestfunk (1952-1957).
It seems that Edelhagen’s big break came in March 1954 when he took his band on the weekly television series "Jazz Time Baden-Baden" which was produced and hosted by Joachim-Ernst Berendt. His appearance of the series made the band known far beyond the southwest of Germany. Edelhagen performed along with numerous stars of the international jazz scene including Lionel Hampton, Mary Lou Williams and Chet Baker, among many others. Looking for a singer for his big band Edelhagen discovered Caterina Valente who joined his orchestra in 1953. Together they recorded her first album that same year.
In 1957 Popular singer Tony Sandler recorded
several songs, such as "Ik weet wat je vraagt", with his orchestra
for the Polydor label. Below is one of my favourites from the band recorded in 1956.
|Kurt with Elvis & Bill Haley, Frankfurt 1958|
In 1957 he joined Westdeustcher Rundfunk in Cologne which in time included such players as trumpeters Dusko Goykovich and Jimmy Deuchar, altoist Derek Humble, and trombonist Jiggs Whigham. He headed that band until it broke up in 1973 and remained semi-active up until near his death. Kurt Edelhagen recorded fairly often in Germany during 1949-1972 although few of his records (other than one put out by Golden Era) have been made available in the U.S. His Radio Orchestra played at the opening ceremony of the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Edelhagen died February 8, 1982 (age 61) in Cologne, Germany.(Info edited from Wikipedia, Jazz Profiles & AMG)