Today is day 4 featuring bands I consider exceptional, that defined music for our generation and yet didn't gain the recognition they deserved in the US.
When you think of 70's music what stars come to mind? Mick Jagger? Bruce Springsteen? John Lennon?
Sure, everyone knows these names. Everyone knows how much they contributed to the music world. I'll go so far to say that everyone loved these folks.
If I was to throw out some other names I think had just as much effect on the music world of the 70's like Klaus Doldinger, Curt Cress or Wolfgang Schmid would you agree?
I bet you have never even heard of these names.
That's tragic because these guys were the genius behind a band called Passport, a band you definitely need to know about.
I have 15 of their albums (I told you I liked them) and, even though there are 4 or 5 that dominate my play list, they are all incredible examples of the jazz/fusion/rock music genre that was birthed in the 70's.
I will apologize up front for today's blog. If it gets a little long winded it just indicates my passion for the talents of this band.
Doldinger's recurring jazz project called "Klaus Doldinger's Passport", was formally launched in 1971.
In its influence, Passport has been called the European version of the band Weather Report. Great comparison but the praise doesn't go far enough.
I believe Passport went deeper than any band to explore the outer reaches of the rock and jazz genres of the day.
It's hard to believe that Klaus Doldinger is self-taught on the saxophone. He started as a pianist but loved wind instruments. He taught himself saxophone because he felt he had played piano long enough with many of the early great jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, David "Fathead" Newman and the masters Illinois Jacquet and Junior Walker.
Klaus was born in Berlin, Germany and attended a Düsseldorf Music Conservatory. In his early years, Doldinger built his chops by starring in the German Dixieland band The Feetwarmers back in 1953. Later, he formed "Oscar's Trio", a band modeled on Oscar Peterson's work.
The first 3 albums where the classic Passport sound developed were recorded between 1971 and 1973 with several lineup changes.
Then, starting with their 4th album "Looking Thru" in 1974, what I consider the definitive "Passport" was born with their first US release.
This new version of the band which I like to call the "classic" Passport consisted of Doldinger along with Curt Cress on percussion, Kristian Schultze on keyboards, and Wolfgang Schmid covering bass and guitars.
This classic lineup, which I am mainly covering here today continued through the next 5 albums.
Utilizing spacey electronic jazz with rock and classical styles, this group was incredibly groundbreaking.
Like I said earlier, those who knew Passport back in the 70's and 80's weren't necessarily extreme jazz fanatics but, because of their unique sound, listened to them right along with Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Blue Oyster Cult.
Klaus Doldinger treated his saxophone playing completely different than the jazz musicians of that time. Rather than using it as an improvisational instrument, Klaus had a knack for creating the most lyrical, syncopated and catchy sax melodies you ever heard.
He could be as soft and melodic in a classical sense but could rip your ears off with some penetrating and raw riffs (that's right I said Saxophone riffs) that rivaled some of the heaviest of heavy metal guitar licks.
In an early interview Klaus stated "I wanted to make different music than my bebop mates; music that would take us away from it but set us apart from free jazz. For me, it was always important to keep my feet on the ground and play rhythmic and harmonious pieces that the listeners would remember."
"That led to Passport. With it I combine my background – traditional jazz and blues – with other melody-based styles. The origin of this interest is closely linked to the discovery of "Deutschrock". My friend and producer for many years Siggi Loch gave me the idea to play rock."
He was probably one of the first drummers to experiment with electronic drums.
There are times he plays so fast and his rolls are so long that you wonder if it's just one drummer playing.
In fact, if you get a chance to listen to the song "Cyclone" off his 1975 solo effort called "Curt Cress Clan" you will immediately understand what a talent this man possesses.
Wolfgang has composed and produced more than 50 albums and has been the bass player on over 400 lp's with the likes of Billy Cobham, Joe Sample, Bill Bruford and Brian Auger.
Kristian Schultze's use of synthesizer, organs, piano and mellotron rounds out the Passport sound with everything from impulsive "new wave" rhythms to full on expansive orchestral fullness.
Although I consider the "classic" Passport to be the best incarnation of Passport as a band, they have continued to record and tour, with mixed personnel, under the guidance of Klaus Doldinger as long as the other rock "grand daddies" like the "Rolling Stones", "Rush" or Fleetwood Mac."
Maybe it's because Passport's has always been on the more accessible side of the fusion equation, strong on melody, groove and, on occasion, some harder-edged grit, that's allowed Doldinger the luxury of keeping it alive for more than 40 years.
The first is the 4th album released by Passport "Looking Thru" and the band starts from the beginning to showcase their new "Deutschrock" sound.
The opening tune "Eternal Spiral" begins with beautiful, ethereal keyboards by Kristian Schultze which quickly changes to a progressive new wave rhythm (they do a lot of that) and joined by Curt Cress drumming that doesn't stop.
This song strangely enough, like most of this album, showcases the band other than Klaus Doldinger's sax playing. Klaus plays more keyboards than anything.
A great tune to follow up with, the title song "Looking Thru" is keyboard driven again but has Klaus playing a very melodic saxophone. It is just a damn pretty song.
The third gem on this album is "Rockport". Again heavy on the keyboards, this is an incredibly catchy tune you will find yourself humming days later.
While I am not normally a fan of "Live" albums, this album proves that their music is just as commanding live as it is in the studio.
Side one is by far one of the best jazz, fusion or even rock album sides ever. It is a "must hear" and it should be played at maximum volume to boot.
It consists of two songs which melt right into each other.
The opening song "Homunculus" exposes the eccentric sax playing that highlights this period of the band's music. After an incredibly tight musical bridge and drum solo we are segued into the second song "Cross-Collateral" a 13 minute masterpiece.
Hey, guess what? Don't forget to flip this disc over to Side 2. It has 4 songs and is nothing short of spectacular as well.
Although there is no bone crunching attack like side one of the previous album this disc can flex it's muscles as well as show off some pure musical beauty.
The title song, "Infinity Machine" is graceful without being frantic.
The name of the next song "Ostinato" is exactly what the definition implies: "a motif or phrase, that persistently repeats in the same musical voice." A song of this nature has to be difficult to live up to its self-definition but Passport brings an attractive delicateness to the repeating structure of the song.
One of the later songs on the album is "Ju-Ju Man" and again we are treated to the hard edged sax and rhythms of the previous albums.
Additional instruments are added to this work and the sound is expressly influenced by South American and Latin rhythms. Still maintaining the core fusion/rock base, Passport adds more Salsa, Samba and Tango overtones to their sound.
It is obvious by the late 70's, that Klaus Doldinger was once again ready to expand his musical horizons. As Passport moved into the 80's they continued to add new and exciting character and regional elements into their music.
Three songs that highlight this metamorphosis are the title track which is dominated by Latin drums, "Heavy Weight" which is a strong blues rocker and "Sambukada" an upbeat Latin platform with solid sax additions.
It is just one damn happy song.
In the 80's, Klaus dabbled in other projects including several motion picture soundtracks, most notably "The Neverending Story" and "Das Boot."
30 albums later (that's longevity) Passport is still performing live (mostly in Europe. They came to the US only once) with a constant mixture of various brilliant personnel.
Klaus Doldinger has given more than 5000 live performances, toured 50 different countries and has, in total, over 2000 published compositions.
In testiment to his enormous talent, he has been rewarded with countless jazz awards,
In his home country of Germany, he has been honored with the "Federal Cross of Merit" for his contributions to German cultural life.
Although, neither Doldinger nor Passport achieved superstar status in the U.S., Klaus was recognized as an honorary citizen of the Jazz capital of the U.S., the city of New Orleans.
If you found today’s blog helpful, interesting, or even funny, I bet your friends would too.
It's easy to tell them about it.
Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.
The more Baby Boomers we can help; the better place we make this world !!!