WDR Big Band

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WDR Big Band Cologne (2009)

The WDR Big Band is a big band of the West German Broadcasting Corporation (WDR) in Cologne .


The origin of today's WDR Big Band lies in the "Kölner Rundfunk-Tanzorchester" active in August 1946 at the then NWDR Cologne (the predecessor of today's WDR), which was under the direction of Otto Gerdes and alternated with the Radio Dance Orchestra Hamburg Kurt Weg appeared in the only program of the NWDR.

In the autumn of 1947 Otto Gerdes switched to the Südwestfunk (SWF) orchestra as conductor . In his place came Adalbert Luczkowski , who had been active in the string section of the "German Dance and Entertainment Orchestra" founded during the war and possibly wanted to continue the tradition of this band in Cologne. In any case, the existing orchestra was now called the “Cologne Dance and Entertainment Orchestra” (KTUO). The soloists in this orchestra included Heinz Schachtner (trumpet), Erich Well (trombone) and the saxophonists Eddie Reisner and Paul Peuker.

Adalbert Luczkowski conducts the dance and entertainment orchestra (1954)

At the end of the 1950s, WDR discovered a love for jazz . Since the existing KTUO was not designed for this, Kurt Edelhagen was commissioned to set up a jazz big band . In 1957 Kurt Edelhagen switched from SWF to WDR and brought three musicians from his previous band with him to Cologne. He gathered all the others from all over Europe, and the band was complete with musicians from eight nations. The composition changed constantly, however, because Edelhagen was known for a strong "wear and tear" of musicians. The new "Orchester Kurt Edelhagen" remained an independent band under the name of its leader and was not a "radio orchestra". Only Edelhagen had a work contract with the WDR, which had to be renewed annually. In this respect, it can only be seen as the forerunner of the “WDR Big Band” in a broader sense. Only after his contract was terminated by the WDR at the end of 1972 and the associated end of his own big band, Edelhagen made recordings with the “WDR dance orchestra” between 1976 and 1980.

Adalbert Luczkowski retired on January 1, 1966. His successor in 1967 was the previous head of the RIAS Tanzorchester Berlin, Werner Müller. The Cologne dance and entertainment orchestra under the direction of Adalbert Luczkowski and then Werner Müller played temporarily in parallel with the Edelhagen band at WDR. Werner Müller temporarily combined the musicians in his band with the strings of the WDR radio orchestra to form the "Great WDR Entertainment Orchestra". With him, the name "WDR Dance Orchestra" and later "WDR Big Band" came up. In September 1987 Wolfgang Hirschmann was appointed first sound engineer and producer of the WDR Big Band; from 1996 to January 2002 Hirschmann was her orchestra manager, whose repertoire he constantly expanded. Lucas Schmid followed him on this course .

Bob Mintzer has been chief conductor since 2016 . At the same time, Vince Mendoza was introduced as the band's new “composer in residence”.

Since 2004, Karolina Strassmayer (alto saxophone) has been a woman member of the orchestra for the first time. From 2014 to 2019 the orchestra also had a brass player with Shannon Barnett . The WDR Big Band has received several awards.

Band leader

Richard DeRosa, 2014

So far the following band leaders have led the band:

Current occupation

The current line-up (2019) consists of:

WDR Big Band feat. Mokhtar Samba live at the Leverkusener Jazz Days 2016


In 2007 the WDR Big Band received a Grammy : The album “ Some Skunk Funk ”, recorded at the Leverkusener Jazztage 2003 together with Will Lee , Randy and Michael Brecker , was named the best album of a large jazz ensemble. Michael Brecker also received a posthumous Grammy for the best jazz instrumental solo for the piece "Some Skunk Funk".

The WDR Big Band was also successful at the 50th Grammy Awards in 2008: The joint production between the WDR Big Band and singer Patti Austin , "Avant Gershwin", was named the best "Jazz Vocal Album" of the year. The WDR Big Band won the second Grammy together with Vince Mendoza in the category “Best Instrumental Arrangement” for the arrangement “In a Silent Way”, composed by Joe Zawinul, who died in 2007 . The recording was made in Vienna in October 2005, the piece is part of the live recordings that were released on the double album Brown Street in 2006.

Discography (selection)

  • 2020
Dave Stryker with Bob Mintzer and the WDR Big Band: Blue Soul
Luciana Souza & WDR Big Band Cologne: Storytellers

Web links

Commons : WDR Big Band Cologne  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See the audio CD: Kurt Edelhagen & the WDR Tanzorchester. Recordings 1976-1980 . WDR 4, 2 CDs. (2007)
  2. WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) cultural news from December 11, 2015: Jazz musician Bob Mintzer becomes chief conductor of the WDR Bigband , accessed on December 13, 2015
  3. Together and solo. December 15, 2018, accessed December 14, 2018 .