Description"In 2016, a friend of mine randomly told me about a "â€¦German Placebo album" - he was referring to the Marc Moulin led Belgian jazz fusion supergroup. Of course, this was an audacious comparison and he may have only used it to gain my attention. So he continues with "well, not really - but this album certainly has some breaks". He was talking about the NiedersÃ¤chsiche Schlachteplatte - an album that I had neither seen nor heard about.
A few weeks later, I had a copy in my hands. Here was an LP that had been privately released in early 1977 by an artist collective as a protest action against the division and reformation of several rural districts close to Bremen. The original recording itself is an odd mixture of fusion jazz and "Platt", a northern German dialect, which is pretty hard to understand, even for most Germans. The idea for the project initially came from Mr. Gronau, a political activist and art teacher from Heiligenfeld. Assisted by Mrs. Traute Dittmann, they both provided the lyrics for the album. The musical background was written and composed entirely by Herbert Bodzin. I contacted Bodzin immediately when I heard the record. The story began.
Although Herbert Bodzin, born in 1936 close to Dortmund, may be little known within jazz circles nowadays, he was a prominent figure in the local scene in his day. He played piano, saxophone and flute and had been experimenting with synthesizers since the early 1970s. From 1957 until 1964, in the golden age of European modern jazz, he was in charge of the Jazzclub Hohenlimburg, in partnership with pianist Heinz Wendel. The scene nurtured countless fabulous jam sessions with local musicians and also led to contacts with other German and European jazzmen. Klaus Doldinger was invited a few times as well as the George Maycock Quintet from DÃ¼sseldorf, some of the best of the hard bop groups in Germany at that time. Bodzin even recalls how he used to jam with Peter Herbolzheimer in the mid 1960s, while legendary trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff and Dutch jazz pianist Jack van Poll inspired his playing as well.
While the public interest in jazz waned with the rise of the Beatles and other beat bands, Bodzin continuously sought out new developments within the genre. The days of Soul Jazz, Jazz Funk, and Jazz Rock came, bringing with them electrification and further tonal and rhythmic innovation. Meanwhile, Bodzin lived in Weye, close to Bremen - one of the districts that were about to be reformed. When it was time to perform the "Schlachteplatte”, he was ready with his Fender rhodes and his new synthesizers to provide what he called "Modern Jazz Rock", as noted on the back of the original album sleeve.
The recording session with the band took place in two days in late 1976 at Boccacio, a small studio in Bremen. On the third day, Bodzin went back into the studio to record the synth backgrounds. The band consisted of Hans KÃ¤mper, former member of the legendary Krautrock band Annexus Quam, on trombone and guitar. Bernd Szemeitzke and Peter Johannesdotter, both local artists, featured on drums and percussion, while Bernd SchÃ¶ttner played electric bass. Though the quintet didn't exist for very long and was initiated originally for the recording session only, a few live performances at political events took place. One of the bigger ones was "Das groÃŸe Schlachtfest" on February 27th, a major event among the many actions against the division and reformation of the local districts.
The record itself was released just six days earlier, on February 22nd, 1977. 500 copies of the album were pressed, recalls Mr. Bodzin. The price was 12 DM (German marks, roughly about 6 EUR). About 300 were sold to the local constituency, almost entirely within non-jazz circles. The name "NiedersÃ¤chsische Schlachteplatte" is a play on words. Niedersachsen is the region in question, whereas "Schlachteplatte" is a German meal with sausages and meat - the name literally translates to "slaughter dish" - a reference to how the land of Hoya was to be slaughtered.
Even though the combination of jazz and spoken word was moderately popular during that time, because of it's extreme locality, and perhaps also because it was politically motivated, the album was never a huge success. The few jazz fans that were reached by this album could not relate to the artwork and prose, and many local listeners could not relate much to the progressive music. Hence, the Schlachteplatte slipped into obscurity.
Nevertheless, the compositions and themes, the instrumentation with drums and percussion, electric bass, trombone, Bodzin's delayed piano, the phased flute and his overdubbed synth "string arrangements" make this album a serious hidden treasure. It is arguably one of the most unique German jazz recordings from the 1970s. It stands apart from most contemporary fusion as it retains notable touches of Bodzin’s bebop and hard bop influences, yet builds progressive and even psychedelic elements into it. The musicians provided uptempo tunes such as Landswien Hoya (Land of Hoya), deep psychedelics on Kreisteilung (Flute of Freedom), 6/8 grooves on Ik kann di seggen (Let Me Tell You This) and more.
Due to the short run and its strictly local distribution the original record really never made it to the surface for jazz and rare groove collectors. Even in recent years and during the German rare groove trend in the late 90s it remained undiscovered. Unsurprisingly, the LP was not added to the Discogs.com database until late 2017. The aforementioned friend simply used it as a nice odd trade item with other vinyl collectors when original backstock copies of the album were being given away for a short time in 2013 at a local newspaper and later sold from a museum for a low price until they were gone.
Unfortunately, instrumental master tapes from before the vocals were overdubbed in a later session are inevitably lost. Either thrown away from the studio or, more likely, destroyed during a fire in September 1986 when an arsonist was active in Bodzin's hometown of Weye. One night, while he was away at a birthday ball, Bodzin's house - a 250 year old historical building - became engulfed in flames. Herbert Bodzin lost almost all of his personal belongings including an array of early synthesizers and his TEAC tape reels. Luckily and most importantly, his wife and four children were safe.
Because of the nonexistence of the master tapes, we carefully re-edited and re-mastered the material from a mint vinyl copy to a version whose quality surprised even us. All tracks still have a length of 4 minutes, the arrangements are intact and one surely will not miss anything. Any of the six tracks is a winner, and has something for everyone! Our approach to this album required fresh artwork and new title because of the omission of the original political speech and poetry. Even though we respect the political aspirations of the artists of the original work, and appreciate the lyrical approach of the "Platt" dialect, we hope that the new recording, "Revival", can finally reach the ears and hearts of jazz fans and fusion enthusiasts. It may not be "â€¦a German Placebo", but Herbert Bodzin's brilliant compositions and beautiful production represents an important missing piece in German jazz history.
By the way, while in contact with Herbert Bodzin - who is now 80 years old and still active as steel artist, painter and musician - we were led to a totally unreleased recording employing experimental synths from 1982 that survived the fire. This unreleased masterpiece will be entitled "Revival II" and is slated to be our next project on "The Artless Cuckoo". "