PART II - "My Great Love" - Personal Writings

"My Favorite Arranger" Essay


Claus Ogerman, 2001.

Quite by accident while doing another errand, the store I was in today had Diana Krall's DVD Live Concert "Diana Krall Live in Paris" for sale behind the counter. This was one of those "on my list" to get items for several months now, but the item never seemed to make it to the top of that list. I have since severely chastised myself for not making it a priority to buy. Although I have watched DVD movies for several years, this is my first foray into DVD Audio and it's made my mouth water for more.

I have been in love with Diana Krall's "The Look of Love" audio CD since it came out last year - not because of her own voice (though it is growing on me), but because of who she picked to do the arrangements and the conducting on that album, the legendary Claus Ogerman. Claus has been almost an enigma to me since the late 1960s when I used to stare at his black and white photo on the back of the first Sinatra/Jobim album and then later in the 1970s, more black and white photos of him appeared on Jobim's own "Jobim/Matita Pere" album. In between those years, I played his arrangements for Jobim's "Wave" album over and over, as well as the Ogerman-arranged "A Certain Mr. Jobim" album. But I still knew very little about this German. I just knew that he arranged the way I liked and that he was the only person who could make me totally love the string section of an orchestra. And that was saying something.

Until now, I'd never seen any video of Claus, only those still photos. When I began a discography/expanded website on him some time ago, I came across more black and white photos from his own early 1960s albums and then a friend in Brazil emailed me a full color photo of Claus. Then in the past year came Gene Lees' 8 page jazz newsletter all about Claus. I was beginning to get a better and more complete picture of the man and who he was.

I had heard that Claus appeared in person on this Diana Krall DVD, and I was really anxious to see a live concert that presented the same fantastic bossa nova arrangements I had been enjoying on the audio CD. The DVD begins with Krall's own jazz group playing numbers by themselves, with the string orchestra sitting off to the right side of the stage in semi-darkness. I was amazed and delighted that Diana's own group included recording legends John Pisano on acoustic guitar and Paulinho Da Costa on percussion. It was wonderful to watch them and it was also the first time I had seen either of them play in a live concert. And, I now have a new appreciation for Diana's talents as a musician, especially for her solo jazz piano playing which is showcased well in this concert.

When it came time to do the first bossa nova arrangement from "The Look of Love" album, Diana told the audience who did the arrangement and what a pleasure it was for her to work with Claus Ogerman. But the concert continued and there was still no Claus to be seen anywhere! Diana's own Alan Broadbent conducted the string orchestra for several more numbers. Now we were over 75 minutes into the concert...I was beginning to get the sinking feeling that Claus would not be appearing at all.

Then, it happened. At the intro of the Gershwin-composed and bossa nova-arranged "S'Wonderful", Diana introduced Claus and he came out to conduct this as well as the next number, "Love Letters". Tears ran down my face as I was finally and at long last getting to see this wonderful musician conduct two of his own arrangements. After he and Diana exchanged hugs, he went to the podium. What a thrill this was for me, to watch him so expressively conduct - not with a baton - but with totally outstretched hands which could only put you in mind of the late, great Leopold Stokowski. Claus conducted just as I thought he would; totally contradicting what a few people had told me over the years that he was a cold, brutal German - so difficult to work with that no one wanted him. His arrangements and his musicality always challenged that notion to me. So much feeling and emotion comes through his music that I just knew his conducting would be very warm, and it was.  It is said that one's talent as expressed through the arts is a window into the soul of the artist. I believe that Claus Ogerman has a very beautiful soul, indeed.

Watching this concert inspired me to add a brand new section to my Claus Ogerman site. There is now a "Video Stills" section of the site which has many captured still photos of his appearance in this concert. I have also added to and updated the info in the "Live in Paris" DVD listing which was already on Claus' site.

If you like jazz, Diana Krall and/or Claus Ogerman, and standards played (and arranged) right, this is a great concert to both watch and listen. Pioneer did a first-rate job with the mastering; it was photographed beautifully and also has bonus footage of 3 rehearsal numbers (with Claus watching in the wings), and 2 of Diana's music videos. Total playing time of the disc is 130 minutes.

November 2002
Re-edited 11/6/03.


Back to Site Index