Joachim-Ernst Berendt and the (West) German Jazz und Lyrik Genre

Lycoming College, Williamsport
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz & Literature, 2010, Winter, 15 (1), pp. 58 - 81
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"Jazz und Lyrik" ("Jazz and Poetry"}1 in the German-speaking world has been documented for fifty years, with its boosters claiming that these pre-dated, or at least developed independently of, similar activities during the postwar American jazz scene (Berendt 1960a; "Probleme um Jazz und Lyrik"1964; Meifert 1999). Certainly the combination of jazz and poetry is one field in which German jazz advocates, critics, musicians, and listeners have had an abiding interest. The combination of the two genres fulfilled several important purposes in the early days, between the mid- 1950s and the mid-1960s. By associating jazz with an established art form (poetry), jazz stood to receive, by association, artistic integrity, something it lacked in the eyes of many, particularly older, postwar Germans. For Joachim-Ernst Berendt, a broadcaster, author, and producer (and its main proponent), appending words to jazz enabled him to stress a socially critical message and thereby impart a specific extra-musical meaning to jazz. Since the early recordings (1960-1964) focus on combinations of jazz and Gennan poetry, they participated in the "Germanizing" of jazz. This essay explains how and why Berendt attempted this hybrid, as well as how and why he maintained a distinction between German and American efforts.
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