Cult Classic: Michael Naura Quartett-Call.

Michael Naura was just six years old when he first travelled to Berlin with his mother, and began a new life in the city that became his home. It was where he studied journalism, philosophy and sociology. and played piano in a number of swing bands. However, by 1953 the pianist was now a bandleader and the Michael Naura Quintet was well on their way to becoming  one of the then most successful jazz bands in West Germany.

Key to the band’s sound and success was vibraphonist Wolfgang Schlüter who was regarded as one of the finest improvisers in the Michael Naura Quintet. Their star was in the ascendancy as they honed and refined their eclectic sound over the next couple of years. 

By then, the Michael Naura Quintet had been initially influenced by  George Shearing, and then by Dave Brubeck and Horace Silver’s hard bop sound and also the Modern Jazz Quartet. All these influences shawn through in the Michael Naura Quintet’s music as they left Berlin behind.

In 1956, they  moved to Hamburg which was the start of a new chapter for the band. They were offered the chance to become the house band at the Hamburg Jazz-Keller Barett in the Colonnaden. This booking was for initially six nights a week and but lasted seven years. Sadly, it also came at a cost.

Playing in smokey cellars six nights a week resulted in Michael Naura’s health deteriorating, and in 1964 he was diagnosed with Polyserositis,  and spent a year recuperating in the winter sanctuary. For Michael Naura this was a disaster as the treatment was expensive and he couldn’t afford the bills.

Fortunately, many top jazz musicians in West Germany gave benefit concerts to pay for Michael Naura’s treatment. This act of kindness allowed Michael Naura to recover from what was an extremely serious illness that threatened his musical career.

After his release from the sanctuary, Michael Naura decided to change direction and more or less gave up his career as a  musician  and worked as a journalist.

Later in 1966,  Michael Naura met the Hamburg-based writer and poet Peter Rühmkorf and soon, the pair were combining “jazz and poetry.” By then, the two men had become close friends

During 1967, Michael Naura  began work as a sound engineer for the Department of Dance Music of the North German Radio. This was a job he kept until 1971, when he took over as station editor after the death of Hans Gertberg. By then, the Michael Naura Quartett had signed to MPS and was about to record its debut album.

Joining bandleader and  pianist Michael Naura in the studio were drummer Joe Nay, bassist Eberhard Weber and vibraphonist Wolfgang Schlüter. The Michael Naura Quartett began recording the eight tracks that eventually became Call.

It was arranged and producer by Michael Naura who played Fender Rhodes. Just like vibraphonist Wolfgang Schlüter he used different amplifiers and effects during the recording session. In the case of Wolfgang Schlüter he used distortion when he recorded his vibes as he sought inspiration from Dave Pike. Stylistically Call was was very different to the music Michael Naura had been making a few years previously. 

Gone was the hard bop of the past which was replaced by fusion and elements of European jazz, classical, blues and Latin on what was an imaginative and innovative genre-melting album. As the rhythm section provide the heartbeat, Michael Naura’s Fender Rhodes and Wolfgang Schlüter’s vibes prove to be the perfect foil as the arrangement floats and meanders along. Together, the two men head in a new musical direction with the sounds and textures  merging into one from the opening bars of Soledad De Murcia through to the closing notes of Call. In between,  Forgotten Garden, Take Us Down To The River and Why Is Mary So Nervous features the Michael Naura Quartett at the peak of their powers. 

In 1971, the Michael Naura Quartett released  their  debut album Call on the MPS label. It was the first of two albums that they released. They returned with their sophomore album Rainbow Runner in 1972, which sadly, was also their swansong. However, the Michael Naura Quartett’s finest hour was their debut album Call, where it seemed the stars were aligned when they recorded what was a genre-melting career-defining epic. 

Cult Classic: Michael Naura Quartett-Call.

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