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At his best, Horst Jankowski is a strange blend of Ray Conniff's vocal arrangements, Bert Kaempfert's Teutonic hooks, and Esquivel's playfulness. Trained as a classical concert pianist at the Berlin Music Conservatory, Jankowski switched to jazz early on, leading a small combo in German clubs. He conducted the pit band that accompanied singer Caterina Valente, then moved into writing and performing production music for a German version of Muzak. Eventually, his catchy pieces began to attract attention on their own, and Jankowski won a multi-album recording contract. Like Kaempfert, he was a prolific composer of original instrumentals, and his "Schwarzwaldenfahrt", better known as "A Walk in the Black Forest," is as much a sound of the 1960s as Herb Alpert's "Tijuana Taxi." Compare Jankowski's male-female dialogue version of "Nola" with Esquivel's "Mucha Muchacha."
As Herr Jankowski rounded the bend from the sixties to the seventies, he indulged his jazz tendencies more and more (and faded from American airwaves). He released several albums that featured jazzy vocal choral versions of current hits like "Light My Fire," selections of which are featured on the recent compilation, "Black Forest Explosion!" He also recorded with jazz combos including the great German reedman Rolf Kuhns, as well as an album of solo piano pieces (which is recommended only for those who acquired a taste for Horst's unique banging piano style).
For more on Horst Jankowski, check out Phil Kent's tribute webpage at www.horstjankowski.co.uk.
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