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The RIAS Big Band

RIAS Big Band 
Leader Jiggs Whigham, with trombone

The History of the RIAS Big Band, Berlin

The latest news is that the band is no more. There are eight symphony orchestras and choirs in Berlin, but, since the Sender Freies Berlin Big Band was discontinued several years ago, the RIAS band was, for a long time, the only functioning jazz orchestra in the city. Discussions on the use of the available finances for culture in the new metropolis have shown a tendency towards the classical ensembles now gathered from the previously divided sectors. Altogether there were about one thousand musicians(!) in these orchestras and choirs, with a mere eighteen in the Big Band. The RIAS band was therefore the sole representative of jazz and big band music locally. It was also the only locally available orchestra capable of backing radio and television shows.

The RIAS dance orchestra was grounded back in 1948 under the leadership of Werner Müller. Many great players have played in the orchestra. British first trumpet player Greg Bowen has been there since the early seventies, together with trombonist Johnny Marshall.
I was there myself for several years with Werner Müller, from 1967, together with trombonist Ake Persson and the Romanian pianist Eugen Cicero, and later on under the direction of Dave Hildinger, who had worked previously with the Sauter-Finnegan band in the USA. After Dave came Kookie Brandenburg, then the pianist Horst Jankowski and finally Jiggs Whigham. The RIAS Big Band has always been a top-class ensemble.

Many thanks to pianist Kai Rautenberg for putting me up to date. That's Kai on the left of Jiggs in the photo.

News Flash
2004 - the good news is that the band is together again. Lead trumpet Greg Bowen has returned to Berlin. That's Greg standing behind Kai in the photo.