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The James Last Orchestra was a German cum-multi National big-band orchestra. The orchestra was established in 1964 as a studio orchestra, led by jazz musician Hans Last. The orchestra started touring in 1968, and has been very popular worldwide. From 1967, Polydor Records named him 'James Last', as they thought the name 'James' would be more suitable for the international market.
Around 1970 the rhythm section was reorganized as a rock group (lead guitar: Helmuth Franke, rhythm guitar: Peter Hesslein, drums: Barry Roy Reeves, bass: Benny Bendorff, percussion: Christian Lembrecht and later Herbert Bornholdt). Bornholdt and Hesslein were members of the German progressive rock band Lucifer's Friend (another member, Peter Hecht, played with Last for a few years in the late 1970s), and Franke was a member of the pop-rock band Wonderland, whose recordings were produced by Last.
Last initially used many of the musicians who, like himself, were based in Hamburg and were regularly employed by the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR, or North German Radio) big band. Over time, many of the NDR musicians could not always get time off to tour with the Last band, so Last used this chance to make the orchestra more international. Some of the top musicians who have played in the James Last orchestra include Canadian violinist Trudean Conrad, Welsh drummer Terry Jenkins, Belgian trombonist Georges Delagaye, Swedish trumpeter Leif Uvemark and a number of American trumpeters including Bob Lanese, Rick Kiefer and brothers Chuck Findley and Bob Findley. Another trumpeter, Derek Watkins from England, recorded with The Beatles, playing on "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Revolution 1". Some musicians are family: father-and-son violinists Dmiter Pintev and Stefan Pintev, and husband and wife Bob Coassin (trumpet, USA) and Anne-Louise Comerford (viola, Australia). Bob Coassin is widely known in America. All in all, about 20 different countries are represented in the membership of the orchestra.(All of Which were Recruited through the various James Last Admin Offices in Hamburg, London, and North America when the band became more of a Multi National orchestra).
James Last took much influence from the world of rock and pop when arranging music for his orchestra. A typical example is his version of "Here Comes the Sun" from the album Beachparty 2 which is influenced by the version sung by Richie Havens in the film Woodstock. Last's epic version of "Greensleeves" is a combination of the styles of Iron Butterfly and Blood, Sweat & Tears, two bands that he publicly declared his favourites in the late 60s. His studio recordings do not always capture the energy unleashed at his live concerts where a combination of skillful arranging and talented musicians give some surprising performances. His versions of "Nature Boy" featuring Chuck Findley and "MacArthur Park" featuring Derek Watkins are two examples. James Last has so far (2013) sold more than 80 millions albums during his career (www.gema.de), which has honoured him with 208 Golden and 11 Silver records. On April 17 2014, James Last celebrated his 85th birthday. At the same time he presented a tour for his band in 2015 which he completed in the spring of 2015 before he died on 9 June in Florida.
Earlier musicians who have worked with the James Last Orchestra, either live or on record, include:
Manfred Moch, Heinz Habermann, Leif Uvemark, Bob Lanese, Dieter Kock, Rick Kiefer, Ack van Rooyen, Gary Grant, Lennart Axelsson, Derek Watkins, Hakan Nyquist, Jan Kohlin, Bob Coassin, Chuck Findley, Bob Findley, Alex Malempre, Etienne Cap, Stuart Brooks,
Waldemar Erbe, Manfred Grossmann, Egon Christmann, Detlef Surmann, Konrad Bogdan, Wolfgang Ahlers, Horst Raasch, Georges Delagaye, Nick Hauck, Pete Beachill, Anders Wiborg, Ole Holmquist
Saxophone & flute
Emil Wurster, Jo Ment, Harald Ende, Werner Rönfeldt, Stan Sulzmann, Matthias Clasen, Herb Geller, Jamie Talbot, Andy Mackintosh,
Bernd Steffanowski, Ladi Geisler, Hellmuth Franke, Alan Sparks, Jürgen Schröder, Big Jim Sullivan, Erlend Krauser, Peter Hesslein
Fiete Wacker, Benny Bendorff, Thomas Zurmühlen
Terry Jenkins, Stefan Eggert, Barry Roy Reeves, Robert Last,
Rolf Ahrens HH, Pablo Escayola, Max Raths, Wolfgang Schlüter, Barry Roy Reeves,
Thomas Eggert, John Pearce, Joe Dorff, Günther Platzek
Sue Glover, Sunny Leslie, Kay Garner, Lyn Cornell, Russell Stone, Neal Lancaster, Tony Burrows, Joanne Stone, David Martin, Madeline Bell, Irene Chanter, Simon Bell, Mac Kissoon, Katie Kissoon, Sonia Jones, Tracey Duncan, Ingrid Arthur, Peter Schaper, Anella Kissoon, George Chandler, Jimmy Helms, P.P. Arnold, Ruby James, Sylivia Mason James, Pearly Gates, Vicki Brown, Jimmy Chambers.
Eugen Raabe, Dmiter Pintev, Trudean conrad, Gillian Catlow, Anne-Louise Comerford, Stefan Pintev, Juliane Holz, Zwetelina Haubold, Martin Lehmann, Boris Bachmann, Rebecca Thümer, Wulf Lohbeck, Kirsten Ibarra, Nadine Goussi Aguigah, Mathias Brommann, Kiki Zumach, Maria-Elena Pacheco, Katie Vitalie Ekatarina Bolotova, Adrian Bleyer, Katharina Kowalski, Dana Anka Matchin, Susan Richards, Phoebe Scott, Fanart Banner