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It takes people like Stefan Schultze who think out of the box to keep the big band adventure alive. Big bands are the perhaps most spectacular jazz format. They are institutions of jazz as a whole and teaching institutions for the individual. Big bands have a slight inclination to megalomania and a stronger one to discipline and concept. They are hard to keep together but in the best case they are not at all out-of-date.

Stefan Schultze‘s Large Ensemble is such a best case. A man in his mid-thirties, he has been socialized with various forms of music: jazz, rock, pop, new music, classical music, ethnic sounds, minimal, noise etc. He is part of the “click culture” generation, but it is exactly against this generation that he competes. His elaborate, again and again stunning compositions draw from a great pool, but they require a detailed examination that YouTube cannot offer.

With all its voltes and twists Stefan Schultze‘s music remains extremely alive, agile, full of catchiness and piercing force. And all of this without losing itself in simplicity. The power and contagious vitality of these big screen sounds result from this accurately built agility. This is by all means music from today that has not forgotten about its roots.


Stefan Schultze Large Ensemble »Ted the Bellhop«

Ted the Bellhop
Stefan Schultze Large Ensemble

2017 WhyPlayJazz (RS033)
CD + MP3 Album Download

Track listing

  1. Ted the Bellhop  5:46
  2. The Morning After  8:23
  3. Skala 55  4:28
  4. Arkona  8:26
  5. Fleur Carnivore  8:01
  6. Blues Lee  6:22
Stefan Schultze Large Ensemble »Erratic Wish Machine (feat. Wu Wei)«

Erratic Wish Machine (feat. Wu Wei)
Stefan Schultze Large Ensemble

2015 WhyPlayJazz (RS017)
CD + MP3 Album Download

Track listing

  1. Goodbye Part I  6:43
  2. Goodbye Part II  8:57
  3. Erratic Wish Machine  7:13
  4. Fuxing  6:51
  5. Old Six  5:52
  6. Trigger Happy  8:43
  7. Dorf im Kopf  6:54


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This is whip smart jazz rolled out as boozy fun. Stefan Schultze‘s 18-piece ensemble is about as unconventional as a big band gets, and yet their personable enthusiasm and magnetic charm and a willingness to dive into a blues at will create an environment that makes this music completely embraceable.

Den Hotelpagen Ted, die verbindende Figur im Film, hat Stefan Schultze nun zum Rollenmodell für sein neues Album gemacht. Denn auch in seiner Musik öffnen sich immer wieder Türen zu neuen Überraschungen zwischen Jazz, Neuer Musik, Blues und Noise. [...] Die enorme Vielschichtigkeit seiner Partituren und die Virtuosität im Umgang mit dem Klangkörper Bigband machen „Ted The Bellhop“ zu einer kleinen Sensation.

Hans-Jürgen Schaal, Jazz thing 9-10/2017 (#120)

Mit seinem 18-köpfigen Large Ensemble hat sich Pianist Stefan Schultze (Jg. 1979) in die Schwergewichtsklasse begeben. Die Wucht des Klangkörpers wird freilich klug dosiert und mit ausführlichen Solo-Statements kontrastiert.

Klaus Nüchtern, Falter 27/17

Er entführt uns in Klangräume voll mit kleinen und großen Überraschungen, abrupten Wendungen und anarchischem Witz. [...] Feiner, zeitgemäßer, aber nicht modischer Big-Band-Jazz aus Norddeutschland.

Martin Schuster, Concerto 04/17

Both the music and the performances are inspired and highly aesthetic, which makes this album an absolute delight for all Big Band enthusiasts and in fact all Jazz connoisseurs. A must!

Il nous fait imaginer une rencontre agitée, endiablée, entre Charles Mingus et Carla Bley sur les rives du Rhin. [...] Il y a là-dedans d’impétueux solistes, des coups d’audace et beaucoup de finesse.

The label WhyPlayJazz, otherwise known for its experimental combo recordings, has landed a great break-through with its first jazz orchestra CD – also a real achievement for composer and WDR jazz-award winner 2010, Stefan Schultze. Produced by radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, this album moves away from the usual theme-solo-theme-big-band-program with a build-up of tightly composed mood pieces through non-strophic, sometimes minimalistic motif and riff developments that are encompassed by expansive soloist soundscapes.

Frithjof Strauß, Jazz Podium 7/8 2015

Overall this is a very unusual album, which is definitely worth of the attention of connoisseurs searching non-trivial musical explorations. Schultze, on the other hand, deserves praise and encouragement for pursuing his dreams, which eventually result in such superb recordings as this one.

For the production of Erratic Wish Machine, Stefan Schultze invited the virtuoso Chinese mouth organist Wu Wei (amongst others, heard with Pascal Contet and Ensemble Intercontemporain): very unusual and very successful. Unpredictable machine-wishes that yield a lot of surprises. Definitely worth a listen!

The sheng is a kind of Chinese mouth organ, and the pianist and composer Stefan Schultze was so fascinated by the virtuoso Wu Wei and his instrument that he composed a big band album around it. ‘It is a particularly loud instrument that is nevertheless capable of a lot of contrast, and I wanted to find a way to integrate it in my kind of big band music,’ says Schultze. ‘One has to create enough quiet moments to give this instrument the space it needs. The sheng should do more than glimmer through as a yet another minimal tone color.’ This approach has worked superbly on Erratic Wish Machine (WhyPlayJazz) by Stefan Schultze and his Large Ensemble.

Schulze is an impressive composer in his ability to break out of all big band traditions. His music goes through phases that range from introverted melodies through to extreme heavy rock. [...] The CD is rich in variety, consistently fascinating and beautiful, and gives Wu Wei the opportunity to really utilize the unlimited possibilities of the Sheng instrument.

Tom Beetz, JazzFlits #239

His music is among the most original that the international big band scene has to offer. His compositions are full of surprising developments, full of original ideas, full of breaks in style and not the least, full of unusual sounds. Stefan Schultze continues to be a master of contrast and diversification.

Large Ensemble, a 17-piece big band of top musicians, impresses us with rhythmic finesse, melodious color and a good dose of humor.

Music that doesn’t conform to any single category, consummately orchestrated with complex arrangements and a full big band sound with true audience appeal. [...] tremendously interesting for inquisitive lovers of music who can appreciate an immense spectrum ranging from apparently directionless wandering pianissimi to gigantic eruptions from the whole ensemble.

A real big deal. Christof Schlingensief and Frank Zappa would have loved it. Stefan Schultze is definitely a mischievous character who loves surprising turns, contrasting opposites and raw edges.

Schultze’s compositions initiate movement and progress, create prickling states of pleasure, electrify with liberty for creative jazz musicians, whose improvisational co-creation is fundamental.

Olaf Weiden, Kölnische Rundschau

Opposites, that polarise yet tag along with each other; various styles that assimilate and yet remain diverse. Sounds, which sometimes ask too much of their listeners, but are never abstruse […] That way big band sound is fun.

Sven Ferchow, Neue Musikzeitung