Jazz ensemble De Phazz was founded in 1997 by German producer Peter "Pit" Baumgartner, who has employed a constantly changing mix of performers on the group's many albums. Like the changing cast of characters, the albums usually feature an eclectic mix of musical genres and instruments, all bound together by De Phazz's characteristic classy taste. As a reviewer noted on the Web site of CD101.9, "No one can deny that the music of De Phazz is simply a question of good style."
Baumgartner was born in 1958 in Germany, and was interested in music from an early age. He worked as a DJ in various clubs in Heidelberg, Germany, and then toured as a musician in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Canada; he later became an editor of radio plays for a German television station's children's program. In 1986 he opened his own sound studio, and produced music for dance theater in Heidelberg, television programs, and short story broadcasts. He also produced remixes for Kool and the Gang, Lauryn Hill, Boy George, Kurtis Blow, Morricone, A-ha, Ella Fitzgerald, Martin Boettcher, Alphaville, Hatler, Till Bronner, Doldinger, and many others.
In 1997 he founded De Phazz, and produced the Detunized Gravity album with musicians and singers Karl Frierson, Barbara Lehr, and Otto Engelhardt. The band was formed as an "open concept," with a membership that changed with every new project. Some of the artists who have appeared more frequently are Pat Appleton and Karl Frierson; gospel singer Charity D. Sanders has also provided vocals for several De Phazz recordings. Other musicians who have been featured in De Phazz's work are drummers Roy Randolph and Jan Friede.
De Phazz's second album was Godsdog, which included some songs with a pop sound as well as a melancholy ballad. On the Mole Listening Pearls Web site, Baumgartner said that he liked this new sound, because he felt his "musical roots have taken shape in these pop songs of the 50s and 60s." He added, "What I like most about Godsdog is that we are not repeating what we have done in the past … yet [we are] still keeping our identity." In MSN Music, Dean Carlson praised the album's "deep, chunky rhythms and smooth, minimal male and female vocalists."
The band's 2001 album, Death by Chocolate, featured Otto Engelhardt on trombone, Jo Kraus on trumpet, Bernd Windisch on bass, Eckes Malz on keyboards, Jan Friede on percussion, and singer Karl Frierson. The album reached number 32 on the Billboard chart. The Phazz-a-delic Official Web site described the album as "a multitude of compositions where one can taste the individual style of further De Phazz artists through the other flavors."
According to the CD101.9 reviewer, Baumgartner admitted "to being too lazy to practice guitar and just technically proficient enough to handle a sampler," and said, "I see myself as an editor who combines the different pieces of a musical puzzle, who combines the little pieces of a mosaic, than as a composer." In 2002 Baumgartner compiled some of his musical mosaics and sent them to musicians Otto Engelhardt and Joo Kraus, and to singer/songwriters Karl Frierson, Pat Appleton, and Barbara Lahr, as well as many others. All of them wrote and composed their own variations on the pieces Baumgartner had sent them, and then returned their tapes to him. He rearranged what they had sent him, and this process went through many rounds until everyone involved was happy with the results. The final product was the album Daily Lama, released in 2003.
Daily Lama, was described as "a melting pot of sounds" by a reviewer from Undercover.com. The tracks include "True North," which has the flavor of a Marvin Gaye song; "Cup of Hope," with a Spanish guitar beginning; "Try," a jazz ballad; "Dummes Spiel," with German lyrics; and "Funk Rock," with a funk rock feel. The Undercover.com reviewer praised the album's "smooth, soulful grooves," and the reviewer on the CD101.9 Web site praised the album's "diverse ingredients," noting that De Phazz melded them into "something new, exciting, never seen or heard before … a sexy, sarcastic, subtle musical mosaic."
Colin Buttimer reviewed De Phazz's 2005 album Natural Fake, commenting in the Somnambule portion of the EleventhVolume Web site that the album gives the listener "a feeling of benevolence, like that experienced at the end of a hot summer's day."
In 2007 Baumgartner released Days of Twang, which was produced by his own label, Phazz-a-delic. A reviewer in MConnexion wrote, "It's time to twang like the big bang—only a little more explosively. The timelessly desirable 44 minutes of Days of Twang delight immediately, endlessly, day by day and all through the night."
When Baumgartner is not working on musical projects, he writes about experimental, composed, and electronic contemporary music for Swiss newspapers and for the journal Dissonanz/Dissonance. He is the partner of pianist Tanja Masanti; they have one daughter, Lea Lisa Philomena.
For the Record …
Members include Pit Baumgartner and a constantly changing list of guest musicians, different for each recording.
Founded in 1997 by producer Pit Baumgartner; released Detunized Gravity, 1997; Godsdog, 2000; Death by Chocolate, 2001; Plastic Love Memory, 2002; Daily Lama, 2003; Natural Fake, 2005.
Addresses: Record company—Phazz-a-delic New Format Recordings, Bluntschlistrasse 11, D-69115 Heidelberg, Germany.
Detunized Gravity, Mole, 1997.
Godsdog, Mole, 2000.
Death by Chocolate, Universal, 2001.
Plastic Love Memory, Mole, 2002.
Daily Lama, Universal, 2003.
Natural Fake, Universal, 2005.
Days of Twang, Phazz-a-delic, 2007.
"De Phazz: Daily Lama," Undercover.com,http://www.undercover.com.au/reviews/urdephazzdailylama.html (February 17, 2008).
"De Phazz: Days of Twang," MConnexion,http://www.mconnexion.de/ (February 17, 2008).
"De Phazz," Mole Listening Pearls, http://www.mole.de/eng/Artists/de-phazz.html (February 17, 2008).
"De Phazz: Natural Fake," EleventhVolume, April 2005, http://www.eleventhvolume.com/review/cds/files/dephazz.html (February 17, 2008).
"Godsdog: Critic's Review," MSN.com, http://www.msn.com/album/?album=10408649&menu=review (February 17, 2008).
Phazz-a-delic OfficialWeb Site, http://www.phazzadelic.com/English/r01.htm (February 17, 2008).
Smooth Jazz CD101.9, http://www.cd1019.com/ArtistProfile/Display.aspx?ID=38746 (February 17, 2008).
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