The Kai Warner Sound

Extract from "Golden Melodies" CD liner notes written by Suitbert Kempkes

The first impression of the Kai Warner sound: an elegant, cultivated smoothness. The brass is recorded in a way that doesn't attack the ears with sharpness but comfortably snuggles to them. Kai Warner lets the trombone cast important accents. Even more important are the alto saxophones. In most cases, they lead the melody and tiptoe along on soft paths, with lots of glissandi. Much of it reminds one of the sax sound of the Americans Les and Larry Elgart.

With his alto saxes, the Kai Warner sound differs a lot from the James Last sound. But the Last brothers were never rivals. One time, when James Last has to be hospitalized, Kai Warner takes over his band for a TV appearance on the ZDF Starparade. Warner always knows his brother's production schedule. Once three days of recordings for a James Last album are in the can, three more days are added for a Kai Warner album. The line-up is nearly the same.

The sax section consists of James Last musicians Karl-Heinz Lüer and Harold Ende and members of the NDR Radio dance orchestra, like Herb Geller and Hermann Manig. Studio musicians from Munich usually travel to Kai Warner sessions as well. Among his trombonists are Detlev Surmann, Ole Holmquist and Georges Delagaye. Regulars among the trumpeters are Rick Kiefer, Bob Lanese and, occasionally, trumpet star Horst Fischer.

Guitarist Ladi Geisler remembers today that Kai Warner always had a secure feeling for progressions in the arrangements. Therefore it is no wonder that many titles begin with a combo sound. Besides Geisler, guitarist Bernd Stefanowski from Bremen participates, Günter Platzek is heard with his jazzy piano and the vibraphone and marimba sound comes from none less than Wolfgang Schlüter from Hamburg. A mutuality with the James Last sound of the sixties exists in sound and in the person of Robert Last, the oldest of the Last brothers. This drummer, with his unique way of playing fills, is heard on all of Warner's productions from the sixties to the early seventies.