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eJazzthing | Reinhard Köchl

""In the process, a fascinating project emerges, whose bizarre colorfulness gives the imagination strong spurs. For this reason alone, the listening journey to Schwarzmayr's jazz planet is worthwhile"

eMusenblätter | Frank Becker

"Holst is brought refreshingly up to date with great sensitivity and delicate rhythms.
Schwarzmayr's arrangement creates moving images in the mind

The performance by Mark Schwarzmayr's jazz orchestra adds a shimmering crown worthy of any classical concert hall. It blows through the speakers like a solar breeze - magnificent, sonorous, lush, a wonderful experience!"

Hessischer Rundfunk HR2 | Karmen Mikovic

""a remarkable bigbandproduction [...] a lush and magnificent sound"



Martin Wind (bs):

"As a musician with deep roots in both European concert music, jazz and improvisation, I'm always on the lookout for interesting crossover projects. This adaptation of Gustav Holt's masterpiece "The Planets" is a wonderful find. Powerful tutti sounds and inspired solo excursions combine here to create an extremely atmospheric and at times mysterious work."

Ted Rosenthal (pn):

"The Planets Jazz is a fresh and exciting take on classic music.  With interesting grooves, a rich variety of orchestration, and a wide range of moods - beautifully lyrical and high-energy - Planets Jazz is a most memorable listening experience."


Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik

nominated for category "Grenzgänger"

Best Instrumentalalbum 2023

Deutscher Rock&Popmusiker Verband

Best Arrangement 2023

Deutscher Rock&Popmusiker Verband

Record of the Month November 2023


buy the CD:


buy the sheetmusic/charts:

Infotext - Linernotes

Gustav Holst "the planets" meets Bigband

THE PLANETS by Gustav Holst (1834-1934) composed 1914-1916 is one of the most popular orchestral compositions of the 20th century. Most notably its programmatic depth and new impulses in terms of orchestration and harmony had a profound impact on the work of renown film composers such as John Williams, James Horner or Jerry Goldsmith and its effects can still be felt today.

Big Band is considered the most versatile Jazz ensemble of today’s time. It offers a broad spectrum of acoustic colors which makes it the perfect vessel for the composition‘s performance. Improvisation is an essential element of Jazz. This means that every movement/planet can be performed by specific soloists, matching the varying themes and highlighting their individuality. Fully notated passages, which melodically and harmonically pick up the motives created by Holst, are balanced out with contrasting, improvised elements.


2024 marks the 150th anniversary of Gustav Holst’s birthday. It is also the 90th anniversary of his death.


altosax 1, doubles on flute, sopransax, bass-clarinet, solo on "Jupiter"
altosax 2, doubles on flute, clarinet
tenorsax 1, doubles on clarinet
tenorsax 2, doubles on flute
baritonsax, doubles on clarinet, bass-clarinet

trumpet 1, several mutes, doubles on flugelhorn
trumpet 2, several mutes, doubles on flugelhorn
trumpet 3, several mutes, doubles on flugelhorn
trumpet 4, several mutes, doubles on flugelhorn
trumpet 5 several mutes, doubles on flugelhorn

trombone 1, several mutes
trombone 2, several mutes
trombone 3, several mutes
trombone 4 (basstrombone), several mutes

keys, acousic/electric piano/synth/organ, solo on "Mars"
bass, acoustic/electric bass, low b-string prefered
guitar, jazz-guitar, electric guitar, solo on "Uranus"
drums, jazz-drumset, solo on "Mercury" and "Mars"
percussion, latinpercussion, cymbals, belltree, triangle, solo on "Mercury"

additional soloist

Planet Mars, bringer of war: electronics & loops
Planet Venus, bringer of peace: altosax
Planet Mercury, the winged messenger: flute
Planet Jupiter, bringer of jollity: tenorsax
Planet Saturn, the bringer of old age: trombone
Planet Uranus, the magician: trumpet
Planet Neptune, the mystic: flugelhorn

the planets-jazzorchestra

conducted by Mark Schwarzmayr



Benjamin Steil
Alexander Jung
Ralf Frohnhöfer
Steffen Müller-Kaiser
Udo Salamon
Stephanie Wagner


Ralph Himmler
Sandor Kovacs
Heiko Hubmann
Gero Hensel
Volker Bender


Sven Adelberger
Karoline Vogt
Andreas Weil
Georg Maus

rhythm section

Mark Schwarzmayr (keys)
Florian Hofmann (guitar)
Andreas Büschelberger (bass)

Berthold Möller (drums)
Cris Gavazzoni (perc)


rrecorded and mixed at BIG NOISE in a silent corner Studio

3rd Planet (Earth) of our Solarsystem,
Germany, Seeheim

my thougts:

I must have been about 12 years old when I was alone at home one evening. It was round midnight and the movie “ALIEN” was on TV. I was deeply fascinated, but also very scared. The threatening atmosphere of this cinema classic arose for me not only through the story or the images, but also through Jerry Goldsmith’s mysterious, eerie soundtrack. The film had such a powerful effect on me that I could hardly sleep for days.

Shortly thereafter, I saw “STAR WARS” for the first time at a friend’s house and the themes and timbres of John Williams score were at least as impressive. My love for great orchestral sounds was awakened.

But where did these composers get their inspiration? What was the foundation?

It took a few years until I heard Igor Stravinsky’s “Le sacre du printemps” or Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” and immediately fell in love with them. There they were again. Those chords, those orchestrations, those unusual forms. But I was on a different journey....the journey into jazz. Large formations like the big band had captivated me.

Wouldn’t it be possible to write such a work for big band?


In 2020, everything changed dramatically. My journey was abruptly stopped by a pandemic and all of a sudden I had plenty of time. Performances and other productions were not possible.
So why not use this free space and finally tackle the project THE PLANETS JAZZ. But how? How do you create a work for jazz orchestra from a skillfully crafted orchestral score, which at the same time allows for improvisation? These works function completely differently to most big band arrangements with their clear themes and space for improvisation.

Every journey begins with the initial step out of the front door.

An essential element of jazz is improvisation. It quickly became clear that each planet should have its own soloist, representing the character of the planet and the music.
I immersed myself in the work of Gustav Holst and started writing, experimenting with harmonic structures and grooves, working out the orchestration. The ideas flowed and eventually, after many weeks, I held the score of THE PLANETS JAZZ in my hands.

In the process, I gained more and more pleasure from working with what Gustav Holst had created as a “template”. This could be a theme, a chord or an interesting timbre. While in the outside world the “bad COVID-19 news” was omnipresent, I had found a place in the universe that was full of tension and beauty.

When it became clear that the situation for live music would not really improve in the following year 2021, the idea of making a recording was born. All the musicians I approached were instantly involved and very committed. It had never been so easy to agree on rehearsal and recording dates.

But where to record a big band? All the studios were closed, no one could record a large ensemble live due to the rules for distancing. Hotels for the musicians were unavailable, restaurants for catering had gone into lockdown, borders and concert halls were closed....

Fortunately I have my own studio where I can record one section of the band at a time in separate rooms, so the rhythm section and soloists got together for a first session to record THE PLANETS JAZZ. After that the individual horn sections (trombones, trumpets, woodwinds) came into the studio to complete the recordings.

And then came the mix...from the recordings I formed the overall sound, which today has flowed into this album THE PLANETS JAZZ -





Thank you:

Such a project would never have been possible without the many people who have played their parts in it realization

Thanks to Gustav Holst for his fantastic composition. I cannot bow low enough

Thank you to all the musicians who brought my vision to life with heir performances. With you as my crew, I can fly beyond the solar system.

Without the support of my family and friends THE PLANETS JAZZ would never have gotten of the launching pad. Thank you all very much.

A special thanks to my wife Stephanie. Travelling throuh time an space is teamwork and you always need a wingman (wingwoman) you can trust.

Thanks to Hessische Kulturstiftung and Musikfond who provided financial support for the production at various stages.

The Planets Jazz Gustav Holst Mark Schwarzmayr  

MARS, the bringer of war
, The first and best-known planet in Gustav Holst's work is Mars. Astronomically this is not quite correct, as Mercury is actually the innermost planet orbiting the sun. The planet Mars has the character of a march, which is in the unusual time signature 5/4. The opening of "the planets" is characterized by the drama of the mechanized war in the original.

For this reason, the first movement of "THE PLANETS JAZZ" is not accompanied by a classical soloist. Instead, the big band plays to sampled loops and electronics. The samples open the piece, relentlessly setting the 5/4 groove, a "machine" that is difficult to stop. The contrast between the rigid electronic framework and the human element is deliberately chosen. The jazz drum set begins the dialog with the machine. Gradually, melodies and themes emerge from the carpet of sound. The big band sits down on the relentless war beat. The recurring 5/4 basic motif in combination with many and the wide dynamic range from soft to absolute fortissimo give Mars the force of a true and defensive god of war.

The entire programming was done by the arranger Mark Schwarzmayr.


The Planets Jazz Gustav Holst Benjamin Steil


VENUS, the bringer of peace
, Soft, delicate tones, a calm tempo but also lively passages in 3/4 time create atmosphere. The lyrical character of the alto saxophone lent itself as the soloist in this movement.
The soloist begins this movement all alone, with the piano responding quietly. After a few bars, trombones, guitar and double bass join in a hymn to peace. The soft, sweet character is reflected in the orchestration: trombones with bucket-mutes, woodwind doublings (clarinet/flute), trumpet movement with flugelhorns.

Alto saxophonist Benjamin Steil plays the part of the bringer of peace. Benjamin Steil is one of the most versatile saxophonists on the young German scene. Since graduating from the Cologne University of Music, he has moved fluidly between a wide variety of musical projects. He plays all saxophones, clarinets and flutes, composes, arranges and is a regular lecturer at big band workshops. He plays in small jazz ensembles, works with big bands, symphony orchestras and rock/pop bands. Over 100 concerts a year regularly take him all over Europe and to the most remote parts of the world. In total, concerts have taken him to more than 30 countries.

Benjamin Steil is lead alto in the World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra and regularly works with the WDR and HR big band. His versatility is also evident in projects with the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn and Gregor Meyle's band. Highlights of his musical career include concerts with musicians such as Jimmy Heath, Peter Erskine, Dave Liebman, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Vince Mendoza, Ronnie Cuber and many other heavyweights




MERCURY, the winged messenger
is the flute feature. The smallest but also the fastest planet in the solar system and, at up to 450 degrees, also quite "warm". Mercury thus became a fast 6/8 Latin number that moves through the jazz orbit both polyharmonically and polyrhythmically.

Stephanie Wagner takes on the part of the messenger of the gods.
Stephanie Wagner initially studied classical flute. During her classical studies, she discovered jazz and subsequently studied jazz flute in Mainz and at Berklee College of Music.

In 2011, she was awarded the Jazz Prize of the City of Worms as an outstanding instrumentalist at a high technical level, as well as for her innovative work in various formations, in which she unmistakably brings her personality to bear. She has performed with Marilyn Mazur, Florian Weber, Wilson de Oliviera, Volker Engelberth, Steffen Weber, Dirk Raufeisen, Martin Auer, the Söhne Mannheims, Tony Lakatos, Norbert Dömling etc.

The Planets Jazz Gustav Holst Ralf Fronhöfer  

JUPITER, the bringer of jollity
, This planet is the largest in our solar system and the JUPITER set is also the largest. Radio is used for coltranesque passages and swing sections. Incidentally, Jupiter has the largest hurricane in the solar system (over 200 years old, 1.5 times the diameter of the Earth), which is why there are two extended solo passages for the tenor sax in this movement. "There is a storm coming".

Jupiter is the feature for the tenor saxophone, which is in the hands of Ralf Fronhöfer.

Ralf Frohnhöfer is one of the up-and-coming saxophonists of his generation on the Rhine-Main jazz scene. His style is characterized by sonorous playing with a warm, sunny tone and a great sense of harmony and melody. He performs his pieces emotionally, almost lyrically, meticulously working out details and subtle nuances. He has played in the Bundesjugendjazzorchester, the HR Big Band and many other renowned formations. Prominent artists with whom Frohnhöfer has worked on various projects include Randy Brecker, Ack van Rooyen, James Morrison, Tom Gäbel, Max Mutzke, ZAZ, Jane Monheit, Frankfurt Radio Big Band, Jim McNeely, Mike Holober, Jörg Achim Keller and many more. He has also worked on various television productions for ARD, ZDF, SWR, HR and ProSieben, including Schlag den Raab and Bundesvision Song Contest.

The Planets Jazz Gustav Holst Andreas Weil  

SATURN, the bringer of old age
is designed as a trombone feature. Slow, menacing chords from the Rhodes, soundscapes of mutes and woodwinds and solo passages in the style of Duke Ellington characterize this movement.

The soloist is Andreas Weil on solo trombone.

Andreas Weil studied trombone in Frankfurt and Munich. Since June 2003 he has been solo trombonist with the State Police Orchestra in Mainz, regular engagements at the Frankfurt Opera, Mainz State Theater, Darmstadt State Theater, Wiesbaden State Theater, musical productions throughout Germany...

The Planets Jazz Gustav Holst Gero Hensel  

URANUS, the magician
is Neptune's direct neighbor. Its blue-green glow comes from its unique cloud layers of methane. As a planet, it is one of the ice planets.

Musically, Gustav Holst built his movement from a minimal motif. This motif forms the basis for a shuffle-style journey to Uranus.

The solo part is played by the trumpet, interpreted by Munich musician Gero Hensel.

Gero Hensel studied jazz trumpet in Mainz and then master jazz trumpet and master jazz composition in Munich. He is active as a freelance jazz trumpeter throughout Germany (e.g. concerts in the Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin, appearance in the ARD television service, studio recordings for Felix Jaehn). In 2019, he was awarded second prize at the Kurt Maas Jazz Award. He is part of various ensembles and also leads his own projects, e.g. the "Gero Hensel Ensemble", with which he concentrates exclusively on his own music and his own compositions.

The Planets Jazz Gustav Holst Heiko Hubmann  

NEPTUNE, the mystic
, At the very other end of our solar system, Neptune moves in its quiet orbit. In THE PLANETS JAZZ suite, the quiet movement is the feature for flugelhorn. Slow 5/4 atmospheric grooves and complex chords form the dark, mystical mood. An extended improvised solo unfolds in the inner core. Before we leave the solar system, there is a 5-part canon by the flugelhorn section.

The solo flugelhorn is in the hands of Heiko Hubmann.

Heiko Hubmann studied jazz trumpet in Mainz and Cologne. He works as a live and studio musician for musicals, state theaters and radio stations. He has played with artists such as Bobby Shew, Herb Geller, Bob Mintzer, Kenny Wheeler, Paul Kuhn, Pe Werner, Vicky Leandros, Xavier Naidoo, Marc Marshall etc. Musically, he impresses with his great melodic flair and sound quality.


The Planets Gustav Holst Jazz

The Planets Gustav Holst Jazz Mark Schwarzmayr

The Planets Bigband Charts






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