Born: May 7, 1955 Primary Instrument: Piano
Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1955, pianist Axel Zwingenberger is traveling the world as the »ambassador of Boogie Woogie« since the age of 19. Together with his friends Vince Weber, Martin Pyrker and George Moeller, he started out in the German speaking countries. Meanwhile, the keyboard virtuoso has given concerts in about 50 countries on four continents, in the Middle and Far East of Asia, in Africa as well as in the Americas. Besides that, he has performed in almost every European country.
Boogie Woogie is a very profound, expressive and powerful style of piano playing, firmly rooted in the Blues. It emerged in the South of the United States of America, around the turn from the 19th to the 20th century, created by African-American pianists in a most unusual manner, ignoring most of the rules of conventional piano playing. Nevertheless, its greatest exponents achieved an impressive level of pianistic virtuosity. Its rolling eight-to-the-bar rhythms, created by the player’s left hand, are the trademark of the genre, and these rhythms consequently had a lasting effect on the popular music until today. Following a brief period of huge popularity during the 1940s, Boogie Woogie dropped into obscurity for a while, but its rhythm has been perpetuated by Rock’n’Roll and other musical forms. During the 1970s, it started to regain popularity, especially in Europe, not the least through Axel Zwingenberger’s efforts.
Zwingenberger has effectively attached his personal mark to the music, that is performed as »classical Boogie Woogie« today, and even defined it to a high degree. As German Boogie Woogie piano veteran Leopold von Knobelsdorff has written in his original liner notes for Axel’s first solo album in 1976, Axel has combined the quite diverse musical stylings of his heroes, Boogie pioneers Pete Johnson, Meade »Lux« Lewis and Albert Ammons of the 1930s and 1940s, with his own ideas in an inimitable way. Thus, he has created a distinctive style which has been widely copied and meanwhile is presented by his successors as the »natural« Boogie Woogie style which pays respect to the roots of this music.
Axel Zwingenberger performs as a piano soloist most of the time. He likes to play un-amplified at a big concert grand piano, which enables him to demonstrate his outstanding pianistic and musical prowess from massive ostinato-bass clusters to lyrical pianissimo passages.
He has risen a lot of interest by his co-operations with famous Jazz and Blues musicians. During the early 1980s, the great Lionel Hampton invited him to participate in an European concert tour and to record in the U.S. Axel’s creativity is documented on meanwhile 30 Audio CDs, among them recordings with U.S legends like Big Joe Turner, Lionel Hampton, Jay McShann, Champion Jack Dupree, Sippie Wallace and many others, together with 8 solo albums. Latest release is a highly acclaimed CD together with his friends from Britain Dave Green on double bass and Charlie Watts (world famous by his other band The Rolling Stones) on the drums. Together with pianist Ben Waters they are touring as a band The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie - their first names inspired the name of the band: Axel, Ben, Charlie & Dave.
There are even sheet music transcriptions of his own compositions available. Moreover, Axel Zwingenberger has issued a fulminant table top photo book, entitled »Vom Zauber der Zuege« (The Magic of Trains). Here, Axel Zwingenberger introduces himself as a prolific photographer with his night shots of steam trains in action. The book combines Axel’s photographs with his music and his written stories about steam railroading in a most captivating manner.
Music critics from the United Kingdom have labeled Axel as »The Boogiemeister of the world« which makes him particularly proud, since he is not only a creative and innovative composer, but has explored the facets of authentic Boogie Woogie and Blues piano like nobody else and put fresh life into this music by his irresistible interpretations.
Awards:1979 Deutscher Schallplattenpreis ("German Grammy") category Traditional Jazz for his recordings with Blues shouter Big Joe Turner
2007 inducted into the "Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame" in Cincinnati