Born: September 29, 1948 Primary Instrument: Clarinet
Theo Jörgensmann is one of the most advanced modern free improvisers on his instrument, combining moody chamber jazz with hints of a modal hard bop sensibility . Jörgensmann was born in 1948 in the town of Bottrop in the Western Rhur industrial region of Germany. His work with the 'Bottrop Sextet' reveals that he continues to retain great affection for the town where he grew up. In the middle of the sixties he worked as a laboratory technician in a chemical laboratory. He started to play clarinet at the age of 18, taking private lessons from a music teacher at Folkwang Academy of Music in Essen. His dedication to the clarinet as his only instrument was only briefly interrupted during a 15 month spell doing National Service, when he was asked to play soprano saxophone for the Army dance band. After the phase in the German Army, Jörgensmann worked with handicapped children and studied several of semesters social pedagogics and computer science. Theo Jörgensmann's entire life changed the after hearing A Genuine Tong Funeral—the first recording of Carla Bleywith the Jazz Composer's Orchestra Association. He took further inspiration from the music of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Tony Scott, Anthony Braxton, AACM, Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Gunter Hampel, Albert Mangelsdorff and experimental Dutch musicians like Misha Mengelberg and Willem Breuker. As a result of the direction his work then took Jörgensmann is often classified as belonging to the 2nd generation of European free jazz musicians. The distinctive tonal quality of Jörgenmann’s playing owes something to his choice of clarinet. Many of his albums, available on hatOLOGY, were recorded using a straight basset clarinet in Bb, made by Harald Hüyng, a pupil of the great Herbert Wurlitzer. This clarinet, although an Oehler System, would have some essential similarities to that played by Stadler when playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in the 1780’s. It has extended keywork to enable an additional D and C at the bottom of its range. In 2008, however, Jörgensmann switched from his basset clarinet in Bb to a Low G clarinet, built by another pupil of Herbert Wurlitzer, Wolfgand Dietz. The special sound of his playing arises from the fact that Jörgensmann blows with less pressing of the teeth. As a result, he can play other phrasing and accents, as it is usually possible on the clarinet. It is thus more closely related with the 'hard bop' saxophonists. Jörgensmann made his first appearance at a major event as a member of the 'Contact Trio' with Michael Jullich at the 1972 Frankfurt Jazz Festival. During this period he began working with local musicians. He didn't become a professional musician until 1975. In the early 1970's Jörgensmann played in a Jazz Rock group which included the keyboard player Hendrik Schaper (later a member of Klaus Doldinger and Udo Lindenberg) and the drummer Udo Dahmen. At this time he used electronic effects pedals, such as fuzz, wah-wah and chorus. Probably he was one of the first clarinetists which electronically distorted their instrument. But by 1975 when he formed the clarinet ensemble, 'Clarinet Contrast', he was interested in the pure acoustic sound of his instrument. 'Clarinet Contrast' included Bernd Konrad, Hans Kumpf and Michel Pilz as well as one of the musicians Jörgensmann had most admired when he first began playing clarinet, Perry Robinson. In 1975 he also founded his first Quartet, which end of the seventies was one of the most successful jazz bands in Germany. In 1977 the 'Theo Jörgensmann Quartet' performed as German representative at the festival of the European Broadcasting Union in Hilversum, Netherlands. Jörgensmann's exclusive focus on the clarinet has led him to form a succession of partnerships with other clarinet players and because of its commitment to the clarinet he was part of the Renaissance in the jazz and improvised music scene. In the early 1980's the influential European producer and music journalist, Joachim-Ernst Berendt helped Jörgensmann call together the members of the 'Clarinet Summit'. This was an all-star clarinet group with soloists: John Carter, Perry Robinson, Theo Jörgensmann, Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky and Gianluigi Trovesi. John Carter and Theo Jörgensmann met each other at the Moers Jazz Festival in 1979. There they performed solo and as a duo on three days. Eckard Koltermann is another clarinetist who Jörgensmann has collaborated with on many occasions. As well as working together as the 'German Clarinet Duo' , in the mid 1980's they were both regular members of the clarinet ensemble CL 4, along with Lajos Dudas, Dieter Kühr, Eckard Koltermann and Gerald Doecke.
By no means are all Jörgensmann's collaborations with clarinet players. As a young musician Jörgensmann also favoured to work in larger ensembles or duos. So he was member in the big bands of Andrea Centazzo, Willem van Manen, Michael Sell, Franz Koglmann and the 'Grubenklangorchester' and he also performed as a duo with pianist John Fischer from US, Dutch guitarist Jan Kuiper, German pianist Bernd Koppen, French bass clarinetist Denis Colin, German performer Limpe Fuchs and Hungarian pianist Karoly Binder. Jörgensmann is active as an improvisation theorist. He is convinced that improvised music is the most modern kind of music, since it has created a completely new kind of musician, an integral musician, who is conductor, composer and performer at the same time. „To find the right balance between communication of motion and non- communication is the major part of improvised music; that communication of motion as a part of interaction in music is an opportunity to create a new structure of time, which the listener could perceive as a new kind of musical space; that the idea of jazz does not depend on a specific material and special form; that the essential aspect of jazz is the fact that jazz musicians discovered the fourth dimension of time in music.“ Together with the musicologist and musician Rolf-Dieter Weyer, Jörgensmann wrote a philosophical book about improvisation Kleine Ethik der Improvisation. As a lecturer Jörgensmann taught improvisation and clarinet at University of Duisburg between 1983 and 1993. At the same time, he hosted a radio program on jazz at West German Broadcasting. And from 1993 until 1997 he was a lecturer for free improvising at Music Therapeutics Institute of Witten/Herdecke University. Several of his recordings on the HatHut / hatOLOGY label are with the Theo Jörgensmann Quartet which consists of Theo Jörgensmann on clarinet, Christopher Dell on vibes, Christian Ramond on double bass and Klaus Kugel on drums. The quartet performed with Lee Konitz at the Muenster Jazz Festival 1999. Another regular partner has been Kent Carter, working together on the 'Theo Jörgensmann Workshop Sextet' (Charlie Mariano, Petras Vysaiauskas, Theo Jörgensmann, Karl Berger, Klaus Kugel, Kent Carter), as well as the 'Vysniauskas - Jorgensmann Quintet': (Petras Vysniauskas, Theo Jorgensmann, Andreas Willers, Kent Carter. Klaus Kugel).
Beyond that Jörgensmann still has a collaboration with the younger musicians from Poland Marcin Olesand Bartlomiej "Brat" Oles since 2003. In 2009 Jörgensmann performed a few concerts with younger musicians from UK (Sebastian Rochford, Dominic Lash and Shabaka Hutchings ) in London. Since 2011 he is mostly working as a solist or in duo with the pianist Bernd Koppen and in the 'Duo Melencolia' with violin player Albrecht Maurer. In 2011 he also formed a new trio - 'The Freedom Trio' - with bassist Christian Ramond and acoustic guitar player Hagen Studemann.
Awards:Kunstförderpreis der Stadt Aachen (1980) - Kulturpreis der Stadt Bottrop (1991)
„In countless contexts he has continuously broadened his repertoire and, thereby, over the decades, developed a vocabulary that allows him to move spontaneously into any thinkable direction. (Jazzthing, Germany, 2002 review by Wolf Kampmann)
„Clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann has to counted among the handful of consummate modern improvisers on his instrument. His playing evinces a brooding quality, devoid of overt sentimentality, yet he carries a hard bop aesthetic forward to engage modern harmonies and concepts of freedom. Intervallic leaps, technical virtuosity, and melodic invention are all elements in his improvisations. AllMusic review by Steven Loewy, USA, 2000
„Jörgensmann moves fluidly and with equal freedom through all the registers of his instrument. His solos evolve with startling clarity and surprise, ranging from disjointed hunt and peck phrases to long, angular lines that fork and zig zag like tree branches. He's a major voice on an instrument frequently neglected in modern jazz. Signal To Noise, Ed Hazell, USA, 2001
„Theo Jörgensmann, his contribution to the renaissance of the improvising clarinet must not be underestimated; but if one believes the Jazz press, the clarinet was only rediscovered when Don Byron came along. This may however be due to the fact that the Jazz clarinetist Jörgensmann has been concentrating on chamber music-like border projects such as the clarinet quartet CL-4, the German Clarinet Duo or his work show ensemble during the past few years. Neue Zeitung für Musik, Germany, 1998; review by Peter Niklas Wilson
„ With this formation, Jörgensmann, captivates with a music that has soul, and that pursues an unsusual and polished chamber music equilibrium. One can easily get exited about a music that, in spite of soul does not simply disregard reason, but rather retains a floating balance between control and feeling. Review Jörgensmann Quartet, Snijbloemen; Down Beat, Juli 2000
„Theo Jörgensmann is one of the great clarinet players of our time, perceived world-wide but much under valued, not least because no one trusts a German, a German group, to have as much dancing elegance, humorous intelligence, sensitive poetry and (fractioned) drive. German Poetry is profound, German humor dull, and German dance brings to everyone’s mind calve-slapping folklore groups. The opposite of all this is the Theo Jörgensmann Quartet (Die Weltwoche, Switzerland, August-2002 review by Peter Rüedi)
Trio Hot, Jink
Nemu / Be1Two
Tracks: 1; 2.
Personnel: Theo Jörgensmann: clarinet in Low G, Albrecht Maurer: violin,Peter Jacquemyn : bass.
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Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.
Customized Zinner mouthpiece
Vandoren Rue Lepic No 3 reeds