Theo Jorgensmann

Primary Instrument: Clarinet

Born: September 29, 1948    

Theo Jorgensmann

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 is one of the most advanced modern free improvisers on his instrument, combining moody chamber jazz with hints of a modal hard bop sensibility. 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

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
Michel Pilz
as well as one of the musicians Jörgensmann had most admired when he first began playing clarinet, Perry Robinson
Perry Robinson
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
John Carter
John Carter
, Perry Robinson
Perry Robinson
Perry Robinson
, Theo Jörgensmann, Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky and Gianluigi Trovesi
Gianluigi Trovesi
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
Lajos Dudas
Lajos Dudas
, Dieter Kühr, Eckard Koltermann and Gerald Doecke....
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Kunstförderpreis der Stadt Aachen (1980) - Kulturpreis der Stadt Bottrop (1991)
„German player Theo Jörgensmann by the way, is developing into one of Europe's greatest jazz clarinettists as the clarinet seems to be having a worldwide jazz revival”. (Joachim Ernst Berendt; Down Beat 2/1980)

„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)

  • Bucksch

    Konnex Records
  • Melencolia

    NEMU Records
  • Alchemia

    Hat Hut Records
  • Fellowship

  • To Ornette - Hybrid Identity

    Hat Hut Records

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Clarinet in LowG made by Wolfgang Dietz
Customized Zinner mouthpiece
Vandoren Rue Lepic No 3 reeds

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CD/LP/Track Review

Bucksch by Glenn Astarita

Melencolia by Glenn Astarita

Artist Profiles

Theo Jorgensmann: Sheep with Two Heads

CD/LP/Track Review

Alchemia by Chris May

Fellowship by Brad Glanden

To Ornette - Hybrid Identity by Glenn Astarita

Ta Eko Mo by Dave Hughes

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