Theo Jörgensmann

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Theo Jörgensmann
Theo und Ernst Ulrich Deuker 10. 10 grau.jpg
Jörgensmann at "Kulturhalle Jülchendorf", Germany 2009
Background information
Born (1948-09-29) 29 September 1948 (age 70)
Origin Bottrop, Germany
Genres Modal jazz
Free improvisation
Avant-garde jazz
Years active1975–resent
Labels Hathut, Konnex
Associated acts Theo Jörgensmann Quartet
German Clarinet Duo
Clarinet Contrast
Klarinettenquartett Cl-4
Clarinet Summit
Contact Trio

Theodor Franz Jörgensmann (born 29 September 1948 in Bottrop, Germany) is a jazz and free-improvising Basset clarinet player and composer. He has been a professional musician since 1975.

Bottrop Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Bottrop is a city in west central Germany, on the Rhine-Herne Canal, in North Rhine-Westphalia. Located in the Ruhr industrial area, Bottrop adjoins Essen, Oberhausen, Gladbeck and Dorsten. The city had been a coal-mining and rail center and contains factories producing coal-tar derivatives, chemicals, textiles, and machinery. Bottrop grew as a mining center beginning in the 1860s, was chartered as a city in 1921, and bombed during the Oil Campaign of World War II. In 1975 it unified with the neighbour communities of Gladbeck and Kirchhellen, but Gladbeck left it in 1976, leading to Kirchhellen becoming a district of Bottrop as Bottrop-Kirchhellen. It is also twinned with Blackpool, England.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".



Theo Jörgensmann belongs to the 2nd generation of European free jazz musicians. He was part of the clarinet renaissance in the jazz and improvising music scene. Jörgensmann is one of a few clarinet players for whom unaccompanied solo recordings are a significant part of his work. [1]

European free jazz

European free jazz is a part of the global free jazz scene with its own development and characteristics. It is hard to establish who are the founders of European free jazz because of the different developments in different European countries. One can, however, be certain that European free jazz took its development from American free jazz, where musicians such as Ornette Coleman revolutionised the way of playing.

Improvisation is the activity of making or doing something not planned beforehand, using whatever can be found.. Improvisation, in the performing arts is a very spontaneous performance without specific or scripted preparation. The skills of improvisation can apply to many different faculties, across all artistic, scientific, physical, cognitive, academic, and non-academic disciplines; see Applied improvisation.

He started to play clarinet when he was 18 years old. From 1969 until 1972 Jörgensmann took private lessons from a music teacher at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen. At the same time he started working with fellow musicians from the Ruhr industrial area. During this time he was also a chemical laboratory assistant. After a one and half year hitch in the German Army Jörgensmann worked with handicapped children and studied social pedagogics, but he never brought it to a conclusion. Since 1975 he has been a professional musician.

Essen Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Essen is the central and second largest city of the Ruhr, the largest urban area in Germany. Its population of 583,393 makes it the ninth largest city of Germany, as well as the fourth largest city of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. On the Ruhr and Emscher rivers, Essen geographically is part of the Rhineland and the larger Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Region. The Ruhrdeutsch regiolect spoken in the region has strong influences of both Low German (Westphalian) and Low Franconian.

During a career spanning three decades as a free improviser Jörgensmann has worked with (among many others) Mike Richmond, Barre Phillips, Kent Carter, John Lindberg, Charlie Mariano, Wilber Morris, Eric Vloeimans, Jeanne Lee, John Fischer, Vincent Chancey, Kenny Wheeler, Paul McCandless and Lee Konitz.

Mike Richmond is an American jazz bassist.

Barre Phillips American bassist

Barre Phillips is a jazz bassist. A professional musician since 1960, he migrated to New York City in 1962, then to Europe in 1967. Since 1972 he has been based in southern France where in 2014 he founded the European Improvisation Center.

Kent Carter American musician

Kent Carter is an American jazz bassist. His father, Alan Carter, founded the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. He is also the grandson of American artist, Rockwell Kent. He worked in Steve Lacy's group, played on the two Jazz Composer's Orchestra albums and released albums for Emanem Records.

From 1975 to 1977 he headed the group Clarinet Contrast ; a group which frontline consisted only of clarinets. In this group played Perry Robinson, Hans Kumpf, Bernd Konrad and Michel Pilz. At the end of the 1970s he was leader of one of West Germany's best-known jazz groups. At the beginning of the 1980s he took part in a Clarinet Summit (which was created by Joachim E. Berendt and himself) with John Carter, Perry Robinson, Gianluigi Trovesi and others. Since those days Jörgensmann has been involved in numerous international projects. In 1985 Jörgensmann toured Europe with bassist Barre Phillips and reed player Paul McCandless. He was a member of Willem van Manen's Contraband (1985–1998), Andrea Centazzo's Mitteleuropa Orchestra (1983–1985), John Fischer's Interface (1981–1996) and Franz Koglmann's Pipetet (1983–1985). At the same time he was also leader of Klarinettenquartett Cl-4 and co-founder of large ensemble Grubenklangorchester. In 1987 Jörgensmann was the subject of a documentary film, Theo Jörgensmann, Bottrop, Klarinette, directed by Christoph Hübner. [2]

Clarinet Contrast band

Clarinet Contrast was a clarinet ensemble with rhythm group led by clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann.

Perry Morris Robinson was an American jazz clarinetist and composer. He was the son of composer Earl Robinson.

Michel Pilz is a German jazz clarinetist.

Between 1983 and 1993 he held a lectureship for clarinet and ensemble at University of Duisburg, and from 1993 until 1997 he was a lecturer for free improvising at Music Therapeutics Institute of Witten/Herdecke University. In company with the music-scientist Rolf-Dieter Weyer, Jörgensmann wrote a philosophical book about improvising in music. In 1997 he started playing with a new Theo Jörgensmann Quartet, which toured in North America in 1999, 2001, and 2003, including playing twice at Montreal International Jazz Festival (1999 and 2003). In addition he has played with the young Polish twins Marcin Oles and Bartlomiej Oles since 2003. The album Oleś Jörgensmann Oleś, Directions, was chosen by Polish internet jazz-magazine Diapazon as "The Record of the Year" in 2005.

The old University of Duisburg was a university in Duisburg.

Witten/Herdecke University private university in Witten, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Witten/Herdecke University (UW/H) is a private, state-recognized non-profit university in Witten, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It was the first German private institution of higher education to receive accreditation as a "Universität", a status recognizing the university's academic quality equivalent to state-run universities and granting the right to award next to bachelor's and master's degrees, doctorates and the German Habilitation.

Montreal International Jazz Festival music festival

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is an annual jazz festival held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Jazz Fest holds the 2004 Guinness World Record as the world's largest jazz festival. Every year it features roughly 3,000 artists from 30-odd countries, more than 650 concerts, and welcomes over 2 million visitors as well as 300 accredited journalists. The festival takes place at 20 different stages, which include free outdoor stages and indoor concert halls.

Since 2008 he is a member of Trio Hot with Albrecht Maurer, violin and Peter Jacquemyn, bass, and in 2009 he started the Deep Down Clarinet Duo together with the contrabass clarinet player Ernst Ulrich Deuker. They also work together in the Tribal Trio, a clarinet trio with the French-American clarinetist Etienne Rolin. In 2009 Jörgensmann performed a few concerts with younger musicians from UK (Seb Rochford, Dominic Lash, Shabaka Hutchings and Noel Taylor) in London. In 2011 he formed a new trio - The Freedom Trio - with bassist Christian Sydney Ramond and acoustic guitar player Hagen Stüdemann. After a twelve-year break, he also works together again with pianist Bernd Köppen. Currently Jorgensmann is also working again with the “Clarinet Summit”. The members of the group are Perry Robinson, Gianluigi Trovesi, Bernd Konrad, Albrecht Maurer, Sebastian Gramss and Günther “Baby” Sommer. In 2018, Jörgensmann was artist in residence at Singers Festival Warsaw, the biggest festival of Jewish culture in Poland.

Selected discography

The Tribal Trio; October 2009 Deuker Jorgensmann Rolin 30 10 09 Photo by Herb Weisrock (113).JPG
The Tribal Trio; October 2009

Solo recordings

Duo recordings

Theo Jorgensmann Freedom Trio and Christopher Dell; 2011 2011 Joergensmann Freedom Trio plus Dell Foto HW (38).JPG
Theo Jörgensmann Freedom Trio and Christopher Dell; 2011

As a sideman

As a fusion musician

Selected compositions


Jörgensmann wrote in his book Kleine Ethik der Improvisation: "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 (they call it swing)." [3]



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  1. Solo recordings
  2. Theo Jörgensmann, Bottrop, Klarinette documentary film, 16mm, colour, 30 min. director: Christoph Hübner (1987) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2006-10-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. Kleine Ethik der Improvisation: vom Wesen, Zeit und Raum, Material und Spontangestalt, by Theo Jörgensmann & Rolf-Dieter Weyer, with silhouettes of Hermann "Es" Richter