•                                                                                          CATALÀ
  • MENU


Masterful. The performance by the German pianist and composer Joachim Kühn at the Conservatori del Liceu in Barcelona, in the frame of the 46th International Jazz Festival of Barcelona, was relevant and revealing. Relevant because undoubtedly to count with the presence of one of the most brilliant pianists in jazz history, lush, powerful and subtle as not many are, is a proof of significance and the good work of the festival. And it’s revealing because of diverse reasons, mainly due to the enormous talent of who Ornette Coleman qualified as “the only jazz pianist”, winner of the Echo prize for his whole career in 2011, contemporary jazzy bridge between the European classic concert and the jazz tradition.

Joachim Kühn was born in Leipzig in 1944 so he grew up in the extinct German Democratic Republic. He studied classic piano and composition by the hand of Arthur Schimdt-Elsey. His earlier debut was as a classic concert pianist, but influenced by his brother, the magnificent clarinettist and saxophonist Rolf Kühn, fifteen years elder than him, he became interested in jazz. His brother Rolf moved to the USA in 1956 becoming a member of the Benny Goodman Band. Joachim, at 22, took part in an international competition for young pianists in Hamburg and decided not to return to the DDR. His international career started playing at Newport Jazz Festival in 1967 along with his brother Rolf and recording together what became his first album featuring the bassist Jimmy Garrison and the drummer Aldo Romano for the great Impulse! Records label,a 33 minutes long suite titled Impressions of New York divided in "Arrival," "The Saddest Day," "Reality," and "Predictions”, receiving great reviews.

At that time Joachim Kühn came to Barcelona for the first time. It was 1967, the second edition of the Barcelona Jazz Festival, and the quartet of the Kühn brothers, featuring Rolf on clarinet, Joachim on piano, Bab Guenin on bass and Aldo Romano on drums, performed at the Palau de la Música Catalana in theory as the support band of the Miles Davis Quintet. But just in theory, because Miles Davis left the city before the concert, having been paid in advance and giving no explanations. His quintet, a quartet without him, finally performed but they got paid again for that concert. Oblivious to what was happening, the Kühn quartet shined, especially Joachim who stood out as an extraordinary pianist and also because of his own compositions which danced already along the boundary between classic and jazz music.

This time, 47 years later and having performed along with master like his admired and admirer Ornette Coleman, and having gift us marvels like the album Hip Elegy (1975) featuring Terumasa Hino, Philip Catherine, John Lee, Naná Vasconcelos and Alphonse Mouzon, Joachim Kühn returned to the Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona as a soloist, celebrating his 70th birthday and with the latest album Balloons recorded with Jasper Van’t Hof. His performance excited the audience. There was a reverential silence in the room to enjoy every detail of the master’s vehement performance. He spoke to introduce some of the pieces he performed, featuring some Coleman’s compositions, and spelling out his continuous progression and his constant interest in research and innovating. He left the stage two times with the audience standing up, and two times he went back swift to the piano leaving us once more open-mouthed thanks to his talent and vigour. Bravo Herr Kühn, es war wunderwar.

Text by Juan Carlos Romero
Photo courtesy of The Project
Video owned by and courtesy of ECHO - Deutscher Musikpreis
All rights reserved