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Frank Gratkowski

Frank Gratkowski plays clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, alto saxophone, flute. He was born in Hamburg, Germany. Gratkowski started playing the saxophone at 16 and, following a period at the Hamburg Conservatory (Hamburger Musikhochschule), moved in 1985 to study at the Cologne Conservatory of Music with Heiner Wiberny, graduating in 1990. Then after he studies with Charlie Mariano, Sal Nistico and Steve Lacy. Frank Gratkowski has been working as a soloist in various international formations (Grubenklang Orchester, Klaus Koenig Orchester, Musikfabrik NRW, Tony Oxley Celebration Orchestra, Bentje Braam, BikBentBraam, All Ears, Zeitkratzer, WDR Big band, etc.). Since 1990 he has been giving solo performances throughout Europe, Canada and USA. With his first solo program, he was a 1991 prizewinner in the Musik Kreativ contest. The release of the solo CD "Artikulationen" followed the same year and a new one "Arikulationen II" in 2002. Since 1992 he has been working in a duo with the pianist Georg Graewe (CD "VicissEtudes"). The duo is often extended through the participation of different additional musicians, such as drummer Paul Lovens (CD "Quicksand") and bassist John Lindberg (CD "Arrears"). In 1995 he founded the "Frank Gratkowski Trio" with bassist Dieter Manderscheid, and drummer Gerry Hemingway (CDs "Gestalten" and "The Flume Factor" ). In 2000 the trio has been extended to a quartet with Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos (CDs "Kollaps", "Spectral Reflections" and "Facio"). Since 2003 also appearing as a Double Quartet plus Tobi Delius, Herb Robertson, Wilbert DeJoode and Michael Vatcher. In 2005 he got the SWR Jazzprize. In 1999 the duo with the Italian trombonist Sebastiano Tramontana has been formed and since 2001 Frank Gratkowski has been performing with a trio including Wilbert De Jode (NL) on bass and Achim Kaufmann on piano (CDs "Kwast" and "Unearth"). Frank Gratkowski played on nearly every German and on numerous international Jazz Festivals including Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Quebec, Les Mans, Muelhuus, Groeningen, Nickelsdorf, Barcelona, Lithuania, Warsaw, Zagreb, Prague, Bratislava, Sofia, Bucharest, Odessa and Roma. He has been teaching saxophone and ensembles at the Cologne, Berlin and Arnhem Conservatory of Music and is giving workshops all around the world as well. Gratkowski has performed with Robert Dick, Phil Wachsmann, Radu Malfatti, Herb Robertson, Marcio Mattos, Eugenio Colombo, Peter Kowald, Ray Anderson, Michael Moore, Ken Vandermark, Greg Osby, Kenny Wheeler, Louis Sclavis, John Betsch, Jane Ira Bloom, Connie and Hannes Bauer, Xu Fengxia, James Newton, Muhal Richard Abrams, John Lindberg, Michael Formaneck, Ernst Reijseger, Fred van Hove, Theo Jörgensmann, Phil Minton, Peter Brötzmann, Mark Dresser, Mark Feldman, Hamid Drake, Michiel Braam, Han Bennink, Mal Waldron, Misha Mengelberg a.m.o.


Album Review

Frank Gratkowski, Simon Nabatov: Tender Mercies

Read "Tender Mercies" reviewed by John Sharpe

This collection of seven duets from pianist Simon Nabatov and reedman Frank Gratkowski stands as one of those times when the late Misha Mengelberg's term “instant composition" for a series of seat-of-the-pants encounters makes absolute sense. Perhaps that should not be a surprise, considering the protagonists histories and shared base in the German city of Cologne. Indeed, their association dates back to at least 1999, when the reedman appeared as part of a quartet on Nabatov's Nature ...

Album Review

Frank Gratkowski, Achim Kaufmann, Wilbert de Joode, Tony Buck: Flatbosc & Cautery

Read "Flatbosc & Cautery" reviewed by John Sharpe

Adding a new member to a long-established group sometimes reinforces the chemistry, at other times it transforms. With the threesome of reedman Frank Gratkowski, pianist Achim Kaufmann and bassist Wilbert de Joode, a unit since 2002, the co-option of Necks drummer Tony Buck propels the outfit more explicitly towards the high-energy end of the free spectrum, compared with previous outings such as palaë (Leo, 2007) and oblengths (Leo, 2016). Recorded in concert in Koln, in May 2018, ...

Album Review

Gratkowski, Nabatov, Mahnig: Dance Hall Stories

Read "Dance Hall Stories" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi

Il titolo e la foto di copertina sono allusivi e non vanno presi alla lettera. Il pianista Simon Nabatov e il sassofonista Frank Gratkowski non hanno deciso di abbandonare la libera improvvisazione per un omaggio al repertorio da ballo ma includono nella collaborazione il giovane batterista Dominik Mahnig, che si aggiunge in metà dei brani del disco. Anche se pubblicata nel 2020 la registrazione risale a una session in studio (a Colonia) di tre anni prima. A ...

Album Review

Simon Nabatov: Time Labyrinth

Read "Time Labyrinth" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi

Registrato il 17 aprile 2019 a Colonia, “Time Labyrinth" è la prima parte di un progetto di Simon Nabatov denominato Changing Perspectives, che sarà completato nel prossimo futuro. Il pianista e compositore di origine russa vive nella città tedesca da quasi tre decenni ed è una figura di primo piano nell'universo della musica improvvisata europea ai confini tra jazz d'avanguardia e musica classica contemporanea. Le sei composizioni che costituiscono l'opera si collocano decisamente nell'ambito della musica ...

Album Review

Simon Nabatov: Time Labyrinth

Read "Time Labyrinth" reviewed by Glenn Astarita

Pianist Simon Nabatov is well-known for his explosive semi-structured presentations and freely navigated improvisational advances within this seemingly limitless musical space. But Nabatov is a composer who often stretches the perceived limits of avant-garde jazz. With this effort, he pursues a largely new approach by employing chamberesque forums via an acoustic-electric platform, intensified by consummate woodwind aces Frank Gratkowski, Matthias Schubert and other stalwarts to round out a drummer-less Germany-based septet. In the liners, the leader states that ...

Album Review

Z-Country Paradise: Live in Lisbon

Read "Live in Lisbon" reviewed by Glenn Astarita

The multinational quintet revs up the audience on this wild and scruffy excursion that skirts a misty demarcation between punk jazz and avant-garde improvisation along with off-kilter jazz rock tendencies. Vocalist Jelena Kuljic's guileful and emotive iterations instill hip, Beat Generation-like narratives in concert with the band's jarring and edgy grooves via some recoiling breakouts and oscillating storylines. Indeed, the formidable frontline of esteemed reedman, Frank Gratkowski--a longtime Leo Records artist--and ace guitarist Kalle Kalima infuse their distinct ...

Album Review

Frank Gratkowski, Sebi Tramontana: Live at Španski Borci

Read "Live at Španski Borci" reviewed by Vic Albani

So perfettamente di scoprire l'acqua calda con la seguente affermazione, ma credo sia comunque ricordare come--nell'universo della musica contemporanea -in un momento in cui la cosiddetta creatività sembra mancare o essersi esaurita almeno in uno dei suo filoni essenziali, chi continua diritto per la propria strada non sembra minimamente risentire del non-interesse che avvolge in toto ormai da tempo il mondo del suono moderno. Anche per questo non c'è da stupirsi se i coraggiosi della Leo Records in terra d'Albione, ...

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Tender Mercies

Clean Feed Records


Flatbosc & Cautery

NoBusiness Records


Time Labyrinth

Leo Records


Dance Hall Stories

Leo Records


Live in Lisbon

Leo Records



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