His playing defies all categorization, and has earned him a place as a world class musician. He has already left his mark on contemporary jazz and given it new direction. The musical cosmopolitan Joachim Kühn sees himself as part of the jazz tradition, connected to European concert music and yet directly indebted to a contemporary musical language.
He displays vehemence and sensibility, a virtuoso technique and imagination and an unfailing sense of dynamics. Be it in his interaction with long-time musical partners, in ever new and challenging musical constellations, or alone in his solo performances, Kühn always manages to make his concerts into a unique experience.
Even if some of the stations on his path from Leipzig, where Kühn was born in 1944, through his time in France and America may seem like diversions; his musical career not only displays cohesion, but also an inner logic that only becomes truly apparent with hindsight.
Kühn, who already enjoyed a first-class classical training and was performing as a concert pianist at an early age, developed an enthusiasm for jazz under the influence of his older brother, clarinettist Rolf Kühn. Only 17 years old, he decided to become a jazz musician. His first trio, formed in 1964, played music that was way ahead of its time in its openness to free improvisation.
In 1966, Joachim Kühn defected to West Germany after playing at a competition for young jazz musicians organised by Friedrich Gulda. In the same year, he performed with his brother at the Berliner Jazztage and at the Newport Jazz Festival. Directly after the successful US concert, Bob Thiele produced an album for Impulse with the dream line-up of the Kühn brothers and Coltrane-bassist Jimmy Garrison.
Joachim moved to Paris in 1968, where he played with such stylistically diverse musicians as Gato Barbieri, Don Cherry, Michel Portal, Slide Hampton and Phil Woods. In the early seventies, he became intensely involved with electric keyboards. Yet, he was always working in an acoustic context along with his work in (electric) bands like Jean-Luc Ponty or Association P.C. His trio with bassist Jean-François Jenny-Clark and drummer Daniel Humair dates back to these early Paris days.
In the second half of the seventies, Joachim Kühn immersed himself in the West-Coast fusion scene where he played with musicians like Alphonse Mouzon, Billy Cobham, Eddie Gomez and Michael Brecker. Even a saxophone player like Joe Henderson did not want to record his album “Black Narcissus” without Kühn. After a short stint in New York, the pianist then moved to Hamburg at the beginning of the 1980’s.This time-period saw the beginning of his concentration on the acoustic piano.