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Sebastian Schunke

Sebastian Schunke was born in 1973 and began learning classical piano when he was six. His main influences in the early stages were Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Debussy. At the age of 12 he began studying Latin jazz as well, being influenced initially by Eddie Palmieri and later by Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chick Corea and Danilo Perez.

In 1996 aged 22 Sebastian Schunke made the move to New York.

It was a special challenge for Schunke as an European to not only come to grips with the rhythmics of Latin America but also to avoid following them in a traditional manner and instead to let them transform into a new groove in irregular measures, while at the same time colouring them with the influence of his European roots, so enabling, along with native New Yorkers and European and Latin American musicians, something new and original to emerge.

Sebastian dived into the New York Latin Jazz scene and studied with Garry Dial, Manhattan School of Music, Sonny Bravo, Hilton Ruiz and Alan Gampel. His compositions caught the attention of renowned musicians like John Benitez, Antonio Sanchez, Richie Flores, Dafnis Prieto, Yosvany Terry and Peter Brainin, with whom he recorded his debut CD “Symbiosis” (Timba /Edel 2002).

In 2000 Sebastian moved to Berlin, where he finished his Jazz studies at the Conservatory of Music “Hanns Eisler”.

Electronic and singing Elements as well as strings getting embodied in the musical concept and lead to the recording of the second CD “Mouvement“ in 2004 (Timba/Edel) with a large orchestral ensemble. In 2007 he released the CD “Sebastian Schunke meets Olvido” – Vida Pura (Timba/Edel). On this two recordings Sebastian brings together international renown Latin Jazz musicians living in Berlin, Paris, New York and Cuba. They unify the intense energy from their home cultures to create a complete new song concept in a Latin Jazz environment. In 2008 Sebastian went back to New York recording his CD “Back in New York” with 9 time Grammy Award Winner Paquito d´Rivera and an All Star Band with John Benitez, Antonio Sanchez, Pernell Saturnino and Anders Nilsson – leading the music to a new hip expression. In 2011 he produced with his highly celebrated Berlin Quartet his fifth CD featuring Pernell Saturnino and recording seven Solo Piano tunes.

Since 2002 the Sebastian Schunke Group tours the world unifying world renown jazz performing artists from all over the world. He performed with his projects on several international Festivals and Clubs in Colombia, Venezuela, China, Laos, Chile, Latvia, Malta, Turkey, Luxemburg, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the USA. In 2004 he accompanied the German President Köhler to Africa as the official German Cultural Embassador.

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Album Review

Sebastian Schunke: Existential Intensities

Read "Existential Intensities" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

German composer and pianist Sebastian Schunke has long taken inspiration from Latin music. But, when his album Elusive Beauty (Connector Records, 2018) won one of Latin America's most important music awards--the Premio Internacional presented during the Cubadisco Festival--he had a rare opportunity to engage directly with Cuban musicians. This album is a kaleidoscopic blend of two Cuban ensembles, Schunke's Berlin band and a Berlin-based chamber ensemble. “Abakuá [versión de ritual folclórico Abakuá]" opens the set with Los Muñequitos ...

Album Review

Sebastian Schunke/Diego Pinera: Elusive Beauty

Read "Elusive Beauty" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

German pianist/composer Sebastian Schunke has a sound firmly rooted in Latin jazz, but he has never shied away from bringing in European influences as well. His previous album Genesis, Mystery And Magic (Nwog Records, 2014) employed a conventional sextet with horns and percussion--but also included Interludes of introspective solo piano. Elusive Beauty presents a conscious move into new stylistic territory: Schunke calls it “Fourth Stream," a symbiosis of Afro-Latin American music and the “New Music" of the 21st century.

Catching Up With

Sebastian Schunke: Latin Jazz With a German Accent

Read "Sebastian Schunke: Latin Jazz With a German Accent" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

German pianist/composer Sebastian Schunke began studying classical piano at age six. When he started learning jazz at age 12 he was quickly exposed to Latin jazz, and there was no turning back. He moved to New York City in 1996 (age 22) and divided his time between the Manhattan School of Music and immersion in the Latin jazz scene. There he was able to work on learning an authentic Latin feel while also integrating his European experiences. In ...

Album Review

Sebastian Schunke: Genesis, Mystery And Magic

Read "Genesis, Mystery And Magic" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

German composer/pianist Sebastian Schunke continues on his unlikely Latin jazz path with Genesis, Mystery And Magic. The band is a blend of members of his Berlin quartet and New York City players. This album was recorded in Berlin, but Schunke studied in New York and has recorded there in the past--in some ways this session integrates all of his playing experiences better than anything in his prior discography. The opener “Adelante" makes his case as a Latin jazz ...

Album Review

Sebastian Schunke: Back in New York

Read "Back in New York" reviewed by Raul d'Gama Rose

There are several aspects of Sebastian Schunke's new record, Back in New York (Connector, 2008) that make it stand out from the slew of records that young pianists produce. First is that the music is complex, sophisticated, and superbly crafted--a sure sign that its composer has already reached a high degree of maturation. Second, is the selfless manner in which the musical largesse has been distributed, not unlike what the great Duke Ellington used to do when he ...

Album Review

Sebastian Schunke: Symbiosis

Read "Symbiosis" reviewed by Mark F. Turner

The fusion between European and Latin music styles is handled nicely on pianist Sebastian Schunke's release Symbiosis. Schunke intentionally merges the boundaries of classical piano and Latin rhythms to create music that is structured but spontaneous, familiar yet exotic. Trained on classical piano since the age of six, Shunke's main influences were Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, and Debussy. Years later, when exposed to Chick Corea, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Eddie Palmieri, he realized an epiphany of creativity in Latin American ...

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