Theo Jörgensmann

Theo Jörgensmann

Theo Jörgensmann at "Kulturhalle Jülchendorf", Germany 2009
Background information
Born (1948-09-29) 29 September 1948
Origin Germany Bottrop, Germany
Genres Modal jazz
Free improvisation
Avant-garde jazz
Occupation(s) Clarinetist
Instruments Clarinet
Years active 1975 Present
Labels Hathut Records
Associated acts Theo Jörgensmann Quartet
German Clarinet Duo
Clarinet Contrast
Klarinettenquartett Cl-4
Notable instruments
Basset clarinet in Bb by Harald Hüyng; Low G clarinet by Wolfgang Dietz

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


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]

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.

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.

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]

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.

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.

Selected discography

The Tribal Trio; October 2009

Solo recordings

Duo recordings

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]




  1. Solo recordings
  2. Theo Jörgensmann, Bottrop, Klarinette documentary film, 16mm, colour, 30 min. director: Christoph Hübner (1987)
  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

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