Rolf Kühn – A world-class jazz musician who also happens to be German has always been an exceptionally rare phenomenon.
The clarinettist Rolf Kühn has always played in this champions’ league. Yet he is an exceptional artist in other respects, too. The sound he conjures from his instrument is stylistically diverse and absolutely unmistakeable – uniquely warm, round, and flawless. You could call his playing “mature”, for he has assimilated the entire history of jazz. As early as the 1950s in the USA, the home of jazz, he was accorded the recognition befitting his status as one of the first German jazz musicians. He both played at the side of Benny Goodman and sporadically led his orchestra, and inspired by Buddy DeFranco he developed his uniquely modern expressive form on the clarinet. Rolf Kühn has played with the crème de la crème of jazz rock, not only figures such as Chick Corea, Dave Liebman, Michael and Randy Brecker, but also musical free spirits like Lee Konitz, Albert Mangelsdorff, and Ornette Coleman. Yet despite this extensive experience he is still always open for new musical adventures. In this respect he is similar to his brother, the pianist Joachim Kühn. The siblings frequently play together in various line-ups, most recently with a reminiscence on the 1967 cult record “Impressions of New York” which they recorded with John Coltrane’s bass player Jimmy Garrison.
For ROLF KÜHN UNIT the clarinettist teamed up with guitarist Ronny Graupe, bass player Johannes Fink, and drummer Christian Lillinger – excellent musicians on the local music scene in Berlin who are young enough to be his sons or even grandsons. Their improvisation is marked by a constant process of give and take. The younger players benefit from the musical experience of the old hand, who in turn is inspired by his team-mates’ fresh ideas; he admits that the band is one that crosses the generations. Not only has Kühn received an accolade from German music critics for his life’s work but he and his brother Joachim have won an ECHO Jazz prize. His music combines elegance with daring, and joyous dynamism with mature aplomb.