Whether in subtle improvisations or loud rock-jazz, whether in electronic or microtonal experiments, the German clarinettist and saxophonist Frank Gratkowski is at home in different musical contexts. Even though he trained as a jazz musician at the Cologne Academy of Music and continued his studies with Charlie Mariano and Steve Lacy, among others, the Berlin-based musician has also been interested in composed contemporary music. As sources of inspiration he names Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail, two proponents of French spectralism, as well as György Ligeti, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, and Helmut Lachenmann.


While Gratkowski concentrated exclusively on free improvisation at the beginning of his career – for example as a member of Georg Graewe’s Grubenklang Orchester or the ensemble Zeitkratzer or as part of a trio with Achim Kaufmann and Wilbert de Joode – his interest in new music also eventually led to collaboration with artists from a completely different music scene. At Mills College in Oakland he met the pianist and electronic musician Chris Brown and the percussionist William Winant, both well-known as interpreters of new music. Together with the two of them, Gratkowski has been playing in an experimental live electronics improvisation trio since 2006.


Born in Hamburg in 1963, Gratkowski was eventually led by his increasing interest in microtonality to start composing himself. His works are fascinating sound pieces inspired by Giacinto Scelsi or Georg Friedrich Haas and have meanwhile been recorded on CD by his saxophone quartet F[o]ur Alto. But there is also a completely different, wild rock-jazz side to Gratkowski, which he lives out in the quintet Z-Country Paradise with the raw front woman Jelena Kuljic.


Because of this enormous diversity and his years of teaching experience in Cologne, Frank Gratkowski is predestined to teach IEMA’s improvisation course.

Frank Gratkowski