George Gruntz

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George Gruntz

George Paul Gruntz (born June 24, 1932 in Basel ; † January 10, 2013 in Allschwil ) was a Swiss jazz pianist , composer , arranger and band leader .

Live and act

George Gruntz was after the first piano lessons with Eduard Henneberger and studying at the conservatory in Zurich worked since 1956 for Radio Basel as a pianist and arranger. In 1958 he became internationally known as a member of the Newport International Band at the Newport Jazz Festival , where he also played with Louis Armstrong .

During the 1960s Gruntz completed numerous European tours (including in Kurt Weil's band ) and accompanied Dexter Gordon , Roland Kirk , Donald Byrd , Lee Konitz , Chet Baker , Johnny Griffin , Gerry Mulligan and Art Farmer as pianist . In 1962 he was in Japan with singer Helen Merrill . 1964 was his first major record success with Jazz goes Baroque and his first collaboration with the composer Rolf Liebermann ( Expo 64, Swiss national exhibition) . In 1965 he joined Flavio Ambrosetti and led his own trios. He then initiated two early ethno-jazz productions: the Basler Sticksland concert with Basel drummers and whistlers, drummers and winds from jazz and the successful Noon in Tunisia (1967) with Tunisian Bedouin music. In 1974 he combined the Basler drummers and pipers with Scottish drummers and bagpipe players and jazz. In 1968 and 1969 he toured with Phil Woods and his European Rhythm Machine .

In 1971 he started working with Franco Ambrosetti with his own big band. In 1972 Flavio and Franco Ambrosetti, Daniel Humair and Gérard Lüll founded The Band , which in 1978 became The George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band GG-CJB , in which Alan Skidmore , Sheila Jordan , Dave Bargeron and Ray Anderson played his arrangements who traveled all over the world except Australia, including China and Hong Kong in 1992, Russia in 1996 and Egypt in 1997 (with Burhan Öçal ). As the only European big band, it was ranked in the top ranks more than ten times without interruption in the global “Critics Poll” by the American jazz journal Down Beat .

In 1973 Gruntz founded the Piano Conclave , which brought together seven of the leading European pianists Wolfgang Dauner , Jasper van't Hof , Joachim Kühn , Adam Makowicz , Fritz Pauer , Martial Solal , Gordon Beck and Gruntz. In 1977 he played with the drummers Pierre Favre , Jack De Johnette , Fredy Studer , Dom Um Romão and David Friedman as percussion profiles at the Monterey Jazz Festival . In addition, Gruntz often worked with the trumpeter Franco Ambrosetti , from 1984 with Uschi Brüning and in 1985 with the musicians of the Swiss Jazz Pool, which he co-founded. From 1989 Gruntz also played in trio format with Mike Richmond and Adam Nussbaum , with whom he recorded the live album Serious Fun for Enja .

As early as the 1960s he cooperated with the composers Rolf Liebermann , Earle Brown and Hans Werner Henze . Gruntz composed several stage works and oratorios. In 1973, the Paris Opera commissioned Gruntz to compose a World Jazz Opera , which was premiered in parts in 1982 at the LaMama Theater in New York City . The work was created in collaboration with the Afro-American poet Amiri Baraka ( LeRoi Jones ). He composed Cosmopolitan Greetings with the poet Allen Ginsberg , which director Robert Wilson staged in Hamburg in 1988. Another jazz opera was The Magic of Flute (libretto: Peter O. Chotjewitz ) in 2003 , and the ballet music Milk and Honey (Theater Basel) in 2007 .

Gruntz also wrote numerous film scores for Hannes Schmidhauser ( Seelische Grausamkeit , 1960, which he recorded with Barney Wilen , Marcel Peerers, Raymond Court , KT Geier , Kenny Clarke ), as well as for Franz Peter Wirth ( A Man in the Most Beautiful Age , 1963), Johannes Schaaf ( tattoo , 1967), Peter Lilienthal ( Malatesta , 1970, Attacking the Sun 1971), Bernhard Wicki ( Karpf's Career , The False Weight , 1971 and The Conquest of the Citadel 1977) and Fred Haines ( The Steppenwolf , 1974).

George Gruntz often worked as a guest conductor of radio big bands (NDR, WDR), but also symphony orchestras (including Orchester de la Suisse Romande) in Europe and from 1992 with the Big Band de Lausanne ( Yvan Ischer ). From 1970 to 1984 he was musical director of the Zürcher Schauspielhaus , from 1972 to 1994 artistic director of the Berlin Jazz Days (Farewell concert with GG-CJB, Elvin Jones , Erika Stucky and Joe Henderson ). In 1995 he was awarded the First Class Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany .

In 1991 Gruntz worked with Miles Davis and Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival . In 1993 there was a concert against racism ( jazz against right) at RIAS Berlin . In 1994 he made recordings for Raybone in New York with GG-CJB feat. Ray Anderson and with a European tour with the Ray Anderson Quartet . This was followed by the beginning of the collaboration with Erika Stucky and from 1995 with Dino Saluzzi , 1996 with Fab Four (quartet of drummer Fabian Kuratli ), 1997 with Burhan Öçal (later in a trio with Matthieu Michel ), 1999 with Thierry Lang ( piano twins ) and in 2005 with Tobias Preisig .

In 1997 George Gruntz was Composer in Residence at the Young Artist in Concert Festival in Davos, 2001/2002 Artist in Residence at the Yehudi Menuhin Festival in Gstaad. There he performed with Daniel Schnyder in the following years (also expanded by the harpsichordist Rudolf Lutz and the violinist Volker Biesenbender ). He also gave numerous solo concerts and realized his last European tour with the GG-CJB in 2011, followed by Dig My Trane 2012, a Coltrane project with the NDR Big Band and the last Montreux performance and the last trip to New at the end of November 2012 York and recording with the GG-CJB followed: News Reel Matters . George Gruntz gave his last concert with his great cousin James Gruntz and Tobias Preisig on August 22nd, 2012 in Baden (CH).

George Gruntz at the Montreux Jazz Festival 2012

Filmography (selection)


  • Born a white negro. A life for jazz. Corvus, Berneck 2002, ISBN 3-9522460-1-8 (autobiography).


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Obituary on SRF (Swiss radio and television)
  2. Stefan Künzli: George Gruntz is dead - an appreciation . In: Sunday . January 12, 2013.
  3. ^ Franz-Xaver Nager: Gruntz, George. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  4. First of all, Keith Jarrett was there when the TV film of the same name was being shot in Vienna . Compare piano jazz: music for 14 hands . Der Spiegel , October 8, 1973.
  5. George Gruntz in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  6. Alfred Zimmerlin : style mixtures and Alps images . In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . August 23, 2004.