Achim Kaufmann – piano
Frank Gratkowski – clarinets and alto saxophone
Wilbert de Joode – double bass

In early 2002, Achim Kaufmann, Frank Gratkowski and Wilbert de Joode first got together as a trio at a small venue in Amsterdam.
Since then, the three musicians have been touring and performing internationally on a regular basis, while constantly developing, deepening and enriching their musical rapport now documented on five CDs so far: kwast on Konnex; unearth on nuscope; palaŽ and oblengths on Leo Records; and gešder on gligg records.

The trio’s music has been completely improvised from the outset, created in the moment. There have never been any rehearsals prior to concerts, premeditated structures or concepts – a fact that frequently flummoxes listeners, critics or even fellow musicians, as the three often manage to evoke the impression that their music could indeed be adhering to compositional presets.

Kaufmann/Gratkowski/de Joode combine the transparency of early 21st century chamber music – silence, the moving into and out of noise regions, textural juxtapositions, the relics of almost tonal harmony surging up then evaporating just as quickly– with the energy, the rhythmic momentum and unpredictability of jazz and other rhythmically more aggressive musics.

To celebrate their ten-year anniversary as a trio in 2013,  Kaufmann/Gratkowski/de Joode invited Richard Barrett, Tony Buck, and Okkyung Lee to form the sextet SKEIN which led to a series of concerts and a release on Leo Records in 2014.


 “From hot, Dolphy-esque cascades to piano-roll pointillism, to unresolved twelve-tone tales, it’s improvised chamber music of the highest order.”                                                                                                          
Clifford Allen, Signal to Noise magazine (review of palaŽ)  
"...the power of their collective history is highlighted during their third album's opening number, where de Joode's athletic and falsetto bass is matched with unerring timbral precision by the blunted subtone of Gratkowski's clarinet. The two musicians jive around each other, their counterpoint gelling into a cracked continuum, which Kaufmann bolsters using the inside of his piano.
It's like the three musicians are channelling themselves through the same default sound – a strikingly original opening gambit to a savvy hour of improvised music.”                                                                                                        
Philip Clark, The Wire (review of palaŽ)

“The three spontaneously weave compact pieces full of intricate, multi-threaded interaction. (…) The group can construct spare, riveting music from the quiet hush of bristling detailed textures. They can also shape improvisations that build to a full-bore rush of heated intensity. But what stands out most is how they do this with such a highly-developed group sound…”       
                Michael Rosenstein, Signal to Noise (review of kwast)  

"Yes, this trio is pretty astounding (…) The ways in which this group interacts and creates new environments for improvisation reminds me of the Graewe/Reijseger/Hemingway trio, despite the different instrumentation. They create a new world every time they perform. This was one of the best improvised concerts I have seen in quite some time, and is right up there with performances by other long-time groups that I have witnessed live such as G/R/H, the Schlippenbach Trio, and Parker/Guy/Lytton."                             
                                                       Russell Summers, nuscope recordings

 "For me, however, the highlight was hearing the trio at Snug Harbor. A working band since 2002, this drummer-less group drew rapt attention from the club crowd with performances that bordered on musical telepathy. (…)
In other hands, this music might have seemed a cool, intellectual exercise in musical collage. From these three, it proved utterly sensuous, full of golden keyboard sonorities, breathy winds and even the rare sound of an accomplished bassist rubbing the body of his instrument."                                                                                                       
Chris Waddington, Time Picayune New Orleans (2007)
“…it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before."                                                                         Greg Buium   - down beat magazine (review of 'kwast’)
"The best band I heard [at the 2008 Dutch Jazz Meeting] was the free-improvising Wilbert de Joode/Achim Kaufmann/Frank Gratkowski trio."                                                                                                                                                                         Kevin Whitehead

"You have to have been there - to see and hear how jazz and all facets of New Music are amalgamated here and transformed into true sonic flights of fancy."                                                                                  Gerda Neunhoeffer, SŁdkurier (Donaueschingen, Germany)

“What an amazing band! I agree that they are one of the best working groups in improvised music right now.”   
Rob Cambre, New Orleans

Kaufmann/Gratkowski/de Joode have been performing regularly since 2002. They toured North America successfully twice (in 2007 and 2009), including appearances at the Umbrella Festival in Chicago, the Earshot Festival in Seattle, Roulette (NYC), Mills College (Oakland), Princeton University, Nameless Sound (Houston), Coastal Jazz/Western Front (Vancouver), the Flynn Center (Burlington), Hallwalls (Buffalo), Montrťal, Toronto, New Orleans, and Portland.
Their European performances include the Ring Ring Festival (Belgrade), Ars Nova (SWR New Music Festival in Germany), Porgy und Bess (Vienna), Nickelsdorf, Ulrichsberg, De Singel (Antwerp), BIMhuis (Amsterdam), Musťe d’Art Moderne Contemporain (Strasbourg), Open Music (Graz), Exploratorium (Berlin), Offene Ohren (Munich), Kammerspiele (Magdeburg), Cultureel Centrum Maasmechelen etc.


kwast              Konnex kcd 5129     (2004)
unearth            nuscope cd 1016      (2005)
palaŽ               Leo Records LR 504  (2007)      
gešder             gligg 033                 (2012)      

SKEIN             Leo Records LR 708      (2014) – with Okkyung Lee, Richard Barrett, Tony Buck
oblengths         Leo Records LR 748    (2016)

Kevin Whitehead's liner notes for oblengths


some video links:

VPRO Amsterdam 2016 part 1
VPRO Amsterdam 2016 part 2

photo credit: Goran Potkonjak