Horst Jankowski achieved his widest success with his unique and arresting blend of piano, orchestra and chorus. All through his formidable career, he had been preoccupied with the search for new and different musical combinations. That search led him to experiment with various combinations of conventional instruments and the human voice. In Germany, Horst was well known as much for his choir as for his piano playing.  In 1960 he formed the choir on a strictly amateur basis. It included an American G.I., a  baker, a bank cashier, some housewives and clerical workers and they rehearsed whenever all could find a convenient time. 
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A sense of rhythm coupled with a firm creative touch were just two things that led Horst Jankowski to tread the jazz path. Musically temperamental and sensitive, yet strong on improvisation, Jankowski made his mark very early on as Germanys leading jazz pianist.  No matter what he did, he did it superbly - be it as a pianist in a big band or small combo, or as accompanist or soloist, backing visiting international jazzmen. Horst was not only a technical virtuoso: he also had an instinctive feeling for various types of music. This asset led him to explore more than just the jazz scene. With this decision, Jankowski was never able to complain that his diverse abilities had not been fully explored.  


If one can call each phase of his widened musical horizon a “challenge” in something different, then each was a challenge that he successfully mastered. One result though was that jazz appeared to be relegated to no more than a second love by him. But this was deceptive. Horst showed this time and time again by making use of every opportunity to express himself through jazz, his first love. Jankowski’s non-jazz interests did however bring about one somewhat paradox situation: while the pianist was no longer able to concentrate on helping to shape the jazz scene, his commercial success did give him the financial independence to play whatever jazz he wanted; whenever he wanted. 

His creative touch – especially in improvisation – continued to develop continuously, so much so that those fortunate enough to catch glimpses of Horst in a jazz vein were disappointed that so little of this side of the artist had reached a wider audience.

With his music, pianist and piano seemed to blend into one. What one witnessed was a pianist giving his all with extraordinary intensity, and expressing the whole range of human emotions.  Jankowski transcended time and place and carried all present along with him. Here was a pianist who seemingly knew no technical barriers, and who completely ruled his piano.

What makes Horst’s music so fascinating?  It is the blending of earthy blues sounds, the extravagant romanticism, the hot swing and the carefully spun impressionist touches.  It is pulsating soul rhythms and the way exciting melodic lines come to the fore while competing with thrusting bass lines. It is the no-nonsense statement of melody with cleverly used phrases from other tunes. It is the question + answer jests and the contrapuntal statement which all combines to lift Jankowski’s music.  In his playing the stylistic influences of greats such as Hines, Tatum, Garner, Silver and Peterson are not used as boring clichés but in the flow of spontaneous ideas become legitimate and meaningful means of expression. But you cannot do justice to music with words alone, it has to be heard. 

At least in Germany, the protagonist of the piece needs no introduction. Horst Jankowski, the multi-faceted pianist, composer, arranger, accompanist and orchestral director, has long ago assured himself a place on the international music scene!

Over a period of some twenty years, and having been a professional jazz musician myself, I have listened to all the top jazz pianists the world has to offer, but no matter how many of them I listen to, I find myself always coming back to Horst Jankowski.
For me, Horst’s music has all the necessary ingredients to satisfy my musical needs. His piano playing contains passion, intensity, drama, irony, sadness, beauty, not forgetting a sprinkling of that special black forest ingredient, whatever that may be.  It was a very great honour to actually speak to Horst at his home on the telephone, shortly before his untimely and very sad death on 26/6/1998.  

With his parting, we have indeed lost a very great talent. Horst’s memory will live on through a legacy of wonderful music that he has left for us. Through this website it is my intention to bring the name of Horst Jankowski to a wider public and to ultimately get him the recognition that he truly deserves !  


  Phil Kent.

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