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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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
pictures to see larger images)