Rainer Brüninghaus

Uniquely, Rainer Brüninghaus stands for the fusion of jazz, classical music, rock-rhythms, new music, and avant-garde. Drawing from that he has found his own, very personal style. The american Jazz Magazine "Down Beat" wrote about him: "Like Keith Jarrett he is an acrobat of the right hand."

In his piano solo concerts, Rainer Brüninghaus „connects elements of classical music and jazz piano, improvising with inexhaustible imagination. His virtuoso playing always stands in the service of the musical ideas.“ (Music journalist Gereon Hoffmann in the „Rheinpfalz“)

After having founded his first modern jazz trio at an age of 16, he played experimental jazz rock during the early 70s and after that was involved in the classically influenced emancipation of the European jazz. Later, he worked above all as a band leader and was always present as a composer. From the early 70s to the 90s he was guest soloist with German broadcasting big bands, played with many of the jazz greats.

In 1988 a cooperation with Jan Garbarek began involving long tours throughout the world.

As a composer he has written for piano, for symphony and brass orchestras, bigband and smaller ensembles. The style of his compositions connects the ideals of classical music with the spontaneity of jazz and the modern serious music.

Brüninghaus has played with his groups throughout Europe, and additionally, as an ambassador of German jazz, he performed as both a band leader and piano soloist. This has included the German Goethe-Institute and the Foreign Office several times. He has made long tours to most of South and Central America as well as to Australia and New Zealand.

In 1983 Brüninghaus won the Jazz Award of Southwest German Radio and the country of Rhineland-Palatinate, which at that time was the only German jazz award. In 1984 he won the Award of German Record Critics for his ECM album ‘Continuum’.


Rainer Brüninghaus was born in 1949.

He discovered the piano at the age of four years. Initially the music was an amusing game. Without instruction he originated sounds, harmonies and melodies. When he was nine years old, he started classical piano lessons. His talent was evident and a year later he could play Mozart sonatas.  At 14 years he discovered jazz and as a 16-year-old he founded a trio and played modern jazz.

From 1968 to 1972 Brüninghaus studied sociology at the university of Cologne, but there grew in him the conviction that his true appeal was music.

During his sociology studies, he founded Eiliff, an experimental jazz rock band with which he recorded two LPs and one single.

From 1971 to 1975 he studied music. At that time, Winfried Trenkler, a broadcasting company editor and music critic, said in a broadcast transmission that the fact that Brüninghaus studies piano, could be compared to a racing driver having to take a driving test.

From 1973 to 1975 he was a regular member of Volker Kriegel’s jazz rock group Spectrum and participated in his next group Mild Maniac Orchestra. From 1973 onwards, he was also (until 1985) a frequent guest in the jazz ensemble of Hessian Broadcasting Corporation (hr) and in the big band of Hessian Broadcasting Corporation (hr-Bigband). He was also invited to play in the Kurt Edelhagen orchestra as a soloist.

In 1975 a close cooperation with Eberhard Weber started which lasted for seven years in the group Colours in which Charlie Mariano also played. At the same time Brüninghaus also worked together with Manfred Schoof, including duo concerts.

A special honour was given to the pianist in 1976: Brüninghaus represented Germany at the international festival of the European Broadcasting Union. On this occasion, the artist composed a work for solo piano, and it was so successful that Brüninghaus developed a whole solo programme out of it. The premiere during the Heidelberg jazz days was a great success and for Brüninghaus it was the impulse to give more solo grand piano concerts.

In the meantime, Brüninghaus enjoyed more and more respect as a composer. At the German Jazz Festival Frankfurt of 1978 he performed a suite of pieces lasting 50 minutes which he had composed as a commissioned work for that festival. The well known jazz critic, Joachim-Ernst Behrendt, wrote afterwards that he considered  Brüninghaus to be one of the three leading German jazz pianists.

Two days later, one of the works was performed again with international jazz greats, among them Archie Shepp. Afterwards, Brüninghaus interested Manfred Eicher, the boss of the famous ECM label, in his compositions and they worked together on a recording project.

Manfred Eicher suggested Kenny Wheeler, Brynjar Hoff and Jon Cristensen as players for the work in the studio. Thus, in 1980, Freigeweht, the first ECM album with Brüninghaus as a leader appeared. The second one followed in 1983 which won the award of German Record Critics.

Many commissioned works followed for both small and large ensembles and even for symphony orchestras. Among others, Brüninghaus wrote for the Siegerland Symphony Orchestra, the Young German-French Philharmonic Orchestra, the symphony orchestras of Radio Bremen and North German Radio Station, as well as for the big bands of the West German Radio, of the NDR, of the HR, and SDR.

From 1981 to 1984, Brüninghaus had his own trio once again, with trumpet player Markus Stockhausen and drummer Fredy Studer. With this trio he played at the Berlin Jazz Festival, and went on a big tour in 1983 through the whole of South America for the German Goethe Institute, and then in 1984 to Central America and the Caribbean.

From 1985 the percussionist Trilok Gurtu and guitarist John Abercrombie joined the Brüninghaus trio. Guests and occasional players were Charlie Mariano, Hugo Read and Jo Thӧnes. The trio toured Europe as well as in 1985 Australia and New Zealand, in the latter the trio’s concert was voted one of the four biggest cultural events of the year.

Another climax in Brüninghaus’s work as a composer was the Rhine Requiem. He wrote the 90 minute work in 1987 for a television concert of the NDR. Lauren Newton, Paul McCandless, Trilok Gurtu and Klaus Bantzer contributed to the premiere.

In 1988 an intense cooperation with Jan Garbarek started that involved long tours throughout the world. Brüninghaus has been a steady member of the Jan Garbarek Group until today, including worldwide touring.

From 1984 to 1992 Brüninghaus was teaching at the music department of the University of Cologne (Musikhochschule) lecturing on the piano. From his didactic activities, many essays on music theory were published in a number of musical magazines, with the focus currently on „Piano News“ (editor: Carsten Dürer). Besides his many compositions for large and small ensembles, and also for piano solo, he also wrote pieces for award winning films and TV series. He was for a long time a member of the artistic advisory board of the UDJ (association of German jazz musicians).


George Adams, John Abercrombie, Carla Bley, Mari Boine, Jack Bruce, Agnes Buen Garnas, Bob Brookmeyer, Gary Burton, Jon Christensen, Billy Cobham, Bobby McFerrin, Jan Garbarek, Danny Gottlieb, Trilok Gurtu, Jim Hall, Ralf Hübner, Manu Katché, Karin Krog, Albert Mangelsdorff, Charlie Mariano, John Marshall, Lauren Newton, Nippi Noya, Paul McCandless, Palle Mikkelborg, Alphonse Mouzon, Lauren Newton, Alex Riel, Toots Thielemanns, Heinz Sauer, Manfred Schoof, Archie Shepp, Thomas Stanko, Steve Swallow, Eberhard Weber, Reto Weber, Heiner Wiberny, Kenny Wheeler u.a.

Piano Solo

Since the beginning of 2011, Brüninghaus has frequently played grand piano solo concerts again. The grand piano for him is the instrument with which he can express his musical ideas best of all, i.e. directly, spontaneously and emotionally.