Peter Kowald

QuickTime video sample

QuickTime video clips of Peter Kowald in New York in 1984 from Ebba Jahn's film Rising tones cross.


Born 1944 in Germany, died 21 September 2002 New York City; double bass, voice, tuba.

Peter Brötzmann (Corbett, 1994) recounted that 'there was this young guy trying to play the bass, who was Mr Kowald, at that time seventeen years old. Peter lived with his parents. I had my little studio, so he was always hanging out at my place. But he had to be at home at 10.00, he was drinking milk. But we changed that, very soon. His parents were always very angry with me, because he never showed up at home anymore, he dropped studies of ancient languages, Greek and all that.' By this time (1962) Peter Kowald had been playing bass for two years and, with different drummers the two Peters were playing Mingus, Ornette, and Miles Davis things as well as listening to Coltrane, Stockhausen, Cage et al. Kowald was part of the European tour undertaken by the Carla Bley/Michael Mantler band in 1966 (also featuring Brötzmann) and then came work with other German musicians, membership of the Globe Unity Orchestra and the first recordings: Globe Unity, For Adolphe Sax and Summer 1967, recorded during a brief vacation in London. In particular, Evan Parker credits this visit to London for his invitation to play in the Pierre Favre/Irene Schweizer quartet and his subsequent longstanding involvement with German (and other European) musicians. Kowald's work with Brötzmann continued - on and off - on record at least, to the time of Kowald's death and included the Cooperative Trio with Andrew Cyrille, a duo on the Duos project and a recent mix of free jazz, hip-hop and rap.

Peter Kowald was a member of Globe Unity Orchestra for 12 years (1966 to 1978) and for much of this time played less of a side-man role and more of an equal partner - for example, conducting the band - with the person to whom the group has become most associated, Alex von Schlippenbach. His influence is particularly noticeable on Jahrmarkt/Local fair where the two sides of composition are by Kowald (as is the second side of Live in Wuppertal and he is also credited, along with Paul Lovens as 'producing' the record, presumably sorting out the sprawling theatricality and poor sound into two 'meaningful' fragments. In his notes to 20th anniversary, Schlippenbach emphasises the importance of Kowald in creating a programme that became a lot more 'colourful'; while further pointing out that he and Kowald gradually drifted further apart 'until one fine evening after lengthy discussions which resulted in a fight in a pub in Wuppertal, this chapter also closed'. However, before this ending, from 1973 to 1978, Kowald also worked with the Schlippenbach trio (Schlippenbach/ Parker/Paul Lovens), turning it for much of this time into a regular quartet.

Throughout his career, Peter Kowald worked with a wide variety of improvising musicians worldwide and in many considered and unusual situations. He recorded bass duets with Barry Guy, Barre Phillips, Peter Jacquemyn, Maarten Altena, Damon Smith and William Parker, released two solo bass recordings, and had regular groups with Leo Smith and Günter Sommer; with Joëlle Léandre and dancer Anne Martin (Trio Tartini); with dancers Cheryl Banks and Arnette de Mille and cellist Muneer Abdul Fataah (Music and Movement Improvisation); a trio with pianist Curtis Clark; a trio with Canadian alto saxophonist Yves Charuest and Louis Moholo; and Principle Life with Jeanne Lee, Klaus Hovman, and Marilyn Mazur. During the period 1980 to 1985 he was a member of the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra. He has spent periods in the US and in Japan and recorded three duo LPs (two CDs) with US, European and Japanese musicians. He also lived in Greece and similarly played and recorded with the Greek musicians Floros Floridis and Ilias Papadopoulos. By contrast, the 12 months May 1994 to May 1995 was designated Kowald's 'Year at home' project which comprised a mixture of solo works - out of which, to some extent, the last solo CD grew (Was da ist) - and group performances.

In addition, Peter Kowald collaborated extensively with poets and artists and with the dancers Gerlinde Lambeck, Anne Martin, Tadashi Endo, Patsy Parker, Maria Mitchell, Sally Silvers, Cherly Banks, Arnette de Mille, Sayonara Pereira, and Kazuo Ohno. Specific works included Die klage der kaiserin (1989) with Pina Bausch, Short pieces (since 1989) with Jean Sasportes, The spirit of adventure (1990) with Anastasia Lyra, Wasser in der hand (1990/91) with Christine Brunel, and Futan no sentaku/The burden of choice (1990/91) with Min Tanaka and Butch Morris.

He will always be missed.

Further information

Rising tones cross, a film by Ebba Jahn in New York, 1984.

Brennan, Gerald E. (2005), Peter Kowald interview. Cadence, vol. 31, no. 3, March, pp. 5-19. Transcribed from a telephone conversation with PK on 11 January 2001.

Corbett, John (1994), Machine gun etiquette, in Extended play: sounding off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein. Duke University Press, 0 8223 1473 8. pp. 246-259. Chapter on Peter Brötzmann from which the quote about Peter Kowald used above is taken.
Rösnes, Thore (1995), Jag vill inte lära mig andras melodier, in Gränsloöst, no. 2, (September), pp. 14-17.


1965, The inexplicable flyswatter: works on paper 1959-1964, Unheard Music Series. Peter Brötzmann. Includes enhanced CD with two audio tracks.
1966, Mayday, Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 004. Peter Brötzmann Trio.
1966, Globe Unity, Saba 15 109 ST. Issued under Schlippenbach's name.
1967, Summer 1967, Emanem 4005. Spontaneous Music Ensemble: John Stevens/Evan Parker and Peter Kowald.
1967, For Adolphe Sax, BRÖ 1/FMP 0080. Brötzmann/Kowald/Johansson.
1967, For Adolphe Sax, UMS/ALP230CD. As BRÖ 1/FMP 0080 with extra track.
1967, Usable past, Olof Bright OBLP 1. Brötzmann/Kowald/Johansson.
1967/70, Globe Unity 67 & 70, Atavistic/Unheard Music Series. Globe Unity Orchestra.
1968, Machine gun, FMP CD24. The Peter Brötzmann Octet.
1968, The complete machine gun sessions, ALP262CD. Peter Brötzmann Octet.
1968, Santana, FMP 0630. Pierre Favre Trio.
1968, Fuck de Boere, UMS/ALP211CD. Peter Brötzmann Nonet.
1968, Requiem for Che Guevara, MPS 15205.
1969, European echoes, FMP 0010/UMS/ALP232CD. Manfred Schoof.
1969, International Holy Hill jazz meeting, Meno-Lichtenstein-&-CB 6769. Includes one track of the Peter Brötzmann Octet and track of Pierre Favre Trio, both with Peter Kowald.
1969, Pierre Favre Quartett, Wergo WER 80004.
1971, We are you, Enja/(Calig?) 6060. Kark Berger w/ Allen Blairman and Ingrid Berger.
1972, Peter Kowald Quintet, FMP 0070.
1973, Live in Wuppertal, FMP 0160. Globe Unity Orchestra.
1973/75, For example, FMP R123. Two orchestra tracks (Globe Unity and Brass Group) on commemorative/compilation 3LP set.
1974, Hamburg '74, FMP 0650/Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP248CD. Globe Unity Orchestra.
1974/1975, Three nails left FMP 0210. Schlippenbach Quartett.
1975, Hunting the snake, UMS/ALP213CD. Schlippenbach Quartet.
1975, Rumbling, FMP CD 40. Globe Unity Orchestra.
1975, Carpathes, FMP 0250. Pilz/Kowald/Lovens
1975, Baden-Baden '75, FMP CD 137. Globe Unity Orchestra + Guests.
1975/1976, Jahrmarkt/Local fair, Po Torch PTR/JWD 2. Globe Unity Orchestra.
1975/77, At Quartier Latin, FMP CD 140. Schlippenbach Quartet: CD issue of part of Three nails left plus most of The hidden peak.
1977, The hidden peak, FMP 0410. Schlippenbach Quartett.
1977, Improvisations, JAPO 60021. Globe Unity Orchestra.
1977, Pearls, FMP 0380. Globe Unity Orchestra.
1978, Frames: music for an imaginary film, Ogun Ogun CD 010/011. Keith Tippett's Ark.
1979, Die jungen: random generators, FMP 0680. Bass duos with Barre Phillips.
1979, Touch the earth, FMP 0730/FMP CD 67. Smith/Kowald/Sommer.
1979/81/82 Bass duets, FMP CD 102. With Barre Phillips, Barry Guy, Maarten Altena.
1980, Stringer, FMP SAJ-41. London Jazz Composers' Orchestra.
1980, Study II/Stringer, Intakt CD095. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.
1980, The family, FMP 0940. The 'Wuppertal Workshop Ensemble'.
1981, If you want the kernals, you have to break the shells, FMP 0920/FMP CD 67. Smith/Kowald/Sommer.
1981, London Musicians' Collective ...the first 25 years, LMC Res8.2CD/Res9.1CD. Duo with Terry Day on compilation CD.
1981, Industrial strength, Leo LR113. 'Borbetomagus and friends': Kowald/Kondo/Honsinger/ Fine.
1981, Borbeto jam, Cadence CJR 1026. 'Borbetomagus and friends'.
1981, Free jazz, Private LP with Penck cover. Peter Kowald Trio w/ Luigi Trovesi/A. R. Penck at Kunsthalle Bern, 14 August 1981.
1981, Paintings, FMP 0960. Bass duos with Barry Guy.
1982, Contrast, Paddlewheel K28 P 6243. Newton/Togashi/Kowald.
1982, Two making a triangle, FMP 0920. Bass duos with Maarten Altena.
1982, Human rights, Kabell 24. Leo Smith.
1982, Live in Berlin, Black Saint BSR 0069. Marilyn Crispell.
1983, What are you talking about?, DIW 456 (CD)/IMA 003/DIW 1119 (LP). Tristan Honsinger/Toshinori Kondo/Peter Kowald/Sabu Toyozumi.
1984/1986, Duos Japan FMP 1280.
1985, Thoughts, Soul Note SN111. Bill Dixon.
1985, Meltable snaps it - Points blank + No Man's Land nml 8604cd. Michael Lytle/George Cartwright/David Moss.
1986, Global village suite - improvised, FMP SAJ-60.
1986/1990, Duos America FMP 1270.
1986/1990, Duos: Europa America Japan FMP CD 21.
1986/1990, Duos2: Europa · America · Japan FMP CD 124.
1987, Live at Kassiopeia No Business Records NBCD 35/36 and NBLP 41/42. Julius Hemphill/Peter Kowald.
1988, Open secrets FMP 1190. Solo.
1988, Open secrets FMP CD 132. Solo; CD issue of FMP 1190.
1988, Duos Europa FMP 1260. Duo with various European partners.
1988, Alms/Tiergarten (Spree) FMP CD 8/9. Cecil Taylor European Orchestra.
1990, United music of Marantz UMOM 1. Test record with short section from Kowald/Morris/ Tanaka.
1990/1, When the sun is out you don't see stars FMP CD 38. Kowald/Lüdi/Morris/Namtchylak.
1991 Pyrichia Ano Kato Records 2001. With Floros Floridis/Ilias Papadopoulos.
1992, Expo's jazz & joy, Call it anything/VeraBra 2122 2. Free jazz/hip-hop/rap.
1992, Three wheels-four directions, Victo cd023. Konrad Bauer Trio.
1992, Cappuccini klang Splasc(h) Records CD H 383.2. Gebbia/Kowald/Sommer.
1993, The remedy JazzHaus Musik JHM 69. With Sebastian Gramss/Axel Dörner/Claus Wagner/Tom Cora/Matthias Schubert.
1993, AngelicA 93, CAICAI 004. Solo plus other combinations.
1993, Conduction 28/Conduction 31, New World Records 80484. Lawrence D. 'Butch' Morris.
1993, Conduction 31/Conduction 35/Conduction 36, New World Records 80485. Lawrence D. 'Butch' Morris.
1993, Tracks, Le Parc Music. With Mario Schiano and Jölle Léandre.
1994, Was da ist FMP CD 62. Solo.
1995, Nil Unit Records UTR 4083.
1995, Cuts FMP CD 94. With Ort Ensemble + Evan Parker, Carlos Zingaro, Lê Quan Ninh.
1995, Used to be friends Splasc(h) Records CD H 452.2. Schiano/Lovens/Kowald/Rutherford/Reijseger.
1997 Aphorisms: 26 statements on the situation Ano Kato Records 2015. With Floros Floridis/Günter Sommer.
1997-1999 Aura Enisai Records ESCD 9901. One disc (of 3CD set) a duo with Sainkho.
1998 CIMPhonia 1998 part 1 CIMP 173. With Joe McPhee/Mark Whitecage/Paul Smoker/David Prentice/Dominic Duval/Jay Rosen.
1998 CIMPhonia 1998 part 2 CIMP 178. With Joe McPhee/Mark Whitecage/Paul Smoker/David Prentice/Dominic Duval/Jay Rosen.
1998, Live at The Velvet Lounge, Okka disk 12023. The Fred Anderson Trio.
1998, Flats fixed. Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 016. Kowald/Kessler/Lonberg-Holm.
1999, Slowdrags and interludes, LJ Records LJCD5219. Biggi Vinkeloe Trio.
1999, Postura, Fringes 08. Alessandro Bosetti/Peter Kowald/Astrid Weins/Luigi Mosso.
1999, Open secrets, Forward/01. Duo with Carlos Bechegas.
1999, Open VIEW, Forward.rec 05. Duo with Carlos Bechegas.
1999-2001, Global village, Free elephant 001.
2000, Deals, ideas & ideals, Hopscotch HOP 6. Ali/Kowald/Tsahar.
2000, Mirrors - broken but no dust, Balance Point Acoustics BPA 001 (cassette). Cassette version issued in 2015.
2000, Mirrors - broken but no dust, Balance Point Acoustics BPA 001. Duo with Damon Smith.
2000, Ghetto calypso, Not Two Records MW 769. Marco Eneidi/Peter Kowald/Damon Smith/Spririt.
2000, Illuminations (several views), Rastascan BRD049. Trio with Miya Masaoka and Gino Robair.
2000, Visions, Isopin labs (no number). Solo track on compilation CD.
2000, Sea of lead, Hopscotch HOP 17. Fernández/Kowald.
2000, Tandem, Accretions alp025. Jason Robinson: one duo + other track with samples.
2000, Mythology, Kadima Collectvie Recordings KCR 20. Duo with Vinny Golia.
2000, Was da ist (live) FMP CD 147. Solo.
2000, Instants Chavirés Fou Records FR - CD 07. Peter Kowald/Daunik Lazro/Annick Nozati.
2000/2001, Deep music, Free elephant 003. Peter Kowald in duo with William Parker and with Peter Jacquemyn.
2001, Open systems, Marge 28. Tsahar/Ragin/Kowald/Drake.
2001, Principle hope, Sublingual Records SLR012. Carter/Cook/Kowald/LaMaster.
2001, Between heaven and earth, Intakt CD 079. Bauer/Kowald/Sommer.
2001, Silence and flies, Free elephant 005. Solo.
2001, 13 definitions of truth, quakebasket Qb-17. Tatsuya Nakatani/Peter Kowald.
2002, The Victoriaville tape, Victo cd088. Peter Kowald/William Parker duo.
2002, Ma: live at the Fundacio Juan Miro, Hopscotch HOP 15. Murray/Kowald/Tsahar.
2002, Aria, Free elephant 004. Kowald/Braida/Locatelli.
2002, Trio and duo in New Orleans, No Business Records NBCD64-65. Kidd Jordan/Alvin Fielder/Peter Kowald.
2002, Live in New Orleans, No Business Records NBLP71/72. Kidd Jordan/Alvin Fielder/Peter Kowald.

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