Maarten Mooijman

Achim Kaufmann – Michael Moore Duo

Achim Kaufmann and Michael Moore have worked together now for more than 25 years. For much of that time, they were among Amsterdam’s estimable expatriate community. The American clarinetist and alto saxophonist settled there in 1982 and never left. The German pianist arrived in the Netherlands in the mid-’90s and stayed until 2009. He's lived in Berlin ever since.

There’s a remarkable chemistry between the two, judging from their album trilogy Nothing Something, Something Nothing and Furthermore, which was recorded in Berlin.

The music is of an unequaled clarity, whether it’s duo improvisation (Nothing Something), compositions (Something Nothing) or variations on the music of Herbie Nichols (Furthermore).

Michael Moore is renowned all over the world for his beautiful tone and his rich musical imagination, which links the American tradition to the anarchy of the Amsterdam-based ICP Orchestra, of which he is a member.

The piano playing and compositions of Achim Kaufmann have associations with jazz, folk and chamber music.


Achim Kaufmann was born into a musical family in Aachen, Germany, in 1962, and became fascinated by jazz and the possibilities of improvisation as a teenager. He started writing tunes around that time. Later he studied music at the Conservatory in Cologne and also took classes with creative masters such as Dave Holland, Steve Coleman, Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis, and Steve Lacy. 

From 1996 to 2009, he lived in Amsterdam where he became part of that city’s internationally renowned improvised music scene. Since 2002, he has been touring internationally with the trio Kaufmann/Gratkowski/de Joode, an improvising unit which has released four CDs so far, to much critical acclaim. In the late ‘90s and ‘00s, Achim led two groups with reed player Michael Moore: trio kamosc and gueuledeloup quartet. In 2007, he recorded kyrill, a set of compositions for piano trio featuring Valdi Kolli and Jim Black. Their follow-up cd, entitled verivyr, was released in 2011. 

He has also collaborated with his wife, poet/painter Gabriele Guenther, on the audiodrama Borderline – From the Shadows of a Journey, and has written music for various chamber ensembles. In his solo work, mixed techniques are used to create a fluctuating world of sounds and gestures. Resonance and reverberation, space and density play an important role in both his solo and ensemble work. 

Since his move to Berlin, he got involved in various new projects, such as the trio grünen with Robert Landfermann and Christian Lillinger, Oni Kramler (with Matthias Schubert, Antonio Borghini, and various guests), and a trio with cellist Okkyung Lee and trumpeter Axel Dörner. 

In 2013, the sextet SKEIN (Kaufmann/Gratkowski/de Joode plus Richard Barrett, Okkyung Lee, and Tony Buck) had its premiere at the dOeK festival in Amsterdam and subsequently recorded for SWR radio. 

In addition, Achim has played and/or recorded with Han Bennink, Mark Dresser, George Lewis, Steve Swallow, Tobias Delius, Wolter Wierbos, Mark Helias, Paul Rutherford, Thomas Lehn, Ab Baars, Paul Lovens, Dylan van der Schyff, Peggy Lee, Chris Speed, Tomász Stanko, Gerd Dudek, Bill Elgart, Paul Lytton, Harri Sjöström, Andrea Parkins, Harris Eisenstadt, Ingrid Laubrock, Tristan Honsinger, Shelley Hirsch, Steve Swell, Thomas Heberer, Urs Leimgruber, Roger Turner, Fay Victor, Fred Lonberg-Holm, John Hollenbeck, Bob Brookmeyer, Simon Nabatov, Lê Quan Ninh, Gerry Hemingway, John Hébert, Al Foster, Adam Nussbaum, and many more. 

He was awarded the prestigious German SWR Jazz Award in 2001 & the Albert Mangelsdorff Award, also known as the German Jazz Prize, in 2015.

Michael Moore was born (1954) and raised in Arcata, California, USA. After absorbing music at home, playing locally and attending The College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University, he moved to Boston to study with Jaki Byard, Gunther Schuller, Ran Blake, Joe Allard, George Russell and Joe Maneri at the New England Conservatory of Music, graduating in 1977. After a year in New York City he travelled to Europe for the first time in the summer of 1978 to play with Available Jelly, the musical accompaniment to the Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe. Since 1982 he has made his home in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The early '80's found him working in the theater (Baal, Dogtroep, De Voorziening, Teo Joling, Mug met de Gouden Tand) and dance (Pauline De Groot, Katie Duck, Allessandro Certini, Shusaku Takeuchi and Virgilio Sieni) as well as various musical contexts such as Gijs Hendricks' Octet, Franky Douglas' Sunchild, Guus Janssen's Septet and Maarten Altena's Quartet and Octet. Later he played and recorded with the groups of Mark Helias, Gerry Hemingway, Sean Bergin, Maurice Horsthuis, Georg Graewe, Klaus Konig, Burton Greene (Klezmokum), Simon Nabatov, Dave Douglas, Myra Melford, Mark Dresser, Ig Henneman and others.

In 1986 he received the Dutch jazz award, the Boy Edgar Prijs. In '97 Trio Clusone was voted #1 acoustic group (Talent Deserving Wider Recognition) in Down Beat's Critics Poll; in 2000 - 2002 Moore was voted #1 clarinetist in the same poll. He was also voted winner of the Bird Award from the Northsea Jazz Fest in 2000.

Since '91 his activities as composer and performer have been documented both on his own recording label, Ramboy, and others including hatART, Palmetto, Gramavision, Between the Lines and Red Toucan. His playing and writing are to be heard on more than 80 CDs.

His activities as a concert designer came to the fore in '93 with a commission for YoYo Ma's Carte Blanche at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam; a three day festival (Moore & more) in Bremen, Germany; Clusone & friends concerts in Italy and Holland, and a three-day Available Jelly Festival at the Felix Meritus concert hall in Amsterdam. In '94 he organized three evenings at De Singel in Antwerpen with Lee Konitz, Misha Mengelberg, Joey Baron, Marilyn Crispell, Gerry Hemingway, Kenny Wheeler, Mark Feldman and others.

His more recent activities include performances with his ‘Fragile’ Quartet, Michael Moore Quintet, Jewels & Binoculars - play the music of Bob Dylan, Misha Mengelberg's Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, the Magpie dance and music performance group, the Achim Kaufmann Trio, Benoit Delbecq, Oskar Aichinger (music of Carla Bley and Annette Peacock) and the Paul Berner band.

Michael Moore has a deep understanding of both the American jazz and the Dutch improvised music traditions, but his writing and playing are also influenced by music from other cultures. He has played Turkish music with Ogüz Büyükberber and Hüsnü Senlendirici, Malinese with Toumani Diabate, Keletigui Diabate and Habib Koite, Portuguese with Fernando Lameirinhas and Cristina Branco, and Brazilian with Rogerio Bicudo, Banda Mantiqueira and Paulo Moura. The musics of Sicily, Madagascar, Istria and Indonesia have also been particularly influential. He has collaborated with and been influenced by poets and poetry, dancers and other visual artists. Michael continues to write, improvise, play and prepare new releases for Ramboy and other labels.

Current tour dates

Sep 12, 2019 - Sep 22, 2019
Also available on request!


Contact us if you want to offer a date for this tour, and we will advise you on availability.

Achim Kaufmann – Michael Moore Duo
Nothing Something (Ramboy 31A)

Michael Moore and Achim Kaufmann have worked together now for more than 25 years. For much of that time, they were among Amsterdam’s estimable expatriate community. The American clarinetist and alto saxophonist settled there in 1982 and never left. The German pianist arrived in the Netherlands in the mid-'90s and stayed until 2009. He's lived in Berlin ever since.

That’s where these albums were recorded over four sessions in the spring of 2011 and the winter of 2012. They’ve all been released at once – a cue, I suppose, to digest them whole. Sure, each date has a different operating principle, but they’re all of a piece. There’s a series of improvisations on one (Nothing Something), a set of compositions on another (Something Nothing), and a session dedicated to the music of Herbie Nichols (Furthermore).

Taken together, it’s a test of just how far a duo can go. In any number of cases, there would be an endless string of traps. It wouldn’t take three hours (170 minutes, to be precise) for many piano-reed duos to devolve into something paralytic, rudderless, or frighteningly dull. But these sessions seem to be a signal moment for Kaufmann and Moore, one for examining every little aspect of how they interact. The music is a monument to sustained, unflinching (and deeply satisfying) introspection. Indeed, if you let yourself explore these discs – straight through, on permanent shuffle, or in stages (I tried a few variations) – you’re given a microscopic tour of duo art. These Ramboys are rarely fevered, yet they never stand still. They contain some extraordinary music-making.

So where might one begin? Try “Unswaddled Blues,” the second improvisation on the first disc, Nothing Something. There are 12 shorter pieces here – each is between two and five minutes – but this is the longest, at more than seven minutes. “Unswaddled Blues” unfurls in stages. It begins with a jarring helicopter effect – mad fluttering clarinet, piano pedal clusters, single notes, then short motifs, circling and circling about. Soon they’re into a chase, Kaufmann deep into the left hand, and Moore moving into long tones, one of his terrific yearning calls, beautiful and dark at the bottom end of the horn. As the time gives way, Moore moves into the middle range, and Kaufmann outlines a series of chords. Things become more pensive. Kaufmann crafts a foundation and Moore unearths a gorgeous, wisp of a line, as if it had all been designed before. When the improvisation's first phase gives way to the second, a final turn produces something new (can we call it a coda?): tender and shrill and filled with soaring meditative spaces. Now you’re tempted to turn back and listen again. It is open music of the highest, most satisfying kind. – Greg Buium, Point of Departure, June, 2014

Achim Kaufmann – Michael Moore Duo
Something Nothing (Ramboy 31B)

When you get to Something Nothing the 14 originals feel like a natural next step. Just three of the pieces are Kaufmann’s, yet the spirit here often put me in mind of the pianist’s excellent pair of turn-of-the-century groups, Trio Kamosc and the Gueuledeloup Quartet. It might just be the sound of these men together – Moore was the lone horn in each of those bands – but it’s also the overarching culture of these new duets. Kaufmann’s writing has always maintained an elegant, sharply cut melancholy. “Disappearing,” for instance, is a sweet and somber chamber-music line, something North Americans once called European jazz. Moore quietly pulls Kaufmann toward his own improvisation, as the piece bobbles in and out – appearing, receding – giving Kaufmann a chance to refashion every corner of his script. At times, there is such symmetry to the way these men work, that I kept falling into cliché. It may be perverse, but the clichés felt just right – that Moore and Kaufmann were “of the same mind,” “in sync,” that they were just so comfortable “in the moment.”

It's all true. What Moore writes can often sound, deep down, like contemporary bop riddles. It's his own freewheeling mode – New Dutch Swing via Eureka, California and the New England Conservatory. To me, "Gravitation" is a Ferris wheel of Michael Moore joy: snakes-and-ladder lines that suddenly stop, a spell of reflection – of genuine beauty – a majestic reminder of the tune (solo piano), a new emboldened turn (Moore), then back to the head.

Oddly enough, the poise and purpose of this project delivers its longest uninterrupted level of clarity on Furthermore, the Herbie Nichols date. But that makes sense. Nichols' music has been a real point of reference for them over the years, whether it was on Kaufmann's 2004 solo disc, knives (where he played "2300 Skiddoo"), or in Moore's work with the Instant Composers Pool (Program One: The ICP Orchestra Performs Herbie Nichols, 1984); it's about where they come from, and where they're going. It's jazz, and yet, the singularity of Nichols' writing seems to bring a laser beam to Kaufmann's approach: his untangling of "Double Exposure," for one, where his solo of subtle shifts and simple declarations, gives the tune a new skin. Together, "The Third World" is a vigorous instance of collective interplay that Kaufmann breaks open with a driving bit of force, cracking Nichols' line and reassembling it under and over top Moore. "The Happenings" begins as film noir, then the lovely line appears, some of the warmest classic Nichols, as they set the piece into a delicious, soulful lilt." – Greg Buium, Point of Departure, June, 2014

Achim Kaufmann – Michael Moore Duo
Furthermore (Ramboy 31C)

Award-winning alto saxophonist, clarinetist, Michael Moore has performed on seminal modern and avant-garde jazz albums, spanning several decades via numerous projects and stints that include Clusone, The ICP Orchestra, bands led by drummer Gerry Hemingway and bassist Mark Helias; the list goes on. He“s a California native who has resided in Holland since 1982 and is cited for his involvement with cutting-edge entities throughout Europe. Furthermore is one of three releases with highly regarded German pianist Achim Kaufmann, also including Something Nothing (Ramboy, 2014) and Nothing Something (Ramboy, 2014). However, on Furthermore, the duo covers the often under-appreciated catalog of jazz pianist Herbie Nichols, who only released a handful of albums before his untimely passing in 1963.

Perhaps a little more on the modern mainstream schema than the other concurrent releases, Moore’s signature, wistful and velvety sound amid his buoyant alignment with Kaufmann add a sheen to the largely oscillating grooves. The duo engages in complementing and contrasting frameworks while generating nimble accents throughout the program. They create a positive vibe, injecting buoyancy and moments of lament.

On “Wildflower,” Moore's alto lines intersperse a fluffy, deep-blues outline into the mix with Kaufmann’s rolling chord clusters and their spunky call and response movements. Yet the pianist launches “Double Exposure” with asymmetrical voicings and plush harmonies, along with Moore's gusty flurries. And “Change of Season” evolves as a seductive ballad, spiced with the artists’ softly rendered tonalities. Here, Kaufmann quietly builds some steam by methodically gravitating to the upper registers.

Other than one Kaufmann original, “The Yellow Violet” was composed by pianist Andrew Hill and is devised on a staggered flow with reverberating choruses, yet is sublime, and features Moore’s lighter-than-air and, at times, raspy mode of attack. No doubt about it, the musicians communicate a fruitful relationship, often shaded with ethereal overtones and a host of mood-evoking propositions. – Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz, March, 2014

In the many-hued mansion I call my head, there is a familiar room, well lit and well labelled, where the New Dutch Swing resides. Center stage you can see the ICP Orchestra (an oriental carpet with intricate patterns) and off that carpet many strands lead to small pockets of interconnected wonders. In this case three threads converge: the music of Herbie Nichols, and the voices of Michael Moore and Achim Kaufmann. 

One reed and 88 keys, immediately surge into business on Crisp Day. Crisp indeed, Achim patterning the ground with angular chords allowing Moore to freely explore the boppy theme. Midway switching positions and jauntily bringing this ditty to its joyous conclusion. The curtains are drawn, sun slants in and seamlessly The Happenings take over, a stunning 12-bar blues variation, with beautiful call and response patterns throughout, with Moore setting his reeds on vibrate. You know, dust particles in that ray of sun. A simple way of assessing a potential new friend is posing the question: where do you stand on Herbie Nichols? What more do you want. You get more Nichols tunes, e. g. Change of Season, where a very soothing phrase appears and plays itself out, to a second appearance in a different register, in a slightly different way but all the way taking your hand and ears and leading them into pastures old and new. Every something is an echo of nothing says John Cage. Here the something echoes back into nothing and leaves you wanting no more. Harsh words, I know, but not a bad situation. 

This is music that frees the mind, it doesn't push but gently offers you the opportunity to go wherever it moves you. The Andrew Hill tune that concludes this wondrous session (Yellow Violet) draws the curtains again, twilight sets in, the day recedes into nothingness and leaves you there. What happened is hard to say (viz. above) but somehow one dead composer and two live people have combined to give you the gift of hearing with new ears. Not much more is needed. It ends nice too, a door is closed, the music disappears around the corner. — Hugo Truyens, Free Jazz Blog, February, 2014

For many years, Achim Kaufmann has been one of the most inspiring and exciting personalities of the European jazz and improvisation scene. His music bears witness to great harmonic subtlety and structural depth. A brilliant pianist and composer, his reflected exploration of tradition has led him to a nuanced, contemporary sound language that encompasses poetry, energy and abstraction in equal measure. — Julia Neupert, SWR Radio

Tags: Achim Kaufmann, Michael Moore, Duo, Piano, Saxophone, Clarinet
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