Sebastian Schunke – composer, pianist and scientist of world renown from Berlin (Prof. Dr.)
“…Schunke intentionally merges the boundaries of classical piano and Latin rhythms to create music that is structured but spontaneous, familiar yet exotic…Schunke ´s skills as a writer and musician deserve applause…”
All About Jazz, New York, USA
“…that guy Sebastian Schunke is a very, very fine pianist-composer, he is very good!”
Paquito d´ Rivera, 10 time Grammy Award Winner, USA
“German pianist and composer Sebastian Schunke continues to grow as an artist….His classical training exudes throughout his compositions, melding with Jazz and just the necessary Latin tinge to present refined arrangements that defy any genre.”
“What is happening here is the improbable symbiosis of supposed opposites. Something new emerges from the mathematical precision of advanced Latin jazz, the passion of Latin American folk culture and the European modern understanding of harmony that draws on Schönberg and Webern.”
Josef Engels (Welt, Jazzthing, Rondo)
“«Hidden Beauty» – this is how «Elusive Beauty», the title of Schunke’s new recording, could be translated. It is the most radical album to date by the Berliner, who since he was in New York in 2000 alongside Antonio Sanchez and John Benitez’s debut CD «Symbiosis» is considered a visionary of Latin jazz. «Elusive Beauty» has already been played at major festivals in China, Hong Kong, Italy and with great success at the most important Latin Jazz Festival – International Jazz Festival in Havana, Cuba, the cradle of Afro-Cuban music! The most important Cuban specialist magazine judged: «…a musical beauty that enchants with its complexity and magical expressiveness.»”
(Cubarte, Havana, Cuba)
As the first European, Sebastian Schunke succeeded in gaining an international reputation in the world of Latin jazz through his work as a composer and jazz pianist. Schunke is regarded as the stylistic influencer of a new, modern, European-influenced Latin jazz, with which he has been successful all over the world.
For 20 years, Sebastian Schunke has stood for top-class, energetic jazz. The former New Yorker by choice and now Berlin by choice, Sebastian Schunke, who is one of the leading jazz pianists, regularly develops a completely new sound concept in different line-ups, in which he combines modern Berlin jazz with African and Latin American elements. With highly acclaimed CD releases, tours through Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe and the USA, Sebastian Schunke has secured a permanent place at the top of the international Latin jazz scene.
Renowned artists such as Paquito d’Rivera, Nils Wogram, Antonio Sanchez, Richie Flores and John Benitez were enthusiastic about Schunke’s new style and are part of his international work.
Sebastian Schunke was born in 1973 and spent his childhood in Gehrden near Hanover. His classical piano training began at the age of 6. It was shaped by Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Debussy. Then at the age of 12 he discovered the music of Eddie Palmieri, Chick Corea and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Sebastian Schunke was enthusiastic about jazz and its connection with Latin American rhythms.
In 1996, at the age of 23, Sebastian Schunke moved to New York for the first time. Fascinated by the coexistence of different cultures, he began to develop his own musical concept, the combination of modern Latin American jazz and European music tradition.
At the end of 1998 his second, almost 2-year stay in New York followed. His musical development was influenced by his New York teachers Garry Dial, Hilton Ruiz, Sonny Bravo and the Manhattan School of Music. Sebastian became part of the New York Latin Jazz scene. In 2000 he moved to the music metropolis of Berlin, where he completed his jazz piano studies at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin.
His compositions impressed world-famous Latin jazz musicians such as John Benitez, Antonio Sanchez, Richie Flores and Dafnis Prieto, with whom he recorded his internationally acclaimed debut CD “Symbiosis” (released by Timba/Edel) in New York in early 2000. In his second CD “Mouvement” (released by Timba/Edel) as bandleader in 2004 he created an orchestral total work of art with strings, electronics, vocals, electric guitar, wind instruments and a rhythm section. With the CD “Vida Pura” (released by Timba/Edel) released in 2007, the focus was on the Cuban singer Olvido Ruiz and the development of her own song concept. On “Vida Pura” and “Mouvement” Schunke brought together internationally renowned musicians from Cuba with representatives of the avant-garde scene in Berlin and New York. In 2008 he recorded the CD “Back in New York” with an all-star team. It was a tremendous honor for Schunke that the 9-times Grammy winner Paquito d’Rivera played the clarinet on all the new titles. The music opens up on “Back in New York”, moving further away from Latin jazz towards a world jazz of Schunke’s own character. The CD “Life and Death” from 2011 receives solo recordings from Schunke for the first time and the modern Berlin element is emphasized in the band. The band consists of the young and wild Berliners: Diego Pinera, Marcel Krömker and Dan Freeman and as a guest the multiple Grammy winner Pernell Saturnino from New York – the concept becomes freer and wilder! In 2012, Schunke brought an international band together again to present his hitherto solid work Genesis. record Mystery and Magic. With musicians like Nils Wogram or Alex Sipiagin. In 2018 his “most radical” album will be released. The duo CD “Elusive Beauty” with exceptional drummer and Echo award winner Diego Pinera. Schunke creates a new style on this CD: the fourth stream. A symbiosis of the new music of the 21st century with the Afro-Latin American music tradition.
Sebastian Schunke has been touring the world regularly with his music since 2002. In his projects, Schunke brings together renowned Grammy Award winners from Cuba, Paris, Berlin and New York, such as Pernell Saturnino, Peter Brainin, Yosvany Terry, Felipe Cabrera, El Indio, Orlando Poleo, Lukmil Perez, Anders Nilsson, Chris Dahlgren and Nils Wogram, Alex Sipiagin, Diego Pinera or Hans Glawischnig.
Sebastian Schunke has toured eleven times to Latin America (Colombia, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Uruguay), nine times to China, to Laos, several times to the USA, Turkey, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Sweden, Lithuania and the Ukraine , Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Nicaragua and several times in Germany. It was a special honor for Schunke to be able to accompany the German Federal President to Africa as Germany’s official cultural ambassador with concerts. In Colombia, for example, the Sebastian Schunke Group was celebrated by more than 5,000 fans as a top act in Bogotá at the “Jazz al Parque Festival” and in Calí at the “Ajazzgo Jazz Festival”. In doing so, Sebastian Schunke is repeatedly supported by the Goethe Institute, the German diplomatic missions abroad, but also commercial companies such as Lufthansa, BMW, Allianz and Adidas.
Sebastian Schunke has won several prizes such as the Jazz Prize of the Berlin Senate (2004, 2006, 2008, 2013, 2017, 2019), the Berlin Jazz Award and several times the CD Critics’ Prize of the Canadian jazz specialist press.
As part of teaching assignments, guest professorships and many master classes in Germany and abroad, Sebastian Schunke teaches his compositional principles at various universities DAAD-funded guest professorship at the Universidad de Chile. Sebastian Schunke has had a cooperation with C. Bechstein since 2021. Recently, Schunke has been working a lot with modern dancers, who are also members of the Sasha Waltz Tanzcompany. As a scientist, Schunke successfully wrote his dissertation in the border area of music aesthetics, musicology and music law at the Humboldt University in Berlin and has been researching in this area for years as part of his professorship.
Sebastian Schunke has been part of the avant-garde of Latin jazz for years. He is mentioned in the same breath as great musicians like Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Michel Camilo. His music is constantly evolving and so he sets out for new shores – an energetic, hip European Latin American influenced world jazz!
Selected festivals and concerts as a bandleader since 2003:
Jazz al Parque, Bogotá, Colombia (2003), International Jazz Festival Manizales, Colombia (2003, 2006), International Jazz Festival Calí, Columbia (2007), Jazz Festival Bucaramanga, Colombia (2003, 2008) International Piano Festival Bucaramanga (2006), International Piano Festival Barrancamerbeja, (2006); Jazz Festival Caracas (2003), Goethe-Institut Caracas (2003, 2006), German Embassy, Bogotá, Colombia (2006), Universidad Nacional Bogotá,(2003); Italian Culture Institut Etiopia, Africa (2004), French Culture Institut, Benin, Africa (2004), German Consulate Benin, Africa: Concert for the German President (2004), Xinghai Concert Hall, Guangzhou, China (2005, 2008), German Consulate, Guangzhou, China (2005, 2006, 2007), JZ Club, Shanghai (2005, 2006), True Colors Jazz Club, Shenzhen (2005, 2006), German Consulate, Shanghai (2006, 2007), Blue Nites Festival, Berlin (2005), Kemptener Jazzfrühling, Germany (2003), APC-Summer Festival, Kempten (2005), Symphonie Hall, Istanbul, Turkey (2003), European Week Cartagena, Colombia (2007, 2008), Masala Weltbeat Festival, Hannover (2005), German Embassy Vientiane, Laos (2008); Concerthall Vientiane, Laos (2008); Concerthall Valletta, Malta (2008); Jazzfestival Wiehl, Germany (2008); Shezhen Concert Hall, China (2008); ExpoAlemania, Bogota, Colombia (2008); North Sea Around Town Festival, Rotterdam (2009); Thelonious Jazz Club, Chile (2009); LillaHotel Barren, Stockholm (2009); Rigas Ritmi Jazzfestival, Latvia (2010); Yoshi´s Jazz Club, Oakland, USA (2010); Teatro Libre Jazz Festival, Bogota (2011); EUNIC International Jazz Festival, Lima, Peru (2011), International Jazz Festival Naguanagua, Venezuela (2013), Xinghai Concert Hall, China (2013); Glenn Miller Jazz Café, Stockholm (2014); Nochtspeicher, Hamburg (2014); Xinghai Concert Hall Jazz Festival, China (2014); OCT-Loft Jazz Festival, China (2014, 2016), German Embassy Kuwait (2014), German Embassy Lima, Peru (2014); JZ Jazz Festival, Shanghai, 2015, German Embassy, Lima, 2015, German Embassy, Kuweit, 2015; General Consulate Shanghai (2016); Tianhe International Music Festival, Guanghzou (2016); OCT Loft Jazzfestival, China (2016); International Jazz Festival Port-au-Prince, Haiti (2017); International Jazz Festival of Nicaragua (2017), Pop-up Tour, Mexico (2017); International Jazzfestival of Guatemala (2017), International Jazzfestival of Honduras (2017); Kuwait Cultural Centre (2018); Jazz Plaza, International Jazzfestival, Havana, Cuba (2019).
Jazz and composition studies:
Manhattan School of Music, New York; Hochschule für Musik “Hanns Eisler”, Berlin; Garry Dial, Michael Abene, Sonny Bravo, Hilton Ruiz, Alan Gampel, Prof. Köhler; Prof. Jiggs Whigham, Kurt Klose, Brunhilde Kolb.
– Sebastian Schunke has had a cooperation with the company C. Bechstein since 2021.