We mourn the passing of a major German musician, the center of the Darmstadt jazz scene, the initiator and artistic director of our annual workshop since 29 years, a close friend, colleague and corrective to our daily work. Jürgen Wuchner, whose name seems synonymous with jazz in or from Darmstadt, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Friday, 1 May 2020, at the age of 72.
Wuchner who had studied double bass at our local Akademie für Tonkunst, has been an active part of the Rhein-Main jazz scene since the 1960s. He collaborated with Hans Koller, Heinz Sauer, Herbert Joos, Günter Klatt, the Vienna Art Ensemble and numerous other artists, but also led his own projects from bass-focused ensembles like The Bassic Trio and several quartets through the larger United Colors of Bessungen ensemble bringing together his friends and colleagues from the region.
Wuchner’s bass playing used bluesy undertones inspired by Charles Mingus, but also experimental sounds informed by extended techniques which he regularly studied during concerts at the Darmstadt Summer Courses for Contemporary Music. His compositions were catchy; his inspirations, especially classical music, Ellington, Mingus and his years spent in Dakar, Senegal, always received a specific Wuchnerian treatment. Jürgen had been one of the most inspiring teachers we have ever encountered, encouraging literally everybody to take up, use, and play their instrument, no matter how much experience they had. He was convinced that one of the qualifications of jazzmen or women is to use the voices of musicians in a workshop ensemble, no matter how professional they sound, and create enthralling music with them. The final concert of the participants of our annual Jazz Conceptions workshop proved him right every year: Those moments when musicians of all levels of musicianship surpassed themselves were marveled at not only by the audience but also by the workshop’s teachers.
For Jürgen jazz and improvised music offered qualities of respect and understanding which went far beyond the musical. His own music, his own teachings, his general stance on the arts and on society set an example. Jürgen Wuchner was a unifying figure, not just of the Darmstadt jazz scene but far beyond. He was an artist respected by everybody in our city, beloved by his fans but also by many who probably had little idea what his music was all about. When you met him you knew that he loved people. He was authentic with every word he said, with every note he played.
We are devastated.