Thomas Heberer (musician)

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Thomas Heberer (born September 24, 1965, in Schleswig, Germany[1]) is a trumpeter, quarter-tone trumpeter, cornetist, keyboardist and composer, primarily focused on jazz, creative improvised music and contemporary chamber music. Based in New York City, he currently works as a leader and sideman in a variety of bands in Europe and the US.[2]

Thomas Heberer in 2010


Heberer began playing trumpet at the age of 11.[1] From 1984 to 1987, he studied at conservatory with Manfred Schoof[3] at the Cologne University of Music.

Notable projects: 1987 to presentEdit


Heberer leads several projects, including past and present:

  • Lip Lab, a trio with Carl Ludwig Hübsch on tuba and Christian Thomé on drums. The group released Lex Luna[4] on JazzHausMusik in 2007.
  • Clarino, a trio with clarinettist Joachim Badenhorst and bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, released two albums: Klippe[5] in 2011 (Clean Feed) and 2012's Cookbook[6] (Red Toucan).

Solo workEdit

Thomas has recorded and performed solo. Notable recordings include: The Heroic Millipede[7] in 1988 (ITM); "Kill Yr Darlins"[8] in 1997 (Poise); two albums on the Poise label under the pseudonym T.O.M.: Stella[9] in 2001 and Mouth[10] in 2003; the digitally released Sloops in 2007; and a vinyl-only release called One[11] on NoBusiness Records in 2011.

His solo work has been used for films and dance performances, including for two choreographies by Pina Bausch. Choreographer Bausch's Für die Kinder von gestern, heute and morgen[12] (2002) uses a track from "Stella" called German Measles; Bausch's Ten Chi[13] (2004), uses a track called Blue" from the album Mouth.

Wim Wenders used "Blue" in Pina,[14] which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2011 for Best Documentary Feature.[15]

"Blue" and "German Measles" were both used in Pina Bausch,[16] a documentary directed by Anne Linsel (WDR/Arte) in 2006 and re-released by the Goethe-Institut in 2012 (IN2998).

ICP and other ensemblesEdit

Thomas has been a member of the Instant Composers Pool (ICP) Orchestra[17] from 1993[18] to present. Founded by Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink and Willem Breuker, ICP currently comprises Han Bennink, Michael Moore, Ab Baars, Tobias Delius, Wolter Wierbos, Guus Janssen, Mary Oliver, Tristan Honsinger, and Ernst Glerum.[19]

During Heberer's involvement, the band has recorded numerous albums for hatOLOGY[20] and ICP,[21] and performed extensively around the world including tours in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Europe, Japan, US.[22] Notable US performances with ICP include the Library of Congress,[23] Harvard University, and the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.

From 1987 to 2000, Heberer was a member of Alexander von Schlippenbach's Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra,[24] which at the time included Evan Parker, Kenny Wheeler, Aki Takase, Paul Lovens and others. During his involvement, the Orchestra recorded three albums for ECM,[25] FMP[26] and DIW,[27] and performed in Europe and Japan.

Heberer was a member of Tome XX[28] with saxophonist Dirk Raulf, bassist Tim Wells (1987-1989), bassist, Dieter Manderscheid (1990-1996), and drummer Fritz Wittek. From 1987 to 1996, the band recorded four albums under the JazzHausMusik label, touring across Europe, Africa, and South America.

From 1988 to 1996, Heberer was a member of the European Jazz Ensemble,[29] along with Joachim Kühn, Gerd Dudek, Konrad Bauer, Charlie Mariano, Tony Levin and others. In addition to performing across Europe, he is included on two recordings from the time: "Meets the Khan Family" (MA Music) and "20th Anniversary Tour" (Konnex).

Heberer received significant attention[1] in 1990 with his release of the album Chicago Breakdown: The Music of Jelly Roll Morton, recorded with bassist Dieter Manderscheid.[30] The Penguin Guide to Jazz gave Chicago Breakdown four stars, the publication's highest rating, citing it "highly recommended."[31] Heberer and Manderscheid went on to record two more duo albums: What a Wonderful World (2002), in recognition for the centenary of Louis Armstrong, and Wanderlust (2007), a reflection on American blues music. What a Wonderful World was critically acclaimed and received four out of five stars in Down Beat.[32] As a duo, Heberer and Manderscheid have performed across Europe, Asia, and the US.

In 2013, Thomas and longtime collaborator Achim Kaufmann released their first recording[33] on Red Toucan called Knoten,[34] followed by a second recording with Ken Filiano joining Kaufmann and Heberer, called Interstices on NuScope Recordings[35] in 2015.

In 2014, Heberer replaced the late Roy Campbell in the Nu Band, which comprises Mark Whitecage, Joe Fonda, and Lou Grassi; they toured Europe in 2014, 2016 and 2017. Two recordings were issued on Not Two Records: The Cosmological Constant[36] (2015) and Live in Geneva[37] (2017).


Thomas participates as a sideman in numerous ensembles and recordings with leaders such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Peter Brötzmann, Han Bennink, Eugene Chadbourne, Dave Douglas, Joe Fonda, Frank Gratkowski, Barry Guy, Christoph Haberer, Gabriele Hasler, Joe Hertenstein, Guus Janssen, Maria João, Paul van Kemenade, Yoni Kretzmer, Misha Mengelberg, Butch Morris, Bob Moses, Alphonse Mouzon, David Murray, Sunny Murray, Michael Riessler, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Andreas Schmidt, Frank Schulte, Elliott Sharp, Norbert Stein, Steve Swell, Aki Takase, Attila Zoller, John Zorn.[1]

Harald SchmidtEdit

Thomas served as a member of the regular band supporting German talk show host and entertainer Harald Schmidt from 1995 to 2007.[38] He was also featured as a guest[39] several times including for the Miles Davis episode on November 22, 2002.

From 1995 to 2003 the show aired four times a week for the German SAT1 private television channel. From 2005 to 2007, the show was performed 2 times per week for ARD, Germany's national television channel.

Critical receptionEdit

Die Zeit critic Konrad Heidkamp called him "the master of German trumpet,"[40] The Penguin Guide to Jazz said "outstandingly gifted,"[31] the Rowohlt Jazz Lexikon credits him with having "developed a unique trumpet style,"[1] and colleague Alexander von Schlippenbach named him "our new trumpet genius."[41]


From 1993 to 1997, Thomas lectured at the music conservatory Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Frankfurt-Main, Germany.

He has conducted numerous workshops with the ICP Orchestra (among others, the 2007 Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music[42] in Alberta, Canada) as well as for the Goethe-Institut in South America, Asia and Africa.

Thomas compiles a regularly updated summary on trumpet techniques called Trumpet Mechanics.


In addition to using regular staff paper for his compositions, Heberer has developed a notation code that he calls "Cookbook." Cookbook is an instant composition method, which allows for a high amount of freedom on the musicians' side while allowing significant structural tools on the composer's side as well. It does so by implementing the idea of instant memory shaped according to a specific set of rules.

His website gives the Cookbook semantics and several examples of scores.

Awards and recognitionEdit

  • SWR-Jazzpreis, 1990[43]
  • Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Vierteljahresliste, 1990, for "Chicago Breakdown: The Music of Jelly Roll Morton" with Dieter Manderscheid[43]
  • Jazz-Art Preis in 2002, for "What a Wonderful World" with Dieter Manderscheid[43]
  • Winner of DownBeat Critics TDWR Poll Award in 2002, for Instant Composers Pool (ICP) Orchestra
  • Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Jahrespreis 2004,[44] for the Aki Takase Band "Plays Fats Waller"
  • Finalist in DownBeat 58th Annual Critics Poll 2010,[45] for Instant Composers Pool (ICP) Orchestra

Select discographyEdit

Ensemble/Artist Title Year Label
Norbert Stein Die Fünf Tage 1987 JazzHausMusik (JHM 31)
Thomas Heberer The Heroic Millipede 1988 ITM Records (ITM 1443)
Tome XX Natura Morta 1988 JazzHausMusik (JHM 32)
Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra 1989 ECM (ECM 1409)
Thomas Heberer, Dieter Manderscheid Chicago Breakdown: The Music of Jelly Roll Morton 1990 JazzHausMusik (JHM 38)
Norbert Stein Die Wilden Pferde Der Armen Leute 1990 JazzHausMusik (JHM 39)
Tome XX The Red Snapper 1991 JazzHausMusik (JHM 47)
European Jazz Ensemble Meets the Kahn Family 1992 MA Music (A 807-2)
Sotto in Su Südamerika Sept. 90 1992 JazzHausMusik (JHM 51)
David Murray Baltic Suite 1993 GOWI (CDG 05)
Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra The Morlocks and Other Pieces 1994 FMP (FMP 61)
Tome XX Third Degree 1994 JazzHausMusik (JHM 63)
Christoph Haberer Pulsation 1994 JazzHausMusik (JHM 66)
European Trumpet Summit European Trumpet Summit 1994 Konnex (KCD 5064)
Frank Schulte Switchbox 1994 No Man's Land (NML 9421)
Jazzensemble des Hessischen Rundfunks Atmospheric Conditions Permitting 1995 ECM (ECM 1549)
Gabriele Hasler Rosenstücke 1996 Foolish Music (211 096)
Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra Live in Japan '96 1996 DIW Records (DIW-922)
Sotto in Su featuring Sussan Deyhim Vanitas 1997 Poise (Poise 4)
Thomas Heberer Kill Yr Darlins 1997 Poise (Poise 5)
European Jazz Ensemble 20th Anniversary Tour 1997 Konnex (KCD 5078)
Misha Mengelberg The Root of the Problem 1997 hatOLOGY (hatOLOGY 504)
Michael Riessler Honig und Asche 1998 ENJA (ENJ-9303)
Instant Composers Pool Jubilee Varia 1999, 2010 hatOLOGY (hatOLOGY 528, 667)
Thomas Heberer's T.O.M. Stella 2001 Poise (Poise 8)
Instant Composers Pool Oh, My Dog! 2001 ICP (ICP 040)
Thomas Heberer, Dieter Manderscheid What a Wonderful World 2002 JazzHausMusik (JHM 118)
Thomas Heberer's T.O.M. Mouth 2003 Poise (Poise 9)
Instant Composers Pool Aan & Uit 2004 ICP (ICP 042)
Aki Takase Plays Fats Waller 2004 ENJA (ENJA 9152-2)
Norbert Scholly, Frank Schulte, Thomas Heberer SSH Plays Shhh 2005 Konnex (KCD 5134)
Norbert Stein Code Carnival 2005 Pata Music (Pata 17)
Instant Composers Pool Weer Is een Dag Voorbij 2006 ICP (ICP 043)
Thomas Heberer, Dieter Manderscheid Wanderlust 2006 JazzHausMusik (JHM 151)
Thomas Heberer's Lip Lab Lex Luna 2007 JazzHausMusik (JHM 162)
James Choice Orchestra Live at Moers 2007 Moers Music (03020)
Instant Composers Pool Live at the Bimhuis 2008 ICP (ICP 046)
Andreas Schmidt, Samuel Rohrer, Thomas Heberer Pieces for a Husky Puzzle 2009 JazzWerkstatt (JW 075)
Joe Hertenstein, Pascal Niggenkemper, Thomas Heberer HNH 2010 Clean Feed (CF205)
Instant Composers Pool Orchestra 2010 ICP (ICP 049)
Instant Composers Pool !ICP! 50 2010 ICP (ICP 50)
Thomas Heberer's Clarino Klippe 2011 Clean Feed (CF226)
Thomas Heberer Klippe/One 2011 NoBusiness Records (NBLP32/33)
Joe Hertenstein Quartet Polylemma 2011 Red Toucan (RT 9342)
Peter Brötzmann's Full Blast and Friends Sketches and Ballads 2011 Trost (TR107)
Getatchew Mekuria & the Ex & Friends Y'Anbessaw Tezeta 2012 Terp Records (AS 21/22)
Thomas Heberer's Clarino Cookbook 2012 Red Toucan (RT 9345)
Instant Composers Pool ICP Complete Boxed Catalogue 2012 Challenge Records (Buzz 1275)
Thomas Heberer, Achim Kaufmann Knoten 2013 Red Toucan (RT 9347)
Datenverarbeiter Fleur Noire Joue Les Images 2014 Fuego (2274-2)
Thomas Heberer, Pascal Niggenkemper Miner's Pick 2014 FMR (FMR 383-0714)
Instant Composers Pool East of the Sun 2014 ICP (ICP 051)
Thomas Heberer, Achim Kaufmann, Ken Filiano Interstices 2015 NuScope Recordings (CD 1029)
The Nu Band The Cosmological Constant 2015 Not Two (MW 923-2)
Instant Composers Pool Live at the Vortex London 2015 ICP (ICP 053)
Joe Hertenstein, Pascal Niggenkemper, Thomas Heberer HNH 2 2015 Clean Feed (CF332)
Instant Composers Pool Restless in Pieces 2016 ICP (ICP 054)
Yoni Kretzmer Five Five 2016 OutNow Recordings (ONR 026)
The Nu Band Live in Geneva 2017 Not Two (MW 948-2)

Select filmographyEdit

Ensemble/Artist Title Director Year Producer/Distributor
Aki Takase Plays Fats Waller Stephane Jourdain 2005 La Huit
Pina Bausch Pina Bausch Anne Linsel 2006 WDR/Arte
Instant Composers Pool ICP Orchestra Guy Girard 2006 La Huit
Misha Mengelberg Afijn Jellie Dekker 2006 Data Images/ICP
Eugene Chadbourne The Jack & Jim Show Robert O'Haire 2007 Modern Alchemy
The Ex Convoy Tour: 25 Years of the Ex The Ex 2009 EX Records
Han Bennink Hazentijd Jellie Dekker 2010 Data Images/ICP
Instant Composers Pool Steigerpijp Barbara Hin, Martin van der Veen 2010 Sushi Film
Pina Bausch Pina Wim Wenders 2011 Neue Road Movies
Instant Composers Pool Misha enzovoort Cherry Duyns 2015 ICP


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External linksEdit