After becoming a professional jazz musician in 1961, German pianist Joachim Kühn has for many years been a higly respected performer of European improvised music.
Although not a free jazz musician, per se, Kuhn has been an avant-gardist; he began attempting a fusion of contemporary classical elements with jazz very early in his career.
Kuhn's intense virtuosity is a reflection of his training. He studied classical composition and piano for 12 years, beginning when he was a small child. He performed as a classical pianist up until 1961, at which point he began playing in a Prague-based jazz quintet. He led a trio from 1962-1966, and in 1964 began playing with his much-older brother Rolf Kuhn, an accomplished clarinetist.
In the '70s, Joachim Kuhn led his own groups, and played with the violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. Kuhn had a measure of commercial success in the '70s. Geographically and musically speaking, Kühn was furthest apart from Europe during the second half of the 70's when he lived in California and joined the West Coast fusion scene. Crossover stars, such as Alphonse Mouson, Billy Cobham, Michael Brecker, and Eddie Gomez participated in his recordings. Simultaneously, he was frequently to be heard solo and in a duo with Jan Akkerman.He has also worked with Focus guitarist Philip Catherine.
His star faded a bit in the '80s, but Kuhn kept active, playing challenging forms of jazz and recording occasionally. A 1997 release, Colors: Live From Leipzig, a duo with Ornette Coleman, helped fuel new interest in Kuhn; both men were in top form and the album received excellent reviews.