Dirk Pieunka, a jazz musician with a lot of intuition: Videos, Photos

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First Dirk Piezunka studied music for teaching, but then dared to study at the conservatory. His good ears helped him with this. Today he is an internationally renowned saxophonist.

Dirk, you are a diesel. ”That is what a lecturer once said to Dirk Piezunka while studying at the conservatory in Hilversum in the Netherlands. Piezunka still remembers the entrance exam in 1996: Around 50 young jazz saxophonists had come to showcase their skills. Shortly before Piezunka had his chance, another young musician had come out of the exam – although he had played at a high level, he had failed. Piezunka thought to himself: “Okay, it doesn’t matter what I’m playing: I can’t do that anyway.” So he took it easy. During his exam, a professor sat down at the piano, picked up some chord connections that Piezunka was supposed to improvise on. The changes in harmony grew wilder, but the young saxophonist kept up – no wrong notes. In the end, he was one of three candidates who got a place at university.

“That was a six in the lottery,” says Piezunka today. The 50-year-old is now an internationally renowned musician who has been shaping the scene for 15 years with the jam session “Jazz on Board” on the theater ship. Piezunka has recorded several records, played with his quartet at various jazz festivals and performed with the Bremen Philharmonic. He taught saxophone at the University of the Arts in Bremen, and currently teaches at the Ecumenical High School in Bremen.

Dirk Piezunka | Discography | Discogs

Dirk Piezunka’s career began early, with his grandfather’s house music evenings. Piezunka received piano lessons, his father, who played the violin and tenor saxophone himself, showed his son the first fingerings on the golden wind instrument. “Although he had a classical education in which you mainly play from notes, my father was a very intuitive musician on the saxophone. He could hear a melody and play it right away. ”The son wanted to be able to do that too, which is why he learned the saxophone primarily by ear. In his youth Piezunka first played keyboard in bands, later studying music and German to become a teacher. However, that was not enough practical music-making for him, he applied in Hilversum. The other applicants were younger, played well and had a lot of experience. What they didn’t have were Piezunka’s ears and musical intuition.

Not only was studying a gift, it was also hard work. “As a jazz musician, it doesn’t really matter if you have a certificate that says you’ve studied,” he says. “If you are not good, nobody will call you.” So Piezunka practiced: in the morning before the university, then it went to theory class and the ensemble rehearsals, afterwards it was practiced before he went to the jam session in the club. On the weekends he made his living with a cover band at parties. “I took the course very seriously.” While the learning curve flattened out for his fellow students, Piezunka kept going up – just like a diesel.

Piezunka was fascinated by the jam sessions in the Netherlands, so he organized them himself in Bremen. For two years he had a session in Murphys Corner in New Town, then the neighbors complained. Piezunka finds this absurd: “People move to the city to live close to life and then complain about live music.” The solution to the problem was the theater ship, it still holds today – or at least until Corona. “Jazz is like improvisational theater or a musical conversation: when you have good people, something develops out of it spontaneously.” He found good musicians on the theater ship, playing with Lutz Krajenski, Jost Nickel, Dusko Goykovich and many other jazz heavyweights.

The love for music has always been unbroken, says Piezunka. But what is it that fascinates the 50-year-old about jazz? “I like good melodies, beautiful harmonies and timbres as well as interesting rhythms.” He is not an expert on pop music, these days it mostly comes from the computer and always uses the same chord changes. Jazz, on the other hand, is handmade and goes one step further. Jazz is the music that gives him goose bumps. “I remember hearing ‘Nearness of You’ from Michael Brecker for the first time. I was driving in the car and had to pull over. The music was so nice that I couldn’t go any further.”

Piezunka shows what handmade music means on the record Moments, on which he plays with Joe Dinkelbach on the Hammond organ and Ralf Jackowski on the drums. The recording was made without a computer: no cuts, no post-processing, everything was recorded analogue on tape. By way of comparison: there are often several hundred cuts in string quartet recordings. Another project that Piezunka cares about is Continuum. The ensemble, in which his brother Jens also plays bass, plays sacred music or folk songs that they have arranged themselves in a jazzed-up manner. Quiet music that works a lot with sound surfaces and landed on the best list of the German Record Critics’ list.

Jazz means a lot to Piezunka, but not everything. The jazz trumpeter Dusko Goykovich once said to him that he had to get out of Bremen and into the big cities, but Piezunka didn’t want to sacrifice everything for music. He lives in Lilienthal with his wife and two young sons. She is a singer, the little ones are already trying out music. He is impressed by his almost two-year-old son: “Milo can hardly speak a word, but sings children’s songs up and down – and really well.”

Piezunka also has other interests, like cycling. That’s why he has his velomobile, a recumbent bike with a streamlined body. He is also a passionate sailor. It is his wish to sail the Silverrudder, a Danish regatta, one day. “My colleagues often look at me crookedly when I turn down a gig in order to go on vacation by boat.” He takes the saxophone with him every now and then when he travels, which led to unexpected realizations: “Seals love jazz,” says Piezunka. You are not alone in this.

Dirk Piezunka

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