Thomas Heberer (musician)

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]


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 present


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 work

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 ensembles

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 Schmidt

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 reception

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 recognition

  • 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 discography

Norbert SteinDie Fünf Tage1987JazzHausMusik (JHM 31)
Thomas HebererThe Heroic Millipede1988ITM Records (ITM 1443)
Tome XXNatura Morta1988JazzHausMusik (JHM 32)
Berlin Contemporary Jazz OrchestraBerlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra1989ECM (ECM 1409)
Thomas Heberer, Dieter ManderscheidChicago Breakdown: The Music of Jelly Roll Morton1990JazzHausMusik (JHM 38)
Norbert SteinDie Wilden Pferde Der Armen Leute1990JazzHausMusik (JHM 39)
Tome XXThe Red Snapper1991JazzHausMusik (JHM 47)
European Jazz EnsembleMeets the Kahn Family1992MA Music (A 807-2)
Sotto in SuSüdamerika Sept. 901992JazzHausMusik (JHM 51)
David MurrayBaltic Suite1993GOWI (CDG 05)
Berlin Contemporary Jazz OrchestraThe Morlocks and Other Pieces1994FMP (FMP 61)
Tome XXThird Degree1994JazzHausMusik (JHM 63)
Christoph HabererPulsation1994JazzHausMusik (JHM 66)
European Trumpet SummitEuropean Trumpet Summit1994Konnex (KCD 5064)
Frank SchulteSwitchbox1994No Man's Land (NML 9421)
Jazzensemble des Hessischen RundfunksAtmospheric Conditions Permitting1995ECM (ECM 1549)
Gabriele HaslerRosenstücke1996Foolish Music (211 096)
Berlin Contemporary Jazz OrchestraLive in Japan '961996DIW Records (DIW-922)
Sotto in Su featuring Sussan DeyhimVanitas1997Poise (Poise 4)
Thomas HebererKill Yr Darlins1997Poise (Poise 5)
European Jazz Ensemble20th Anniversary Tour1997Konnex (KCD 5078)
Misha MengelbergThe Root of the Problem1997hatOLOGY (hatOLOGY 504)
Michael RiesslerHonig und Asche1998ENJA (ENJ-9303)
Instant Composers PoolJubilee Varia1999, 2010hatOLOGY (hatOLOGY 528, 667)
Thomas Heberer's T.O.M.Stella2001Poise (Poise 8)
Instant Composers PoolOh, My Dog!2001ICP (ICP 040)
Thomas Heberer, Dieter ManderscheidWhat a Wonderful World2002JazzHausMusik (JHM 118)
Thomas Heberer's T.O.M.Mouth2003Poise (Poise 9)
Instant Composers PoolAan & Uit2004ICP (ICP 042)
Aki TakasePlays Fats Waller2004ENJA (ENJA 9152-2)
Norbert Scholly, Frank Schulte, Thomas HebererSSH Plays Shhh2005Konnex (KCD 5134)
Norbert SteinCode Carnival2005Pata Music (Pata 17)
Instant Composers PoolWeer Is een Dag Voorbij2006ICP (ICP 043)
Thomas Heberer, Dieter ManderscheidWanderlust2006JazzHausMusik (JHM 151)
Thomas Heberer's Lip LabLex Luna2007JazzHausMusik (JHM 162)
James Choice OrchestraLive at Moers2007Moers Music (03020)
Instant Composers PoolLive at the Bimhuis2008ICP (ICP 046)
Andreas Schmidt, Samuel Rohrer, Thomas HebererPieces for a Husky Puzzle2009JazzWerkstatt (JW 075)
Joe Hertenstein, Pascal Niggenkemper, Thomas HebererHNH 2010 Clean Feed (CF205)
Instant Composers PoolOrchestra2010ICP (ICP 049)
Instant Composers Pool!ICP! 502010ICP (ICP 50)
Thomas Heberer's ClarinoKlippe2011Clean Feed (CF226)
Thomas HebererKlippe/One2011NoBusiness Records (NBLP32/33)
Joe Hertenstein QuartetPolylemma2011Red Toucan (RT 9342)
Peter Brötzmann's Full Blast and FriendsSketches and Ballads2011Trost (TR107)
Getatchew Mekuria & the Ex & FriendsY'Anbessaw Tezeta2012Terp Records (AS 21/22)
Thomas Heberer's ClarinoCookbook2012Red Toucan (RT 9345)
Instant Composers PoolICP Complete Boxed Catalogue2012Challenge Records (Buzz 1275)
Thomas Heberer, Achim KaufmannKnoten2013Red Toucan (RT 9347)
DatenverarbeiterFleur Noire Joue Les Images2014Fuego (2274-2)
Thomas Heberer, Pascal NiggenkemperMiner's Pick2014FMR (FMR 383-0714)
Instant Composers PoolEast of the Sun2014ICP (ICP 051)
Thomas Heberer, Achim Kaufmann, Ken FilianoInterstices2015NuScope Recordings (CD 1029)
The Nu BandThe Cosmological Constant2015Not Two (MW 923-2)
Instant Composers PoolLive at the Vortex London2015ICP (ICP 053)
Joe Hertenstein, Pascal Niggenkemper, Thomas HebererHNH 22015Clean Feed (CF332)
Instant Composers PoolRestless in Pieces2016ICP (ICP 054)
Yoni Kretzmer FiveFive2016OutNow Recordings (ONR 026)
The Nu BandLive in Geneva2017Not Two (MW 948-2)

Select filmography

Aki TakasePlays Fats WallerStephane Jourdain2005La Huit
Pina BauschPina BauschAnne Linsel2006WDR/Arte
Instant Composers PoolICP OrchestraGuy Girard2006La Huit
Misha MengelbergAfijnJellie Dekker2006Data Images/ICP
Eugene ChadbourneThe Jack & Jim ShowRobert O'Haire2007Modern Alchemy
The ExConvoy Tour: 25 Years of the ExThe Ex2009EX Records
Han BenninkHazentijdJellie Dekker2010Data Images/ICP
Instant Composers PoolSteigerpijpBarbara Hin, Martin van der Veen2010 Sushi Film
Pina BauschPinaWim Wenders2011Neue Road Movies
Instant Composers PoolMisha enzovoortCherry Duyns2015 ICP


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