Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Bassist Peter Kowald Dies

German free-jazz bassist Peter Kowald died Saturday, Sept. 21 in New York City, his adopted home. Kowald died of a heart attack at the home of fellow bassist William Parker after playing a concert. He was 58.

From an e-mail sent out on behalf of dancer Patricia Parker, wife of bassist William Parker, “Peter died of a heart attack at the home of Patricia and William Parker after playing a concert in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at B.T.M. with Masahiko Kono, Tatsuya Nakatani and Kazuhisa Uchihashi. He asked to be taken to my house and was about to take him to the hospital when he had the attack and died. Emergency workers tried to save him working intensely for 45 minutes.”

Patricia Parker’s e-mail also included this biography of Kowald:

“Peter Kowald distinguished himself as one of the leading players of the free school style of improvising. He was well known and respected on both sides of the Atlantic both in his native Germany and in his adopted home of New York City by musicians and fans alike. He made numerous recordings for the German FMP label with his long time collaborators Peter Brötzmann and Alexander von Schlippenbach. From 1973 to 1978 he was the principal bassist for the Globe Unity Orchestra. Kowald participated in a wide variety of collaborations, working with dancers, poets and artists, in addition to all of the musicians he worked with. Kowald recorded many duos with European, Japanese and U.S. musicians, including bass duets with Barre Phillips, Joëlle Léandre and Barry Guy. While recording in groups, featuring Greek musicians Floros Floridis and Ilias Papadopoulos during his residence in Greece. He also released solo bass recordings, the most recent being Was Da Ist, resulting from a self-proclaimed year at home, ending in May 1995. Kowald also performed in groups with Fred Anderson, Wadada Leo Smith and Gunter Sommer. In 2000, he went on a solo tour of the U.S., traveling by station wagon.

“Since settling in New York, Peter established himself with many of the important players on the Downtown scene, including bassist/composer William Parker and many others of note. During this year’s Vision Fest in New York City, Peter maintained a ubiquitous presence both as a performer, while also working the food stand. As recently as Wednesday (9/18/02) of this week he performed with great intensity with the ensemble of saxophonist Blaise Siwula, the drummer Jeff Arnal and the guitarist Dom Minasi. On Sunday (9/22/02) he was scheduled to perform with his Last Global Village ensemble at CBGBs Lounge Free Style Events Series.”

Originally Published