Sommer, Günther "Baby"


Günter “Baby” Sommer, drummer and percussionist, was born in 1943 in Dresden, where he studied jazz at the Carl Maria von Weber Academy for Music from 1962 to 1966. He is part of the generation that helped to bring about the breakthrough of free improvisational jazz in East Germany in the 1970s. At that time, he played in a trio with saxophonist Friedhelm Schönfeld and bassist Klaus Koch and, beginning in 1973, he performed with the band Synopsis, which is credited with kicking off free jazz in the GDR.


With his exceptional sound sensibility, Sommer made his mark in collaboration with partners like cathedral organist Hans-Günther Wauer and with his so-called “Hörmusik” (literally “listening music”) solo programs. Even when playing free improvisation, he still keeps the drive of jazz in his music.


In the late-1970s and early-1980s, he played in the trio Chicago-Wuppertal-Dresden with the American trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and bassist Peter Kowald. He has played with numerous other well-known musicians from around the world, including Cecil Taylor, Evan Parker and Peter Bötzmann.


Sommer’s solo work has suited him for intensive collaborations with authors, including Günter Grass, Christa Wolf, Christoph Hein and Rafik Schami, as well as with painters, such as Strawalde. Sommer has also written scores for animation and documentary films, including Jürgen Böttcher’s striking nonfiction film essay Konzert im Freien, which also features Sommer as a musician.


In 2008, Sommer attended a concert in the Greek village of Kommeno, where the German Wehrmacht had carried out a massacre during WWII. The stories he was told by the survivors have served as the basis for Sommer’s latest music project Songs for Kommeno. Together with four Greek musicians—Savina Yannatou (voice), Evgenios Voulgaris (yayli tanbur, oud), Floros Floridis (sop/bass sax, clarinet) and Spilios Kastanis (bass)—he has recorded new arrangements of songs that were sung in the village at the time of the massacre; the work premiered in concert in the village of Kommeno in August 2012, before being performed at several venues in Europe.


Günter "Baby" Sommer has recorded over 100 records and CDs and is one of the master musicians of contemporary European jazz, a percussionist of enormous originality and humor. 


[See also:]

Bibliography & More:

Songs for Kommeno. Intakt CD & Book. []




2001 Konzert im Freien (A Place in Berlin, doc.)
1988 Weil ich ein Dicker bin (Because I’m Big, doc.)
1986 Die Flut (The Flood)
1984 Erinnerungen an ein Gespräch (Remembering a Conversation, doc.)
1982 Die Geschichte von Kalif Storch (The Story of Stork Kalif)
1975 Das rote Ahornblatt (The Red Maple Leaf)
1974 Wer ist der Beste (Who Is the Best? doc.)
1974 25 Jahre Kampf für Frieden und Sozialismus (25 Years of Fighting for Peace and Socialism, doc.)


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