Wolfgang Reisinger

The Austrian and international jazz scene would not be the same without the drummer, composer and producer Wolfgang Reisinger. For nearly 40 years, he has constantly dedicated himself to new challenges in the music business, working with various formations and constellations. Most recently he was honoured for his musical involvement with the Hans Koller Prize as Musician of the Year.

Wolfgang Reisinger received his first piano lessons with the Vienna Boys Choir at the age of five, an initial point that subsequently led him to classical piano studies at the Vienna Conservatory. At the age of fifteen, he felt the urge to join a band and play drums. While less talented young musicians would simply dabble on the drums for a longer period of time, Wolfgang Reisinger already kind of knew how to move his hands in a proper manner, because of his ten-year musical history on the piano, and that also being a percussion instrument. This immediately aroused passion and fascination moved him to change from the Vienna Conservatory to the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, studying classical percussion with Richard Hochrainer and concluding with a diploma.

Entering the music scene with a classical background was certainly an advantage for him, because of the level of playing skills learned at an early age. Later in his percussion studies, he came into contact with contemporary music. In the 20th century, percussion was the most upcoming element of contemporary music, which got him acquainted with the likes of Beat Furrer. A key experience was also a certain sensational music album at that time. Until the age of sixteen, he had mainly played Bach and Mozart. But it changed when he listened to the album “Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis for the first time. About the same time he discovered John Coltrane, another great hero of the jazz world. It began from there and allowed him to play a number of concerts with a lot of young bands.

One of these young bands, in which Wolfgang Reisinger played almost from the start, was the now famous big band, the Vienna Art Orchestra. The band evolved relatively fast from an experimental and loose group of musicians to a fixed formation. In the next ten years, they enjoyed very fast success and played almost all over the world.

Very early in his career, Wolfgang Reisinger also proved his compositional talent. The first tentative steps began with the First Viennese Music Circus, a gathering of several young musicians, where Reisinger created compositions connected to classical and twelve-tone music.

During his most productive and formative time as a percussionist and drummer for the Vienna Art Orchestra, Wolfgang Reisinger was involved in two other “own” projects, which were more important to him than the big band. On the one hand, there was the group “Part Of Art”, which he founded together with Wolfgang Puschnig, Uli Scherer, Herbert Joos and Jürgen Wuchner. On the other hand, Wolfgang Reisinger performed in the band “Air Mail”, together with Wolfgang Puschnig, Mike Richmond and guitarist Harry Pepl, who has had a long lasting influence on Wolfgang Reisinger’s work. The formation was very successful with performances at all major festivals. Further highlights of this period was also a concert tour with Hans Koller, the world premiere of the play “Rückblende” (in English: flashback) by Thomas Pernes, a production with the London Symphony Orchestra and a collaboration with pianist Agusti Fernandez in Barcelona. In addition, Wolfgang Reisinger joined the Quartet Pat Brothers with Wolfgang Puschnig, the keyboard player and composer Wolfgang Mitterer and Linda Sharrock.

A new era started in 1989, when Wolfgang Reisinger left the Vienna Art Orchestra, feeling increasingly restricted by the big band’s routine. This development led him to France, to where he shifted the focus of his work in the early nineties and which became a second musical home. There, he was a member of the European Jazz Trio, together with Francois Couturier and Jean Paul Celea,  collaborated with artists such as Dominique Pifareli, Louis Sclavis, Michel Portal, Marc Ducret, Robert Ives and was involved in CD recordings for the record labels “Nightbird Music” and “Label Blue”. Moreover, he was rewarded with a series of high-class French music awards, such as the Choc de la Musique and Diapason d’Or. Also in Germany and Austria, the drummer increasingly received awards, including the Prize of the German Record Critics’ or in 2009 the Hans Koller Prize as Musician of the Year.

The interest to constantly experiment and move into new directions has always been a part of Wolfgang Reisinger’s work. At first he tried to work with techniques of contemporary music, later he concentrated on compositions based on a normal bass melody, harmony and rhythm, and then again focused on pieces that originated from strong improvisational basics. Lately, the drummer has been working on already existing material, mainly recorded improvisations, which are later processed in the studio by means of sound and editing technology. Wolfgang Reisinger doesn’t see himself as a pronounced composer, but rather as an intermediate form of an improviser and composer. In the course of this musical development, it was probably ultimately just a matter of time before Wolfgang Reisinger discovered the independent production work for himself.

Wolfgang Reisinger has indeed reached his musical significance a while ago, but he is far from settling down in any form. Instead, everything is subject to constant change.
He is currently working on a theatre music production, which will be played in Vienna’s Kosmostheater. In addition, he is also arranging pieces from the electric phase of Miles Davis, which should at the least guarantee an exciting listening experience.


Michael Masen
translated from the German by Doris Miyung Brady