Achim Kaufmann was born into a musical family in Aachen, Germany, in 1962, and became fascinated by jazz and the possibilities of improvisation as a teenager. He started writing tunes around that time. Later he studied music at the Conservatory in Cologne and also took classes with creative masters such as Dave Holland, Steve Coleman, Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis, and Steve Lacy.
From 1996 to 2009, he lived in Amsterdam where he became part of that city’s internationally renowned improvised music scene.
Since 2002, he has been touring internationally with the trio Kaufmann/Gratkowski/de Joode, an improvising unit which has released four CDs so far, to much critical acclaim.
In the late ‘90s and ‘00s, Achim led two groups with reed player Michael Moore: trio kamosc and gueuledeloup quartet.
In 2007, he recorded kyrill, a set of compositions for piano trio featuring Valdi Kolli and Jim Black. Their follow-up cd, entitled verivyr, was released in 2011.
He has also collaborated with his wife, poet/painter Gabriele Guenther, on the audiodrama Borderline – From the Shadows of a Journey, and has written music for various chamber ensembles.
In his solo work, mixed techniques are used to create a fluctuating world of sounds and gestures. Resonance and reverberation, space and density play an important role in both his solo and ensemble work.
Since his move to Berlin, he got involved in various new projects, such as the trio grünen with Robert Landfermann and Christian Lillinger, Oni Kramler (with Matthias Schubert, Antonio Borghini, and various guests), and a trio with cellist Okkyung Lee and trumpeter Axel Dörner.
In 2013, the sextet SKEIN (Kaufmann/Gratkowski/de Joode plus Richard Barrett, Okkyung Lee, and Tony Buck) had its premiere at the dOeK festival in Amsterdam and subsequently recorded for SWR radio.
He recently released duo albums with long-standing collaborators Michael Moore and Thomas Heberer.
In addition, Achim has played and/or recorded with Han Bennink, Mark Dresser, George Lewis, Steve Swallow, Tobias Delius, Wolter Wierbos, Mark Helias, Paul Rutherford, Thomas Lehn, Ab Baars, Paul Lovens, Dylan van der Schyff, Peggy Lee, Chris Speed, Tomász Stanko, Gerd Dudek, Bill Elgart, Paul Lytton, Harri Sjöström, Andrea Parkins, Harris Eisenstadt, Ingrid Laubrock, Tristan Honsinger, Shelley Hirsch, Steve Swell, Thomas Heberer, Urs Leimgruber, Roger Turner, Fay Victor, Fred Lonberg-Holm, John Hollenbeck, Bob Brookmeyer, Simon Nabatov, Lê Quan Ninh, Gerry Hemingway, John Hébert, Al Foster, Adam Nussbaum, and many more.
He was awarded the German SWR Jazz Award in 2001, and the prestigious Albert Mangelsdorff award in 2015.