Started playing the saxophone at 16 and, following a period at the Hamburg Conservatory (Hamburger Musikhochschule), moved in 1985 to study at the Cologne Conservatory of Music with Heiner Wiberny, graduating in 1990.
Further studies with Charlie Mariano, Sal Nistico and Steve Lacy.
Frank Gratkowski has been working as a soloist in various international formations (Grubenklang Orchester, Klaus Koenig Orchester, Musikfabrik NRW, Tony Oxley Celebration Orchestra, Bentje Braam, BikBentBraam, All Ears, Zeitkratzer, WDR Big band, etc.). Since 1990 he has been giving solo performances throughout Europe, Canada and USA. With his first solo program, he was a 1991 prizewinner in the Musik Kreativ contest. The release of the solo CD “Artikulationen” followed the same year and a new one “Artikulationen II” in 2002.
Since 1992 he has been working in a duo with the pianist Georg Graewe (CD “VicissEtudes”). The duo is often extended through the participation of different additional musicians, such as drummer Paul Lovens (CD “Quicksand”) and bassist John Lindberg (CD “Arrears”).
In 1995 he founded the “Frank Gratkowski Trio” with Dieter Manderscheid (Germany), bass, and Gerry Hemingway (USA), drums, (CDs “Gestalten” and “The Flume Factor” ). In 2000 the trio has been extended to a quartet by Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos (CDs “Kollaps”, “Spectral Reflections”, “Facio” and “Le Vent et la Gorge”). Since 2003 also appearing as a Double Quartet plus Tobias Delius, Herb Robertson, Wilbert DeJoode and Michael Vatcher. In 2005 he got the SWR Jazzprize.
In 1999 the duo with the Italian trombonist Sebastiano Tramontana has been formed and since 2001 Frank Gratkowski has been performing with a trio including Wilbert De Jode (NL) on bass and Achim Kaufmann (D) on piano (CDs “Kwast” and “Unearth”). Since 2006 he’s working with the Trio Gratkowski / Brown / Winant (CDs “Wake” and “Vermilion Traces/Donaueschingen 2009”). He is also a co-leader / composer of the Multiple Joy[ce] Orchestra and got a commission to compose for the ensemble Apartment House by “November Music “ (Den Bosch NL) and the “Huddersfield Comtemporary Music Fesitival” (England) in 2009. Further actual projects are Fo[u]r Alto, a saxophone ensemble dedicated to microtonal music and “Artikulationen E” a solo program for saxophone with 8 channel live electronic.
Frank Gratkowski played on nearly every German and on numerous international Jazz and contemporary music Festivals including Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Quebec, Les Mans, Muelhuus, Groeningen, Nickelsdorf, Barcelona, Lithuania, Warsaw, Zagreb, Prague, Bratislava, Sofia, Bucharest, Odessa and Roma, Huddersfield, London.
He has been teaching saxophone and ensembles at the Cologne, Berlin and Arnhem Conservatory of Music and is giving workshops all around the world.