"Brothers in mind" - in memoriam Uli Kurth

There are these moments that you don't forget. The moment when you met someone for the first time, with whom you are going to have many more encounters in the future. It was at the Moers Festival in 1989, I was working there as a freelancer for WDR television when the then WDR jazz editor Manfred Niehaus introduced me to his successor: Dr. Ulrich Kurth.

Uli came from Bielefeld. He was an editor there in the WDR local studio and could hardly wait to combine his passion with his profession in Cologne. Uli was a music man, a professional in the very best sense. As a musicologist and jazz musician, he immediately understood what it was all about when musicians took to the stage. And the position of jazz editor was his dream job.

To put it in a nutshell: We understood each other right away. We were the famous "brothers in mind". Each in his own place. Uli immediately recognized the strengths and appeal that the Moers Festival had, and cleverly used them to enhance the reputation of jazz in his own house. But he also valued the local venues just as much, such as the Stadtgarten, where he consistently followed both the regional and international scene and supported it with radio recordings and the purchase of broadcasting rights. Later, when the Loft added jazz to its programming, this venue also became an important production venue for WDR.

It's hard to believe today, but from the 1980s to the 1990s, Cologne was Germany's leading music capital and one of the very important music locations in Europe. The fact that this is still true today, at least for jazz and improvised music, is largely due to Uli Kurth and his clever and far-sighted actions as the responsible WDR editor. Like his predecessor, he has made WDR the most important partner of the local, regional and international jazz scene. We venues and an entire generation of musicians are still reaping the benefits of this today.

Unfortunately, Uli Kurth had to give up his position at WDR in 2002 due to illness. He died last Thursday a few weeks before his 68th birthday surrounded by his family.

Reiner Michalke 18.08.21

Photo: Uli Kurth © Hyou Vielz

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