Barbara Dennerlein—The Queen of Hammond

A sound artist who uses her hands and feet—the journey of the Munich organ player who became Germany's most successful jazz export

Barbara Dennerlein B3Deutsches Museum

Global Organ Star

In constant receipt of awards for her albums and having earned regular ovations and shining reviews for her performances, Munich organist Barbara Dennerlein is one of the world's greatest Hammond organ players in the last few decades. She is considered Germany's most successful jazz export. She's now granting an exclusive look into her life and music, telling the story of how she became interested in the Hammond organ early on and how she later discovered the church organ, showcasing her influential technique combining hands and feet in a performance on her Hammond B3.

Barbara Dennerlein 1978 (1978)Deutsches Museum

Erinnerungen an die Kindheit

In an exclusive interview, Barbara Dennerlein takes the time to reflect—for example, on a very unique gift she received for Christmas in 1975…

Barbara Dennerlein als Teenager an der Hammond-OrgelDeutsches Museum

Die Liebe zum Jazz

…how she fell in love with jazz from an early age, and how she was inspired by performers Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie who she often heard in the evenings on the radio…

Barbara Dennerlein als TeenagerDeutsches Museum

Lehrjahre in der Jugend

…but also how difficult it was to become established in the jazz scene as a young woman in a male-dominated territory…

Barbara Dennerlein Michael Schanze (1984)Deutsches Museum

She gave her first TV performance in 1983 on Michael Schanze's show Got Any Time for Us? (Hätten Sie heut' Zeit für uns) in which he presented hopeful, up-and-coming talent.

Barbara Dennerlein Quartett (1984)Deutsches Museum

At the age of 21, Barbara Dennerlein (pictured here in 1984 with her quartet) founded her own record label and named it Bebab, borrowing from her first name and her favorite jazz style. "I always had my own musical ideas. I didn't want to make any compromises just to accommodate a record company that didn't understand my musical intentions," Dennerlein said. "I wanted to do what I'd always done: entertain my audience with the music I'd written myself. And for me it was the only possible way, namely of being true to myself and my audience."

Barbara Dennerlein Christmas Soul Cover (2015)Deutsches Museum

To date, she has released 27 albums, including the Christmas Soul CD in 2015…

Barbara Dennerlin My Moments Cover (2016)Deutsches Museum

…2016's My Moments…

Barbara Dennerlein Best of Blues Cover (2019)Deutsches Museum

…and 2019's Best of Blues.

Barbara Dennerlein Take Off Cover (1995)Deutsches Museum

Her album Take Off even reached number 1 in the German jazz charts in 1995.

Barbara Dennerlein in actionDeutsches Museum

"Mein Sound ist die Orgel"

Here, Barbara Dennerlein talks about what makes an organ and why she can never get to grips with the piano and keyboard, and why organ playing is like dancing…

Barbara Dennerlein AuftrittDeutsches Museum

"Das ging in die Seele"

…why, for Barbara Dennerlein, the sound of the organ has a soul, and why synthesizers can never replace the Hammond sound…

Barbara Dennerlein KonzertDeutsches Museum

Bach zum Abitur - an der Hammond

…how she completed her Abitur exam at home on the Hammond organ in her parents' basement, and why she only started playing the church organ many years later…

Barbara Dennerlein KirchenorgelDeutsches Museum

"Ein komplett anderes Instrument"

…and what she thinks the differences are between the pipe organ and the Hammond organ, and why her own organ playing sometimes sounds terrible to her during concerts.

Barbara Dennerlein in New YorkDeutsches Museum

Barbara Dennerlein toured the continent and performed in the world's most renowned jazz clubs: in Vancouver, Tokyo, London, and New York, where she…

Barbara Dennerlein in Manhattan (1999)Deutsches Museum

…recorded her album Outhipped in 1999 with esteemed jazz musicians.

Barbara Dennerlein DuoDeutsches Museum

Barbara Dennerlein can regularly be seen and listened to live in Germany as well. Here, for example, paired with Pius Baschnagel on drums…

Barbara Dennerlein TrioDeutsches Museum

…in a trio with Fabiano Pereira (guitar) and Marcel Gustke (drums)…

Barbara Dennerlein PhilharmonieDeutsches Museum

…or here with the German State Philharmonic Orchestra of Rhineland-Palatinate with which she performed in many shared concerts and recorded the thrilling album Change of Pace in 2007.

Barbara Dennerlein Harald Schmidt (2007)Deutsches Museum

…or here with Harald Schmidt in 2007 on his former ARD late-night show…

Barbara Dennerlein Traumpfade (2012)Deutsches Museum

…or at major jazz festivals in Burghausen, Frankfurt, and Berlin, or in Eberhard Schoener's Music Songlines (Traumpfade der Musik) on the Tegernsee.

Barbara Dennerlein mit Joe Zawinul (1992)Deutsches Museum

"Gulda - ein Genie"

Barbara Dennerlein on Friedrich Gulda (1930–2000) and why the great jazz performer (pictured here in a white T-shirt, far-right: Joe Zawinul) was for her the most exciting musical partner she'd ever played with.

Barbara Dennerlein und Friedrich GuldaDeutsches Museum

"Vor 80.000 Menschen in Wien"

Recollections of a life-changing evening in Jazzland Wien when Gulda said to her when they first met: "I was checking you out."

Barbara Dennerlein GrafittiDeutsches Museum

"Ein echt spannendes Leben"

Barbara Dennerlein on her good fortune of being able to turn her passion into a career, and on the feeling of freedom and the art of being successful without having to alter her musical style…

Barbara Dennerlein mit EngelsflügelnDeutsches Museum

"Ich lebe mit meiner Musik, die ich so liebe"

…and on her visions and desires, and how happy she feels walking her dog in the forest.

Barbara Dennerlein Video Teil 2 (2020)Deutsches Museum

Finally, Barbara Dennerlein continues going into the functionality and playing methods of the Hammond organ on her B3…

Barbara Dennerlein Video Teil 1 (2020)Deutsches Museum

…and gives a sample of what she can do in the second part of the video.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps