Being the first female member of the Grammy Award-winning WDR Big Band Cologne, voted among the Top Five alto saxophonists by the readers of Downbeat Magazine two years in a row, called “one of the most interesting alto saxophonists under forty” (Doug Ramsey), “a player with great emotional depth” (Washington Post), and “exuberant and gritty…instantly engaging” (JAZZIZ), are only a few of Karolina Strassmayer’s accolades.
Her artistic journey has led Karolina from her native Austria to the jazz clubs and concert halls of New York City, around the world several times, and back again to the European stages and recording studios where she now performs.
Strassmayer says: “In the spirit of adventure, I search for my own voice, for my own place in music. And for the first time in my life, I feel like I’m getting close to what I really want to express.”
Surrounded by a musical family, she grew up in Bad Mitterndorf, a remote village in the Austrian Alps. “What brought me to jazz, was a key experience when I heard Cannonball on Kind Of Blue. The beauty and strength in his music touched me more than anything I’d ever heard and immediately sparked my interest. It set a course for my life.”
There was no turning back. After completing her master’s degree in Graz, the Austrian government awarded Karolina a full scholarship to continue her studies at the New School for Social Research New York City.
While in New York she performed with artists such as Chico Hamilton, the Diva Jazz Orchestra, Five Play, the Duke Ellington Orchestra; played on five Grammy-nominated recordings, and was a featured soloist with the New York Pops Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
Since 2000 Karolina has been leading her quartet KLARO! and has recorded three CDs a leader. Her debut CD KLARO! received accolades from jazz critics Nat Hentoff, Dan Morgenstern, and Peter Watrous, and was chosen “Best Debut Album” by All Music Guide.
Her second CD Adventures is dedicated to the spirit of adventure, “the force that takes us to the edge and makes us bold enough to try something new. Whether leaping into love or dangling from a mountaintop, the spirit of adventure lets us forget about perfection. We are fully present, enjoying each moment, and getting to know ourselves in the process. It is this spirit I hope to express with my music,” says Strassmayer.
With her latest CD Joining Forces Karolina has fused her musical vision with that of her long-time musical partner, drummer-extraordinaire Drori Mondlak. “Bristling with creative energy, it represents a personal best for both artists,” writes JAZZIZ.
Karolina carries the unique distinction of being the first woman with the Grammy Award-winning WDR Big Band Cologne, Germany, since 2004. In addition, she performs her original compositions with her group KLARO!— both in the USA and Germany. With the WDR Big Band, she has performed with McCoy Tyner, Joe Zawinul, Joe Lovano, Lee Konitz, Maria Schneider, Take 6, Mike Abene, Dick Oatts, James Moody, Maceo Parker, Chris Potter, Randy Brecker, Vince Mendoza, and many other jazz greats.