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"The ever-inventive drummer Joe Hertenstein is another local hero who pops up in lots of odd places!"

Bruce Lee Gallanter 

DowntownMusicGallery, NYC 2018

Joe Hertenstein was raised in Germany as the son of a Black Forest lumber jack and boar hunter, spending his childhood carving woods and horns into drumsticks and assembling his first drum set of pots 'n' pans 'n' boar skulls on the back of a dis-functioned pick-up truck that served as his childhood-refuge. By age 16 he had hit the timpani on all nine Beethoven symphonies and grew bored of all the 'tacet'. Looking for more involvement, making his ways through cover-, punk- and doom-core bands, at age 19 a Charlie Parker bootleg cassette left him so confused, that he dropped everything to study freedom and ultimate creativity in music. Hertenstein lived in seven cities, but nowhere longer than NYC. His mission remains to learn from and explore music with (m)any master musician(s), some of which he calls friends and colleagues by now. He hopes to encourage and experience the dialogue with all cultures through music, through the abstract, through friendship and inspiration. Joe is a thalassophile and currently divides his time between Berlin, Lahr, and Brooklyn.

photography by Peter Gannushkin at The Stone, NYC, 2011

2017 MoersFestival, GER,
with SPACEPILOT <> Carolin Pook

Joe has released six albums as a leader with the bands HNH, POLYLEMMA, Future Drone, TØRN, and his trio with Michael Moore & Greg Cohen. His work is released on many more as a sideman on labels such as MoersMusic, Cleanfeed, Red Toucan, jazzwerkstatt Berlin, Creative Sources, 2nd Floor/Loft-Cologne, Skirl, Leo, Engine, EvilRabbit, FMR, Chant, Gaucimusic, Konnex, Springstoff, Ravello/PARMA, Meta, muworks, Off, Fundacja Słuchaj, a.o.

He has performed at the Philharmonic in Cologne, Elbphilharmonic in Hamburg, and at the Moers Festival in Germany, the Warsaw Jazz Summer Days, the Bush Hall London for BBC, the Opera House in Toronto, the World Trade Center in Dubai, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC, as well as Carnegie Hall (Weill), Webster Hall, Roulette, Issue Project Room, The Stone, Dizzy's Club, Smalls, Nublu and the Vision Festival in New York City and many others. 

In 2005, the magazine AllAboutJazzNewYork hailed his drumming style as "...shaping the music from the bottom up." and for April 2011, the Managing Editor of TheNYCJazzRecord, Laurence Donohue-Greene, selected Joe's album Crespect by TØRN as "Recommended New Release". The same year, the website praised his album POLYLEMMA as thus: "The soloists' focused interactions intimate a highly artistic game plan that supersedes the tried and true." POLYLEMMA won Belgian music critic Stef Gijssels' freejazzblog's Happy-New-Ears-Award 2011 for "most innovative listening experience". Joe’s album HNH2 made it on Gijssels’ list of top 10 albums of 2015: “Fantastic trumpet, bass, drums trio redefining the format through inventive music.” 

In its March 2020 issue, the NYCJazzRecord included "Hertenstein" as an answer in its monthly crossword puzzle: #cute.

In its January 2023 issue, TheNYCJazzRecord awarded his album LIVE DURING LOCKDOWN with Michael Moore & Greg Cohen "Best Live Album of 2022".

Joe has performed on & off as a member of


  • Adam Rudolph's GO:Organic Orchestra

  • Karl Berger's Improvisers Orchestra

  • Cologne’s The James Choice/Multiple Choice Orchestra

  • Hans Tammen's Third Eye Electric Band

  • he was a member of Butch Morris’ ensembles Nublu Orchestra and LuckyCheng Orchestra

  • Tim Hagans Quintet with Steve Wilson/Ravi Coltrane/Jon Irabagon, Luis Perdomo/Leo Genovese and Jay Anderson/Rufus Reid

  • REMEDY with Thomas Heberer and Joe Fonda

  • Peter van Huffel's Callisto feat. Lina Allemano and Antonis Anissegos

  • Edith Steyer's "Quoting John Carter" feat. Rieko Okuda, Uli Kempendorff, Gerhard Gschlössl

  • Stephen Gauci/Joe Hertenstein "Soundlift Berlin-New York" feat. Alex von Schlippenbach & Jan Roder

  • Thomas Helton's The Core Trio with Seth Paynter

  • Ivo Perelman's Scalene with Matthew Shipp

  • Jeff Morris Trio with Karl Berger

  • Elias Meister’s SPACEPILOT with Leo Genovese

  • The Welf Dorr Unit with Keisuke Matsuno & Dmitry Ishenko

  • Sana Nagano's SMASHING HUMANS with Peter Apfelbaum, Jonathan Goldberger/Keisuke Matsuno, Ken Filiano

  • Aron Namenwirth Trio with Zack Swanson

  • The Harvey Valdes Trio with Sana Nagano

  • Sean Sonderegger’s “Magically Inclined” with Curtis Fowlkes, Kamala Sankaram, Harvey Valdes, Shawn Lovato

  • 8Bit-Aesthetic with Michael Eaton, Sean Sonderegger and Shawn Lovato

  • OURIDA with Jeff Miles & Ben Zwerin

  • The MarKovSteinPrinciple with Francesco Marocci & Vasko Dukovski

  • Kirk Bromley's Brooklyn's Finest Experimentalists

  • Danny Kamins with Damon Smith

  • Lior Millinger Trio with Hilliard Greene

2015 Joe was artist in residence at The Atlantic Center for the Arts, Florida, which developed into the release of Jeff Morris' "Interfaces" with Karl Berger on Ravello/Parma Records.

feel the one, skip the two, bang the three, sounds like me.

1979, GER
Moers Festival 2022 Hertenstein Sana Nagano.png
2022 Moers Festival, GER,
with Sana Nagano's SMASHING HUMANS
2016 The Stone, NYC with Adam Rudolph's Hu:Vibrational feat. Hamid Drake
2011 Moers Festival, GER, with TØRN
2011 Warsaw Summer Jazz Days
with Butch Morris and The Nublu Orchestra

2010 with Rana Farhan at the Toronto Opera House

2016 with Alvin Fielder in NYC - we are the two drummers on Danny Kamins' After Effects with Damon Smith on FMR records.
Joe Lahr Snare Drum.jpg
Xword 03/2020 TNYCJR p35

...the hang is the music is the hang...

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