Thursday, June 10, 2004, Issue# 451
MUSIC • ROOT DOWN
by Jenny Feniak
Stanko’s aweigh • Tomasz Stanko Quartet
• Yardbird Suite • Thu, June 10 (8pm and 10pm)
Tomasz Stanko is more than Poland’s greatest jazz musician. He has the ability to see the best and worst of the world with an open mind, and, like some mad, bespectacled scientist determined to splice together the DNA of the most unlikely pairings of animals he can imagine, he’s taken his own brand of free jazz and fused it with the sounds of rock and electronic music. Even today, Stanko is involved in a couple of DJ projects at home, but he says he’s not the one who changes, but the context in which he plays. “I don’t change personally myself,” he explains. “I change only bands, I change only style of music. But generally, I play quite the same as before.”
Stanko’s life as a professional musician began with classical piano at age seven, but seeing jazz great Dave Brubeck as a teenager in Cracow ignited his passion for jazz. His choice of instruments was derailed after his Boy Scout troop chose him as their trumpeter because he was the only member with musical talent and he’s embraced spontaneous accidents and unforeseen opportunities in his work ever since.
“Accident is important,” he says, “because I really enjoy improvisation as a process of creativity and improvisation is kind of to use accidents, use mistakes and this process makes this creation very fresh. I especially care about this freshness. I try to first prepare this album to play on the concert halls and also, we have some rehearsals. But after that, something like one month before the [studio] session, I just delete everything from my brain and completely empty—go into the studio just to have this freshness and I don’t want to know what’s going on after this.”
From his apartment in Warsaw, 62-year-old Stanko is just hours away from embarking on his latest tour of North America with his current quartet. Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Michal Miskiewicz were all teenagers when Stanko recruited them for a gig several years ago. “In Poland, it’s a pretty small society, you know,” he says, “and quite soon I heard about them and jazz. I think this is pretty everywhere. Our musicians here, we always know about somebody really, really good and they were just really, really good—not usual musicians.” They recorded with Stanko on his 2001 release Soul of Things and again on last year’s Suspended Night and Stanko says he’ll keep them around for at least one more album.