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Marcin Wasilewski Remembers Tomasz Stanko

The Polish jazz pianist recalls the late composer, trumpeter, and improviser (7/11/42 – 7/29/18)

Tomasz Stanko (photo by Jacek Poremba/Universal Music Polska)
Tomasz Stanko (photo by Jacek Poremba/Universal Music Polska)

I was a teenager in Warsaw, working in a jazz band with [drummer] Michal Miskiewicz and [bassist] Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and Tomasz Stanko heard about us and invited us to play. We were very nervous: Slawomir and I were 18, and Michal was just 16! But we did our best, and the first concert—the eighth of March, 1994, which I remember exactly—was really promising, so we just waited for the next call. It came soon, and then again, and again and again for 20 years.

Tomasz was like a musical father. We learned from him how to play free music. We had learned jazz through the basics, standards and conventional harmony. Tomasz was on a different level: Not only was he very avant-garde, but even within that he had a unique view of how music should be, and it was a big challenge, a totally new thing for us, to play open with him and to learn his way of playing. But it was the best school we could ever have, being onstage with him and having these practical lessons.

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