Adam Makowicz (real name: Adam Matyszkowicz), jazz pianist. Born to a Polish family on 18 August 1940 in Gnojnik (Hnojnik, Czech Silesia).
Table of contents: | Jazz fascinations and education | Jazz Darings, Michał Urbaniak, Urszula Dudziak | Individual Artistic Projects | Versatile Artist | What the Critics Say | Selected discography |
Adam Makowicz is a Polish-American pianist and composer living in Toronto, who performs jazz and classical piano pieces, as well as his own compositions. Besides playing solo, he has worked with such musicians as Michał Urbaniak and Leszek Możdżer, as well as with the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington DC, at the Kennedy Centre, at the Carnegie Hall, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and other major orchestras at concert halls in Americas and in Europe. His technical mastery as jazz pianist has been compared to that of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, and Errol Garner, among others. His speciality in classical piano since his studies in the 1950s has been the music of Chopin.
Jazz fascinations and education
He started playing piano when he was ten, his first teacher being his mother - a pianist and singer. He was a student of the music schools in Rybnik and Katowice, and continued his studies at the Music Secondary School in Kraków. In the mid-1950s, thanks to the Music USA Jazz Hour radio programmes of Willis Conover, the U.S. promoter of jazz, he became fascinated with this music, its rhythm and freedom of improvisation, especially when performed by such maestros of the piano as Art Tatum or Erroll Garner. Overcoming cultural restrictions under communism, he listened to the Voice of America every night, and eventually developed a passion for modern jazz. He dropped out of school in 1956 and linked up with the Helicon jazz club in Kraków (where he lived, practised, and gave concerts).
Jazz Darings, Michał Urbaniak, Urszula Dudziak
In 1962, together with trumpeter Tomasz Stańko, he formed the band Jazz Darings, recognized as the first European jazz combo. In 1963 the band won first prize at the Southern Poland Jazz Competition. From that moment, the greatest Polish jazzmen started inviting Makowicz to play the piano with them, including Andrzej Kurylewicz, Zbigniew Namysłowski, Michał Urbaniak, Jan "Ptaszyn" Wróblewski, and the group Novi Singers. At the same time, he developed his skills as a composer, and at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s included the Fender electric piano in his range of instruments. He became a member of Michał Urbaniak's new band Constellation in 1970. He featured on vocalist Urszula Dudziak's album in 1972. He played in Tomasz Stańko's band Unit in 1973-76, and has performed with Duke Ellington's orchestra.
Individual Artistic Projects
Starting in 1974, Adam Makowicz embarked more and more often on individual artistic projects which met with substantial interest from critics and audiences alike. He travelled to the United States in 1977 (this was when he changed his name to Makowicz), where Willis Conover helped him. In the same year, thanks to John Hammond, the talent scout and record producer, he completed a 10-week contract at The Cookery jazz club in Greenwich Village, New York, and recorded the album Adam for CBS Columbia. He also appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York and at the Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. He returned to New York in 1978, where he decided to stay for good after martial law was imposed in Poland in 1981. He has taken part in numerous recordings, played at small jazz clubs and larger concert halls, also at prestigious Polish, European, and U.S. jazz festivals, appearing as a soloist but also with bands and orchestras (including the Chester String Quartet, Amici String Quartet, Washington National Symphony Orchestra) in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and with the greatest jazz artists, to mention Sarah Vaughan, Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, George Shearing, Marian McPartland, Benny Goodman, Herbie Hancock, Phil Woods, Freddie Hubbard.
Apart from typical standards and jazz pieces, Adam Makowicz's repertoire also includes classical music. He has developed a cycle of original adaptations of works by George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and Cole Porter, and has come to specialize in concerts and monographic albums devoted to great names from the borderland of jazz and light music. He has recorded more than 50 albums. He is also the composer of more than 100 pieces for string quartets and jazz trios, numerous piano works, and wrote the music for animated films - Kaśka i Baśka w cyrku / Kate and Babs at the Circus (1973) and Ja się zabiję! / This Is Killing Me! (1975), dir. Alina Maliszewska, and documentaries - Kaśka i Baśka w dyskotece / Kate and Babs at the Disco (1974), dir. Alina Maliszewska, and Brygada Majstra Mortala / Foreman Mortal's Gang, dir. Tomasz Lengren (1976).
Makowicz has been building bridges between cultures by his numerous concerts performance and recordings of cross-cultural and cross-style compositions. He performed and recorded music by Chopin and Gershwin with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and other internationally recognized companies. In 1999, in commemoration of 150th anniversary of Chopin's death, Adam Makowicz played his piano tribute to Chopin at the French Embassy in Washington. His interpretations of classical pieces by Chopin and Gershwin are marked by finesse, inventiveness, and extraordinary technical virtuosity.
What the Critics Say
"Makowicz plays with beauty, compassion, and vision. He is one of the most phenomenally spectacular pianists in jazz". (Hugh Wyatt, "New York Daily News")
"Adam Makowicz is a magician of the keyboard." (W. R. Stokes, "Washington Post")
"With a fertile imagination and an unlimited technique, he is not only an extraordinary pianist, he is also an unusual and fascinating composer." (Gene Lees, "Jazzletter")
"Makowicz's command of the piano is ultimate... He is the Liszt of jazz piano... a phenomenal player whose musicianship is on the highest level." (Stephen Pedersen, "The Mail-Star", "The Chronicle-Herald", Canada, April 8, 2003)
- Zbigniew Namysłowski Quartet - with saxophonist Zbigniew Namysłowski (1966)
- Novi Singers - with the Novi Singers (1968)
- New Faces in Polish Jazz (1969)
- Jazz Jamboree '69 - with saxophonist Lucky Thompson (1969)
- Michał Urbaniak's Group - with violinist Michał Urbaniak (1971)
- Newborn Light - with vocalist Urszula Dudziak (1972)
- Michal Urbaniak Fusion - with Michał Urbaniak (1975)
- Unit - with trumpeter Tomasz Stańko (1975)
- Live Embers (1975)
- Remembering Duke's World - with the Duke Ellington Orchestra (1977)
- Winter Flowers (1977)
- Adam (1978)
- From My Windows (1980)
- Classic Jazz Duets - with bassist George Mraz (1981)
- Naughty Baby (1987)
- The Solo Album: Adam in Stockholm (1987)
- Name Is Makowicz (1988)
- Solo (1988)
- Naughty Baby: Honoring George Gershwin, Live at the Mayback Recital Hall Series (1993)
- Makowicz Plays Gershwin - with George Mraz, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by Krzesimir Dębski (1993)
- Plays Irving Berlin - with the Sinfonia Varsovia orchestra conducted by Krzesimir Dębski (1993)
- Music of Jerome Kern (1993)
- A Handful of Stars '81 - with drummer Jack DeJohnette (1997)
- Tribute to Art Tatum (1997)
- Gershwin / Makowicz (1998)
- Adam Makowicz Plays Duke Ellington (2000)
- Reflections on Chopin (2000)
- Songs for Manhattan (2003)
- Makowicz vs. Mozdzer at Carnegie Hall - with pianist Leszek Możdżer (2004)
- From My Field (2006)
- "Indigo Bliss" (2008)
- "Makowicz & Orkiestra Filharmonii Częstochowskiej" (2008)
- ''Brillante - The Adam Makowicz Chopin Project'' (2010)
Author: Małgorzata Kosińska, Paweł Romański, Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, October 2007, edited by W.O., March 2014.