All of the band members are graduates of the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music and are simultaneously active as jazz musicians in other bands.
Mateusz Smoczyński is engaged in popularising Zbigniew Seifert’s music. He has collaborated with many musicians, such as Zbigniew Namysłowski, Jarosław Śmietana, Krzesimir Dębski, Maciej Strzelczyk, Janusz Skowron, Kazimierz Jonkisz, Zbigniew Wegehaupt, Grzech Piotrowski, André Ochodlo, Krzysztof Herdzin, Richie Beirach, Glen Moore, Tomasz Stańko, Urszula Dudziak, Vladislav ‘Adzik’ Sendecki, Monika Borzym, and Aga Zaryan. Smoczyński was a member of the celebrated San Francisco-based Turtle Island Quartet. Since 2016, he has been playing in a duo with cellist Stephan Braun. They are working on their first album, inspired by the music of the 90s.
Krzysztof Lenczowski, along with being an accomplished cellist, plays the electric guitar in Jazz Construction and in Fusionator, he is also a member of Andrzej Bauer's Warsaw Cello Group Cellonet. Lenczowski is a composer and arranger. His pieces have been performed by musicians such as Maxim Vengerov, Leszek Możdżer, Krzesimir Dębski, and Andrzej Bauer. He has recorded two albums. Internal Melody (2015) was the first Polish jazz album released under the cellist’s name. It was awarded a Fryderyk in 2016 for Jazz Debut of the Year. Rzeczy Osobiste (2018) is a studio recording of his solo recital.
Dawid Lubowicz comes from a renowned musical family from Zakopane. He is the leader of the Lubowicz Jazz Quartet and the East Wall Jazz Quartet, who have been awarded at numerous jazz festivals and contests, as well as a co-founder of the Opium String Quartet and the Bester Quartet. In addition, Lubowicz works as the music director of Roma Music Theatre in Warsaw. He collaborates with Narodowy Theatre, Stary Theatre in Lublin, Opera Nova in Bydgoszcz, Danuta Baduszkowa Muzyczny Theatre in Gdynia, and Muzyczny Theatre in Poznań. In May 2018, his debut album Inside was released.
Jakub Zaborski is probably the only viola player in Poland who is also an eager and skillful jazz improviser. He was a part of Transgress and has recorded with many famous jazz musicians. Zaborski is a member of Sinfonia Varsovia and Radom Chamber Orchestra, in which he is the leader of the viola section. He has collaborated with such artists as Krzysztof Jakowicz, Stefan Kamasa, Janusz Olejniczak, Krzysztof Jabłoński, Piotr Pławner, Rafał Kwiatkowski, Jakub Jakowicz, as well as with Trio Chausson, Prazak Quartet, and Prima Vista Quartet.
Their debut came in 2011, when a live performance in Radio Katowice was recorded and published as Fade In. The album was warmly received by the audience and acclaimed by the critics, which resulted in the signing of recording contract with the well-known Kayax recording company. Soon, in 2012, the studio version of Fade In was released. Maciej Nowotny wrote for Jazz Forum:
This album is a very rare example when so called "third stream", that is a blend of jazz and classical music, sounds neither secondary nor duplicate. In [terms of musical] language, this is a typical string quartet but at heart, this is pure jazz: played meticulously, minutely, smoothly but with a free and adventurous spirit. Although, as is typical for a début recording, it is uneven, it announces a band that may in the future bring a new and original voice not only to the Polish but to the European scene.
By the end of the year, their second album Places was published. The group moved from being a ‘chamber string quartet playing jazz’ to an extremely original ensemble playing music which is impossible to pigeonhole. Adam Baruch (Polish Jazz 2012) wrote:
As expected, the individual performances are nothing short of sublime, and the entire album is a deeply moving listening experience. However, listeners familiar with their début might miss the "spark" and "spontaneity", which was so evident there and which were replaced here by careful planning, maturity and eloquent elegance. It is therefore almost impossible to compare these two albums, as they in fact present the different facets of the same group.
Their third album, 2015’s AtomSPHERE, mostly consists of pieces composed by the members of the Quartet, but there are also a few compositions by Witold Lutosławski and Zbigniew Seifert. The album is heavily inspired by Polish folklore, especially that of the Podhale region. In 2016, it was nominated for a Fryderyk Award in the Jazz Album of the Year category. Seifert, released in 2017 by the Zbigniew Seifert Foundation, includes compositions by the prominent jazz violinist as interpreted by Atom String Quartet. Like their previous album, it was nominated for a Fryderyk in 2017.
Penderecki, released in August 2019, is the quartet’s fifth album. The band performed compositions by Krzysztof Penderecki, mostly chamber and solo pieces composed in the early days of his career. The album was released by and recorded in the Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic in Szczecin (in the 2017/2018 season ASQ was the resident artist of this philharmonic).
Atom String Quartet was awarded a scholarship by the Polish Ministry of Culture in the Young Poland category in 2011. In 2012 they received a Fryderyk – a major music industry award in Poland – in the best Jazz Début category. In the same year they won the folk music competition of Polish Radio, New Tradition, and were awarded with the Złote Gęśle prize. In 2015, Atom String Quartet received another award from Polish Radio – the Mateusz Trójki. The quartet is also regularly ranked highly in Jazz Forum magazine readers’ Jazz Top poll, including numerous wins in the Acoustic Band category.
Collaborations and performances
Atom String Quartet is often invited to participate in various musical projects. For example, they have performed alongside Janusz Olejniczak, Jan Smoczyński Quartet and Karpiel Bułecka in the Voices of the Mountains concerts as well as with Grażyna Auguścik and Janusz Prusinowski Trio in the Lutosławski`s Folk Roots concert, at 17th Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival (2013).
Leszek Możdżer: Polish Jazz Is Doing Well
Other important projects include live albums: Leszek Możdżer and Friends – Live in Berlin Philharmonic III, Grzech Piotrowski World Orchestra – Live in Gdańsk, String Big Band – Live in Trójka, and Dorota Miśkiewicz – Piano.pl, as well as recording sessions with Zakopower, Kayah, Natalia Kukulska, Cezariusz Gadzina, Rafał Grząka, Grażyna Auguścik (Inspired by Lutosławski), and Tomasz Wendt (Behind The Strings). Atom String Quartet’s collaboration with NFM Orchestra Leopoldinum was especially fruitful, resulting in two albums – Made in Poland (2017) and Supernova (2018) – which both received Fryderyk Awards.
The quartet is a frequent guest on the stages of major music festivals such as Berliner Jazztage, Jazz Baltica, Leipziger Jazztage, Cairo Jazz Festival, Katara European Jazz Festival, Festival Veranos de la Villa Madrid, Gaume Jazz Festival, Manchester Jazz Festival, Jazzycolors Festival Paris, Salzburger Festspiele, Jazz Jamboree, and Solidarity of Arts. Atom String Quartet was also the first Polish band to perform twice at the Jazzahead! Festival in Bremen (2015 and 2018).
They have collaborated with such artists as Branford Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, Gil Goldstein, Vladislav ‘Adzik’ Sendecki, Mino Cinelu, Paolo Fresu, Leszek Możdżer, Lars Danielsson, Zohar Fresco, Jerzy Maksymiuk, André Ochodlo, Urszula Dudziak, Anna Maria Jopek, Marek Moś, Natalia Kukulska, Kayah, Aga Zaryan, Krzesimir Dębski, Adam Sztaba, Grzech Piotrowski, Krzysztof Herdzin, Andrzej Smolik, as well as with AUKSO Chamber Orchestra of the City of Tychy, NFM Orkiestra Leopoldinum, Sinfonia Varsovia, Sinfonietta Cracovia, Radom Chamber Orchestra, Szczecin Philharmonic, Elbląg Chamber Orchestra, Grzech Piotrowski Orchestra, Sinfonia Viva, and Sebastian Karpiel-Bułecka’s Highlander Band.
Band's website: www.atomstringquartet.com
Author: W.O. March 2014, sources: atomstringquartet.com, wikipedia, polish-jazz.blogspot.pl, kayax.net, Jazz Forum; update: MG, September 2019.
A Foreigner's Guide to Polish Jazz