Jan Emil Młynarski is one of the busiest people on the Polish music scene. He sings and plays old Varsovian songs, takes care his father’s heritage as a musician and producer, performs solo gigs on drums, and is a member of numerous bands.
Jan Emil Młynarski was born in 1979 in Warsaw. He is the son of prominent poet, lyricist, and singer Wojciech Młynarski and actress Adrianna Godlewska. Emil Młynarski, virtuoso violinist, composer, rector of the Music Academy and most importantly a co-founder of the Warsaw National Philharmonic.
In an interview for Polish Radio, Jan Emil Młynarski reminisced:
Through all of my childhood, my father wrote on the writing machine and played music delivered by his composer on an old cassette deck. But my mother had a bigger influence on me I think – in our house, she taught students song interpretation and diction.
He studied at Katowice Music Academy. In 2006, he graduated from the prestigious Drummers Collective school in New York. Today, he primarily does three things: plays amazing solo gigs with drums and electronics, serves as an ambassador for old Warsaw songs as a vocalist and guitarist and plays the drums in numerous jazz and electronic bands.
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Młynarski is also a session and concert musician. He has performed with Cesaria Evora, Jon Lord (Deep Purple’s keyboardist), Gordon Haskell and many popular Polish artists: Maryla Rodowicz, Kora, Edyta Górniak, Krzysztof Herdzin, Reni Jusis, Sistars, Smolik, rappers from WWO, and jazz bassist Wojciech Pilichowski.
He has recorded two albums with Kayah (including the first Polish MTV Unplugged) and – after returning from the States – two more with the Wrocław-based band Öszibarack. In Wrocław, he cooperated with the electronica duo Skalpel and later joined Nervy, a trio founded by Agim Dżeljilji from Öszibarack and Igor Boxx from Skalpel (he was later replaced in Nervy by Jurek Markuszewski).
From 2000 to 2006, in Warsaw and other places, he was active in the 15 Minut Projekt founded by Młynarski and keyboardist Michał ‘Fox’ Król (today a renowned producer responsible, for example, for Nosowska’s album Basta). The band, playing live drum’n’bass, released two albums featuring Novika, Kayah, Ania Szarmach and rapper Sokół among other artists. Another important collaboration for Młynarski was his act with Joanna Duda known from Wojtek Mazolewski’s quintet. Together, they formed the duo J=J – a project ‘based on improvisation, open forms and rhythm’. They became a part of Skalpel’s live band.
In 2011, Młynarski started his new band Pole with double bass clarinet player Michał Górczyński and multi-instrumentalist Piotr Zabrodzki on organ and clavichord. In 2014, the trio released an album titled Radom and, at the end of 2018, under the new name Polonka, another album titled Poemat Konfesyjny (Confessional Poem). The band is inspired by motifs and rhythms from Africa, Asia, and Europe. It looks for connections in geographically distant traditions and combines them with the avant-garde, it ‘improvises by contemplating sound, melody and rhythm’.
Młynarski also performed with Zabrodzki in Baaba as a drummer (a role he shared with Maciej Moretti). Together with Zabrodzki and Moretti, he also forms the 67,5 Minut Projekt trio. The similarity of the names is not a coincidence – like 15 Minut Projekt, the band plays live drum’n’bass.
Młynarski intends to release his debut solo album in 2019.
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Singing his father’s songs
In 2009, an album by the Młynarski Plays Młynarski project was released – Rebeka Nie Zejdzie Dziś na Kolację (Rebeka Won’t Come Down for Dinner Today). Młynarski was the project’s leader as its drummer and vocalist. Alongside him, it featured Zabrodzki on piano, Kuba Galiński on organs, Marian Wróblewski on guitar, Wojciech Traczyk on double bass, Manolo Alban Juarez on drums, and Gaba Kulka on vocals. Both Młynarskis sang Szara Kolęda (Grey Christmas Carol) for the album which also ended up on the album Kolęda na Cały Rok with songs written by Wojciech Młynarski which were found by Jan after his father’s death in 2017.
This album also featured Wojciech Młynarski’s friends – Alicja Majewska, Artur Andrus, Marian Opania, Wiktor Zborowski, Natalia Przybysz, Grzegorz Turnau, Monika Borzym, Natalia Szroeder, Maniucha Bikont and, again, Gaba Kulka. Jan Młynarski was the album’s producer. On the instrumental side, we have the Royal String Quartet and Miłosz Pękala (vibraphone, bells, frame drum), Zabrodzki (positive organ, hurdy-gurdy, banjo), Piotr Wróbel (tuba) and Tadeusz Czechak (lute).
One year after Wojciech Młynarski’s death, his son became even more active in shaping his legacy. He conceived the album’s sound and invited various vocalists. This is surely not Jan’s last project dedicated to Wojciech Młynarski.
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Music of old Warsaw and more
In 2009, Młynarski established Warszawskie Combo Taneczne (Varsovian Dance Combo). ‘I established it purely because of a longing for an era I like so much, which I've read about and try to learn as much as I can about’, he explained in an interview for Polish Radio. The band started by performing in the backyards of Warsaw. The group’s members are Zabrodzki (banjo, melodica, vocals), Tomasz Duda (sax, clarinet), Anna Bojara (musical saw), Sebastian Jastrzębski (guitar, he replaced Mateusz Waśkiewicz), Traczyk (double bass), Lesław Matecki (mandolin, guitar) and Barbara Merdinger (mandolin). Młynarski sings and plays the guitar. One of the greatest honours for the group were their recordings and performances with Jerzy Jastrzębski – a long-time accordionist for Orkiestra z Chmielnej (‘Chmielna Street Orchestra’).
In an interview with Gazeta.pl, Młynarski confessed:
The fact that I play Varsovian songs is the effect of my identity and of several years of childhood without proper care. Because of this, I have a diploma from the street kid academy of life.
The band’s repertoire includes old Warsaw songs played by the book, without changing the compositions. In the spring of 2018, on the 100th anniversary of Stanisław Grzesiuk’s death, the group released an album titled Sto Lat Panie Staśku! (Happy Birthday Mr Stasiek!) which featured Grzesiuk’s songs. Młynarski plays on the Varsovian bard’s solicitously renovated banjo – the same one that spent five years in Gusen concentration camp with him. The band plays in two different styles: for dancing and for concerts.
Młynarski possesses extraordinary knowledge about the music of pre-war Warsaw and its records, composers and artists. He treats it as his cultural heritage, as the music of his roots. He speaks in simple language about performing and singing those old songs – and he sings with a beautiful Varsovian accent. He performs the songs because he likes them, as they have better lyrics and melodies than contemporary songs. He thinks that the story of pre-war Polish song was interrupted during its golden era.
Młynarski said in an interview for Esquire magazine:
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War, and, later on, the Soviet occupation, destroyed almost everything. Many artists died or emigrated and never came back. In Poland, only a handful remained and they became responsible for building a brand new world. Henryk Wars moved to Los Angeles and wrote film music as Henry Vars until his death. Artur Gold became an arranger for Broadway. Adam Aston, the greatest Polish pre-war entertainment singer, became the manager of a factory in South Africa.
Work with Marcin Masecki
In November 2017, the album Noc w Wielkim Mieście (Night in a Big City) was released. Jazz Band Młynarski-Masecki, created by Młynarski together with the pianist Marcin Masecki, also featured drummer Jerzy Rogiewicz and a brass section: Piotr Wróbel (bass horn), Tomasz Duda (alto saxophone and clarinet), Michał Fetler (alto saxophone and clarinet) and Jarosław Bothur (the c-melody saxophone popular in pre-war entertainment orchestras, clarinet)
For the album, Młynarski and Masecki chose songs by Jerzy Petersburski, Fanny Gordon, and Artur Gold. Adam Aston and the prominent composer Henryk Wars became the recording’s central figures. The musicians said that they wanted to capture the sound of that era, they avoided studio tricks and tried to attain the desired sound as early as during the rehearsals.
Masecki is the album’s music director and arranger. Due to this efforts, short songs were very noticeably extended, he enhanced them with instrumental acrobatics, looped some themes and left a lot of space for improvisation. Młynarski sings, plays the banjo and serves as the compere of the band’s spectacular concerts. The group gave a lot of them – Noc w Wielkim Mieście became quite popular after it came in second in Wyborcza’s Album of the Year plebiscite which resulted in a lot of concert invitations.
On 27th July 2018, Młynarski and Masecki’s second album was released: Fogg – Pieśniarz Warszawy (Fogg – the Singer of Warsaw) helmed by Młynarski-Masecki Jazz Camerata Varsoviensis. The recording, featuring songs by the Polish pre-war singer Mieczysław Fogg, was commissioned by the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Masecki arranged it and Młynarski produced it. Their regular associates also took part in the project: Duda, Fetler, Bothur and Mateusz Smoczyński (violin).
The album also features Polish actresses singing : Agata Kulesza, Joanna Kulig, and Barbara Kinga Majewska, as well as Szymon Komasa – an opera singer. Młynarski, Masecki, Duda and Zabrodzki even recreated Chór Dana – a choir in which Fogg sang before the war.
Młynarski told Gazeta Wyborcza:
We recorded on mics from the 1940s and 1950s. We also have a microphone from 1927. However, I’d like to emphasise that we’re not a reconstruction group. For example, we used several microphones to achieve certain sound effects and a sense of depth, whereas, before the war, music was recorded using only two mics. The most important thing is the arrangement and the manner in which we used the instruments.
Not just playing and singing
Jan Emil Młynarski composed music for View from the Bridge directed by Agnieszka Glińska for The Dramatic Theatre of the Capital City of Warsaw. He was the co-composer for Stone and Ashes staged by Artur Urbański in Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw and the music director for I Love You musical in Studio Buffo Theatre in Warsaw. He is a permanent member of the Głosy Gór (Mountain Voices) project which combines jazz with contemporary Polish classical music under the baton of Jerzy Maksymiuk, also featuring Janusz Olejniczak, Sebastian Karpiel-Bułecka (with whom Młynarski performed in New York’s famous Carnegie Hall), and various jazz musicians.
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Jan Emil Młynarski
21st century polish jazz
polish jazz musician
- 2002 – WWO ‘We własnej osobie’
- 2003 – 15 Minut Projekt ‘15 Minut Projekt’
- 2003 – Kayah ‘Stereo typ’
- 2005 – 15 Minut Projekt ‘Live In Punkt’
- 2005 – Mosqitoo ‘Mosqitoo Music’
- 2007 – Kayah ‘MTV Unplugged’
- 2010 – Młynarski Plays Młynarski ‘Rebeka nie zejdzie dziś na kolację’
- 2010 – Bel Air ‘Monday Dream’
- 2010 – Gordon Haskell ‘One Day Soon’
- 2011 – Öszibarack ‘40 Surfers Waiting For The Wave’
- 2013 – Öszibarack ‘12’
- 2013 – J=J ‘2013EP’
- 2013 – Novika ‘Heart Times’
- 2014 – Baaba ‘Easter Christmas’
- 2014 – Warszawskie Combo Taneczne ‘Przyznaj się’
- 2014 – Pole ‘Radom’
- 2014 – Nervy ‘Nervy’
- 2016 – J=J ‘Love’
- 2016 – Warszawskie Combo Taneczne ‘Dancing, salon, ulica’
- 2017 – Jazz Band Młynarski-Masecki ‘Noc w wielkim mieście’
- 2018 – Warszawskie Combo Taneczne ‘Sto lat Panie Staśku!’
- 2018 – Młynarski-Masecki Jazz Camerata Varsoviensis ‘Fogg. Pieśniarz Warszawy’
- 2018 – Wojciech Młynarski & Artyści ‘Kolęda na cały rok’
- 2018 – Polonka ‘Poemat konfesyjny’
Originally written in Polish by Jacek Świąder, July 2018, translated by PG, Feb 2019