Saxophonist and composer performing with the top artists of world jazz. His album Another Raindrop, recorded in a trio with Michał Barański and Łukasz Żyta, was released in the prestigious Polish Jazz series. Więcek is one of the youngest artists to debut through this series, and the first to do so in 28 years.
The debut album of Kuba Więcek stirred up commotion. The conservative part of the Polish jazz environment, both listeners and journalists, were almost outraged by the fact that the debut record of the young saxophonist was released in the Polish Jazz series, which, as they claimed, is reserved for the biggest and most respected maestros of the genre, such as Komeda, Kurylewicz, Trzaskowski, Stańko. According to some, Więcek did not manage to polish up on his skills and gain the required experience; he also did not prove that he deserved such an honour. The criticism did not revolve around the music itself; actually, other listeners praised Another Raindrop and less conservative critics gave enthusiastic reviews that placed Więcek in the position of a great young talent. In 2017, the album received the Mateusz prize, awarded by the Channel 3 of the Polish Radio, for the best jazz debut. The justification read: 'for an exceptional composing artistry and performance talent, which the artist fully displayed on the record'. Więcek himself recalls:
First I played the cello, I started to play the saxophone later on. I actually had to: my mother taught in a music school, so there was no choice. Everything changed when I went to a camp where I met musicians from Rybnik. When they found out that I played the saxophone, they invited me to play with them. For a pupil of a lower secondary school, which I was at that moment, it was a big thing. We kept in touch, we met to rehearse. Then for the first time I really started to play. They had their pieces, they played them and told me to add something of my own. I had to fit in very quickly.
Więcek was born in Rybnik in 1994 and attended the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen. He says:
In Copenhagen I met people who did not restrict themselves to one music style or genre. Actually there weren't many orthodox jazzmen. People would come and play a track that interested or inspired them. We would listen to artists such as Kanye West, who rather is not associated with music schools. And this is an important figure; he is a musician that changes almost from one album to another. He is not stuck in one place.
That is what he says about how his trio was founded:
As a student I wrote a lot of music, always for particular artists. I had three rehearsals a day: on one of them I played jazz standards, on the second free-jazz and on the third I played with a band for which I wrote original music. Eventually, there was a possibility to play a concert in Warsaw in 12on14 Jazz Club. I invited Michał Barański to play the double bass and Łukasz Żyta to play the drums. I heard them before at various concerts and I really wanted to have such a band. For me, as a composer, and quite a bossy one, that was a situation of my dreams: in my band there were musicians which were able to play whatever came to my mind. In 12on14 we played the standards and I thought that recording my own album would be a real challenge. So I did that.
On Another Raindrop he does not try to imitate the great saxophonists from the past. As he emphasises, in looking for inspiration he goes beyond jazz and heads for the electronic music, classical music, rock or hip hop. Next to the albums by Coltrane, Lester Young and Ben Webster, he keeps the records by Tom Waits, Flying Lotus or Oasis.
That is how he describes the way he works:
In New York I bought new synthesisers, also the ones that were used by artists such as Bon Iver, Tame Impala and Radiohead. I can get on the tram and have a new beat ready at the second following stop. I play with the synthesiser as I used to play with a Gameboy as a young boy. During the 7-hour flight from New York to Warsaw I did not put it away even for a moment. The flight seemed to have lasted just a few minutes. I use this synthesiser on every concert: when I play with my trio, with the band of Kamil Piotrowicz and solo. On every concert.
Kuba Więcek performed in almost all the European countries, North America and Asia. Recently, he divides his time between two cities: Warsaw and Copenhagen.
Another Raindrop won the 2018 Fryderyk Award in the Jazz Debut Album of the Year category. Listeners were also impressed with Więcek’s work. In 2018, the Jazz Forum magazine readers’ poll listed him as the top third artist in the alto saxophone category.
In the first half of 2019, the young musician’s second studio album entitled Multitasking hit the shelves. It was released by Polskie Nagrania in the Polish Jazz series, just like Więcek’s debut. In the studio, the saxophonist was once again joined by Michał Barański and Łukasz Żyta. The final sound of the album was refined by world-class Japanese sound engineer Seigen Ono, while the cover art was designed by Macio Moretti, who also took part in the recording of the piece Jazz Robots.
Leszek Możdżer: Polish Jazz Is Doing Well
- 2017 – Another Raindrop
- 2019 – Multitasking
As a sideman:
- Krzysztof Dziedzic – Tempo
- Gniewomir Tomczyk – Event Horizon
- Franciszek Pospieszalski Sextet – First Level
- Kathrine Windfeld’s Big Band – Latency
- Jonas Johansen – Charm Catcher
- Variete – Nie wiem
- Kamil Piotrowicz Sextet – Popular Music
Written by Piotr Jagielski, translated by Matylda Weiss, January 2018, updated by MG, August 2020.