Pianist, composer and arranger, born on March 23, 1971 in Gdańsk.
Lauded pianist, composer and arranger
Leszek Możdżer is among the most famous jazz musicians in Poland, although his fame has taken him around the world and going gold and platinum on many records. He has been featured on over 100 albums, including 2011's Leszek Możdżer - Komeda, a tribute to Poland's best-known composer for the cinema. Leszek Możdżer began learning to play the piano when he was five years old. In 1996 he received a diploma from the Academy of Music in Gdańsk. He made his debut in 1991 as part of Emil Kowalski's band. He is best-known for being part of one of the most important bands of the '90s - Miłość.
Możdżer developed an interest in jazz relatively late - at the age of eighteen, as he was finishing his secondary education. He gained his first jazz experience with Emil Kowalski, but the true start of his jazz adventure started from the first rehearsal with the group Miłość in 1991. In 1992-1996 he played with famous saxophone player Zbigniew Namysłowski. He also worked with many excellent musicians: Tomasz Stańko (1992), Buddy de Franco, David Friesen (1995), Archie Shepp, Michał Urbaniak, Adam Pierończyk (1996), and Arthur Blythe (1997).
That same year he received his first individual mention at the International Jazz Juniors '92 Competition in Kraków. An avalanche of prizes followed: 1st place at the International Jazz Improvisation Contest in Katowice (1994); Fryderyk '98 to the jazzman of year 1998; the Gdańsk Mayor Award for outstanding artistic achievement (1999); Ad Astra - the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Award to an outstanding young musician (2001); Polityka's Passport award in the rock-pop-show business category for 2004; Ministry of Foreign Affairs award for promoting Polish culture abroad (2006). Since 1994, he has been regularly recognised as the Pianist of the Year by readers of Jazz Forum magazine. In 2011, he received another Fryderyk for best original soundtrack for the album Kaczmarek by Możdżer, a collection of contemporary film music. A year later he won three Jazz Top awards – Musician of the Year, Pianist of the Year, and Album of the Year (Komeda). In 2013, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.
He has been a member of other music groups, including Miłość and the Zbigniew Namysłowski Quartet and has recorded film soundtracks with the composer Zbigniew Preisner. He has been invited to play with other leading Polish jazzmen, such as Tomasz Stańko, Janusz Muniak, Michał Urbaniak, Piotr Wojtasik, Adam Pierończyk, Henryk Miśkiewicz, and Anna Maria Jopek. He has also played with Pat Metheny, Arthur Blythe, Buster Williams, Billy Harper, Joe Lovano, Archie Shepp, David Liebman, Charles Fox, Lester Bowie, David Gilmour, Marcus Miller, John Scofield, Steve Swallow, Eddi Daniels, Tan Dun and other jazz stars of world-wide renown. He participates in the LUTOSPHERE project (with Andrzej Bauer and m.bunio.s). Możdżer is also a member of the Możdżer/Danielsson/Fresco jazz trio (together with double bassist Lars Danielsson and Zohar Fresco, a drummer and singer from Israel).
His record Piano became a great jazz hit. His popularity grew further thanks to collaborations with the composer Zbigniew Preisner, which brought about such pieces as Requiem for my Friend (1998) and 10 łatwych utworów na fortepian / 10 Easy Pieces for Piano (1999).
He recorded five records under his own name, along with almost fifty collaborations, including Chopin - Impresje / Chopin - Impressions (1994) and Facing the Wind (1996) with American bassist David Friesen. Improvisations on the themes by Fryderyk Chopin reinforced Możdżer's position as one of the greatest individualities and virtuosi of the European jazz scene. Of note is also his theatre music, including Hair - Love, Rock Musical for the Musical Theatre in Gdynia, Tango z Lady M. / Tango with Lady M. at the Polish Dance Theatre in Poznań, or Grzegorz Jarzyna's staging of Sarah Kane's Psychosis in Düsseldorf, Germany, in June 2002. Możdżer regularly cooperates with Jan Kaczmarek, an L.A.-based composer, on recording soundtracks for 20th Century Fox and Miramax. This cooperation resulted in, among others, the Oscar-winning soundtrack of Finding Neverland (2004).
Możdżer's top achievement in the field of composition is music written for the world's first trans-opera after William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, staged by Wojciech Kościelniak at the Musical Theatre in Gdynia and premiered in October 2001. Możdżer has performed all over Europe, the USA, Canada and South America. Since 2011, he has been the artistic director of the Enter Music Festival, which takes place by Lake Strzeszyńskie in Poznań.
In 2011 Germany's ACT label released Leszek Mozdzer - Komeda, a collection of songs composed by the legendary film music composer Krzysztof Komeda. The album includes songs from such films as Polański's Rosemary's Baby. Guardian reviewer John Fordam described the pianist's style on the album as a combination of influences and originality, remarking that:
Możdżer's swaying swing and slow-melody nuances suggest Keith Jarrett at times, but his outbursts of percussive playing, flinty treble-note sparks and staccato drum-pattern sounds are all his own.
Możdżer found a great deal of leg room in making the record, steeling himself up for several years before even getting into the studio. And then he allowed himself to bring his own style to the music, explaining that:
Komeda leaves so much freedom for the improvisational musician. If you look at the notes you can say that Komeda regards the interpreter as a partner. He trusts him and I can see that in the compositions.
contemporary polish jazz
21st century polish jazz
Poland at jazzahead! 2018
- Miłość "Taniec Smoka" (GOWI, 1994)
- Miłość & Lester Bowie "Talkin' about Life and Death" (Biodro, 2000)
- Lesław Możdżer Sextet "Talk to Jesus" (GOWI, 1996)
- Leszek Możdżer / Adam Pierończyk "Live in Sofia" (Not Two, 1998)
- Leszek Możdżer / Adam Pierończyk "Anniversary Concert for Hestia" (Hestia, 1998)
- Zbigniew Preisner / Leszek Możdżer "10 łatwych utworów na fortepian" (EMI Music Poland, 1999)
- Makowicz vs. Możdżer "At Carnegie Hall" (Pomaton EMI, 2004)
- Leszek Możdżer "PianoLive" (ARMS Records, 2004)
- Olo Walicki "Metalla Pretiosa" (Olo Walicki Production, 2004)
- Możdżer / Danielsson / Fresco "The Time" (Outside Music, 2005)
- Możdżer / Danielsson / Fresco "Between Us and the Light" (Outside Music, 2006)
- Lars Danielsson & Leszek Możdżer "Pasodoble" (ACT, 2007)
- "Możdżer Danielsson Fresco Live" 2008 (trio with Lars Danielsson and Zohar Fresco)
- "Missa Gratiatoria" 2008
- "Kaczmarek by Możdżer" 2010 (Platinum Record)
- "Komeda" 2011 (double Platinum Record, album of the year 2011 - Jazz Forum poll)
- Leszek Możdżer & Walter Norris (ACT 2012)
- Możdżer / Danielsson / Fresco – Polska (ACT 2013)
- "Earth Particles", 2017 (with Holland Baroque)
- "Live at Enter", 2018 (with Gloria Campaner)
Artist's website: www.mozdzer.com
Source: text by Marek Romański and Culture.pl editors; updated by MG, March 2019.