The trio is one of the brightest stars of the Polish jazz scene, recognised for their unique talent in blending tradition with contemporary sound.
Marcin Wasilewski Trio is: Marcin Wasilewski (born 1975) on the piano, Sławomir Kurkiewicz (born 1975) on base, and Michał Miśkiewicz (born 1977) playing the percussion.
The band combines the grand tradition of the challenging piano trio tenet and creates their own distinct sound in doing so. It is also one of the most consistently developing bands of the Polish music scene, and one that is very open to inspiration from the surrounding environment. The Marcin Wasilewski Trio is considered one of the most acclaimed and unique jazz formations of its generation, and it has garnered recognition in its native Poland as well as abroad.
In 2013, the band celebrated 20 years of playing in an unwavering squad. But its actual history goes back even further, to the year 1990. It was then that the Simple Acoustic Trio was founded by a group of students from a music high school in Koszalin. Their debut performance would come a year later, and the band quickly began to garner awards across Poland. In 1993, the young percussionist Michał Miśkiewicz (the son of renowned Polish saxophonist Henryk Miśkiewicz) joined the Simple Acoustic Trio and since then the group plays together untouched by any personal disturbances.
Their very first record Komeda came out in 1995, published by the Kraków based Gowi Records label. It became one of the most widely commented debuts of the year. An homage to the work of Krzysztof Komeda, it consisted entirely of his compositions. The critics and audience alike didn’t fail to hear in the recordings much more than mere interpretations of the historic pieces of Polish jazz. The reviews hailed the trio a creative continuation of this history, and one of the biggest promises of the Polish jazz scene.
Their music soon stirred the curiosity of Tomasz Stańko, the legendary Polish trumpet player. In the late 1990s, Stańko was searching for a new quartet squad, one that would allow him to pursue the kind of work he did with Bobo Stenson, Anders Jormin and Tony Oxley. The encounter with Tomasz Stańko turned out to be a turning point in the trio’s career. Stańko was quoted as saying that:
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In the entire history of Polish jazz there was no group like this one.
The cooperation with Tomasz Stańko was officially launched between 1999 and 2000, and it was preceeded by occasional concert collaboration between Stańko and Wasilewski. The Simple Acoustic Trio had gained a mentor in Stańko and cooperated with him as a working band. This cooperation soon lead to recording with one of the world’s leading labels, the Munich-based ECM.
Together with Stańko they recorded three albums with the ECM: Soul of Things (2002), Suspended Night (2004) and Lontano (2006). They also made three concert tours across the US, performing in some of America’s best jazz stages: Blues Alley in Washington, Merkin Hall and Birdland in New York. Stańko and the trio also played at the San Fransisco Jazz Festival and the Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle.
Although the musicians were very actively engaged in making music together, and their career was gaining speed, the actual name Simple Acoustic Trio was less and less heard of. The last album they recorded under the old name was Habanera, released by the Not Two Records label in Kraków in May, 2000.
The musicians would return to the stage as an independent trio five years later, and it was a splendid beginning. The album Trio was once again recorded by ECM and after since its release in 2005, four more albums followed: January (2008), Faithfull (2011), Spark Of Life (2014), and Live (2018), all of which were also released by ECM. Faithfull gained the status of a double platinum record and it was a huge artistic success.
Since their very beginnings, the group has been building its position with numerous prizes, among them the many Fryderk awards of the Polish Music Academy. In 2010, the Marcin Wasilewski Trio also won the annual readers’ poll of the Jazz Forum magazine for the Best Acoustic Formation in Poland, gaining nearly twice as many votes as the Tomasz Stańko quintet.
Over the 20 years of their activity on the music scene, Marcin Wasilewski Trio has cooperated with numerous internationally acclaimed musicians both individually and as a band. They performed with Tomasz Szukalski, Piotr Wojtasik, Michał Urbaniak, Janusz Muniak and Henryk Miśkiewicz, and also participated in international projects with stars of the international jazz scene, such as: Dino Saluzzi, Palle Danielson, Jon Christensen, Arild Andersen, Bernt Rosengren, John Surman, Bobo Stenson, Manu Katche, Gianluigi Trovesi, Jan Garbarek, Arthur Blythe and Joe Lovano. The frontman – Marcin Wasilewski is a pianist recognised not just by jazz fans – in 2005 he was voted ‘rising star’ of jazz pianism by renowned jazz experts and critics in the poll of the prestigious American jazz magazine Down Beat, while in Poland he is a four-time winner of the Fryderyk award for Jazz Musician of the Year (2005, 2009, 2012, 2015), and the Fryderyk statuette for Jazz Album of the Year along with his trio (2001, 2005, 2009, 2015). This makes Marcin Wasilewski the most award-winning jazz musician in Poland after Tomasz Stańko.
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On 7th October, 2014, Marcin Wasilewski Trio released their eighth album called Spark Of Life (ECM Records). The album features the Swedish tenor Joakim Milder, who also participated in the autumn tour of the Polish musicians, travelling tens of thousands of kilometers and playing 16 concerts, during which their music was enthusiastically received by more than 7 thousand fans in Poland and Germany, and at international festivals in Buenos Aires, Córdoba (Argentina) and Santiago de Chile (Chile).
At the end of November 2014, just six weeks after its release, the album was certified gold in Poland, and it received very high ratings thanks to the votes of readers in the annual survey Jazz Top of the Jazz Forum magazine, earning the title Album of the Year 2014 and Acoustic Band of the Year 2014. The Fryderyk awards in 2015 were the culmination of a series of successes. Marcin Wasilewski received the Fryderyk award for Jazz Artist of the Year and Spark Of Life won the Best Jazz Album of the Year, along with Sławomir Kurkiewicz, Michał Miśkiewicz and the record producer – Manfred Eicher from ECM Records.
The next album by the trio was released three years later, in September 2018. Live is the band’s first concert album and their fifth album released by ECM Records. It was recorded at the Middleheim Jazz Festival 2016 in Antwerp. By the end of September, it had climbed to the 15th place of Billboard Jazz Album Chart, becoming the fourth album by the trio to rank on this prestigious list.
The year 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the Marcin Wasilewski Trio. For the occasion, the band went on an intensive tour, performing in, among others, Japan, South Korea, United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Norway, and Poland. As Dionizy Piątkowski wrote about them on Era Jazzu portal:
Marcin Wasilewski Trio is the most important acoustic jazz band in Europe today, capable of outstanding performance whether in partnership with soloists and other bands, or as a standard acoustic trio – without succumbing to any passing fashions and moods. Marcin Wasilewski is a virtuoso with impeccable, subtle technique, a composer aiming far beyond the usual jazz scheme. The drummer Michał Miśkiewicz is a syncopation magician pulsating with rhythmic associations and emotions. The bassist Sławomir Kurkiewicz subtly builds up the mood with every note, creating pathos with precisely selected sounds. Marcin Wasilewski Trio is a model for contemporary jazz and music that already defies this type of precise classification. The model they provide can be matched only by the very best.
With Tomasz Stańko
- 2001 Soul of Things
- 2003 Suspended Night
- 2006 Lontano
As Simple Acoustic Trio
- 1995 Komeda
- 1996 When Will The Blues Leave
- 1996 Live in Getxo
- 2000 Habanera
- 2001 Lyrics
- 2005 Trio
As Marcin Wasilewski Trio
- 2008 January
- 2011 Faithfull
- 2014 Spark Of Life
- 2018 Live
Awards and Special Mentions
- 1991 - 3rd place in the Jazz Juniors band competition in Kraków
- 1991 - special mention for Marcin Wasilewski at the International Jazz Pianists’ Competition in Kalisz
- 1993 - 1st place at the International Festival of Jazz Ensembles Chorus in Sorgues, France
- 1996 - 1st place at the Spanish Getxo ‘96 jazz competition and an individual award for Marcin Wasilewski
- 1996 - 1st place at Leverkusen Jazz Festival competition and Best Soloist award for Marcin Wasilewski
- 2001- Fryderyk Award in the Jazz Album of the Year for Lyrics
- 2005 - Fryderyk Award in the Jazz Album of the Year for Trio; Fryderyk award for Jazz Artist of the Year (for Marcin Wasilewski)
- 2009 - Fryderyk Award in the Jazz Album of the Year for January; Fryderyk award for Jazz Artist of the Year (for Marcin Wasilewski)
- 2011 - Mateusz Music Award of the National Radio Channel 3 in the Jazz Music category for the record Faithful
- 2012 - Fryderyk award for Jazz Artist of the Year (for Marcin Wasilewski)
- 2014 - Acoustic Band of the Year award by the readers of Jazz Forum
- 2015 - Fryderyk award for Jazz Artist of the Year (for Marcin Wasilewski); Fryderyk award for Jazz Album of the Year for Spark Of Life
- 2016 - Grand Prix Jazz Melomani in Artist of the Year category for Marcin Wasilewski.
Originally written by Maciej Karłowski, March 2013; translated by PS; updated by MG, September 2019.
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