Zbigniew Seifert was one of the most original and important Polish jazz musicians. Born on 7th June 1946 in Kraków, died on 15th February 1979 in Buffalo, US.
He took his first steps as a musician in childhood, starting to play the violin at the age of 6. Starting in high school, he simultaneously took alto saxophone lessons. He was regarded as one of the most gifted students of Fryderyk Chopin’s Musical High School in Kraków, from which he graduated with honours in 1970.
Besides his classical education Zbigniew Seifert was fascinated with John Coltrane’s music. In the mid-1960s he even founded a quartet very similar to the renowned Coltrane’s combo and from then was always close to the ideas, spirituality and principles which emanated from his idol’s music.
In 1967 he joined the group of Tomasz Stańko, with whom he cooperated until late 1973. During these years he eventually gave up playing saxophone in order to devote himself fully to violin and started to develop his own musical ideas and form his own distinctive bands.
One of them was a quartet comprising of Jan Gonciarczyk on bass, Jan Jarczyk on piano and Janusz Stefański on drums. Their début in 1968 at the Festiwal Jazz nad Odrą (Jazz on the Oder Festival) was warmly received and one year later they placed first in the ‘best band’ category with Seifert as runner up for best soloist. In the same year, the quartet performed at the Hungarian festival Nagykőrős where Seifert was unanimously voted the best soloist. Titles and awards opened the way to Europe and in the subsequent year the quartet often toured Western Europe, visiting West Germany especially frequently.
Seifert, both as a band-leader and as a significant member of the Tomasz Stańko’s group, soon became a noteworthy character on the European jazz scene. He was invited to tour with the most important musicians of that decade including Albert Mangelsdorff, Joachim Kühn, Chris Hinze and Wolfang Dauner. He also managed to attract the attention of American jazz stars Charlie Mariano and the great McCoy Tyner.
Man Of The Light
His successful appearances at many European festivals and stages resulted in Seifert being offered recording contracts from various labels. The queue included Capitol Records and Joachim Ernst Berendt – the most important European Jazz Promoter who, by that time, had started his own recording company: Musik Production Schwarzwald. Seifert decided to accept Berendt’s offer and by that means his opus magnus Man Of The Light came to life. It was so well received that it not only made Seifert receive invitations to perform at most important festivals around Europe but also allowed him to enter the ‘Jazz Olympia’ i.e. Monterey Jazz Festival, where he performed with Modern Jazz Quartet founder John Lewis. His appearance was so original that the news about the Polish fiddler immediately spread among American jazz musicians. They used to say that he played the violin just like Coltrane would have, had he been a violinist.
Soon he started playing in the “big league” alongside such luminaries as John Scofield, Eddie Gomez, Jack DeJohnette, Richie Beirach and Nana Vasconselos (all of whom featured on his Passion). He managed to invite the Brecker brothers (Michael and Randy) and Philipe Catherine to the recording session of Zbigniew Seifert. John Fadis joined him on the Zbigniew Seifert album, while he played with the Oregon ensemble on Violin.
His promising career was brutally truncated by disease. His struggle with cancer was short, even though he fought with optimism and persistence. Zbigniew Seifert died in Buffalo, New York on February 15th in 1979, aged just 32.
As a leader:
- Man Of The Light - MPS / Polonia Records, 1976 / 2007
- Zbigniew Seifert - Capitol Records, 1977
- Solo Violin - Electrola/EMI / Polonia Records, 1978 / 1998
- Passion - Capitol Records, 1979
Albums released posthumously:
- We'll Remember Zbiggy - Mood Records, 1979
- Kilimanjaro - Poljazz / Anex, 1979 / 2006
- Music For K. - Polskie Nagrania / Power Bros/ JVR, 1970 / 1999 / 2000 / 2004
- Jazzmessage From Poland - JG Records, 1978
- Purple Sun - Selles, 1973 / 1999
As a sideman:
- Dżamble – Wołanie o słońce nad światem– 1971
- Iji Stivin & Co Jazz System – Five Hits In A Row - 1973
- Joachim Kühn – Cinemascope – 1974
- Wolfgang Dauner – Kunstkopfindianer – 1973/1995
- Michał Urbaniak & Urszula Dudziak – Tribute To Komeda – 1976
- Jasper Van't Hof – Eyeball – 1974 / 1995
- Charlie Mariano – Helen 12 Trees -1976
- Joachim Kühn – Springfever – 1976 / 1994
- Oregon – Violin - 1978
Author: jazzarium.pl, December 2013, Translated with edits: W.O., March 2014.