Biographical Note

Leszek Kułakowski

Leszek Kułakowski, an outstanding composer and jazz pianist, is deemed a “jazz visionary” by music critics. As a music theorist and full professor who lectures in composition, he heads the Department of Jazz at the Gdańsk Academy of Music, where he established the Jazz and Popular Music course.

He is the founder and artistic director of two international events, the annual Komeda Jazz Festival, held for the twenty-second time in November 2016, and the biennial Krzysztof Komeda Composers’ Competition, the only competition of its kind in Poland.

Leszek Kułakowski unquestionably ranks amongst Poland’s elite jazz artists in several crucial categories:

  • total artists, as a composer, pianist, arranger and theorist;
  • composers;
  • ensemble leaders;
  • workaholics.

These four categories point to a jazzman of excellence, with a creative, charismatic personality and enormous artistic potential, whose presence on the Polish jazz scene can be ascribed to an intuitive melding of tremendous talent, intelligence and unwavering tenacity in his work, all of which is also a sign of self-awareness.

In his work as a composer, he explores his fascination with jazz treated as the substance of universal musical narrative. He is one of only a handful of composers around the world who fuse jazz and Third Stream art music. His oeuvre to date encompasses more than over hundred and fifty compositions for a range of jazz line-ups. With small formations, he experiments with sound material fusing jazz content with aleatoricism, as in his Aleatomodalblues (2004), with serialism, as heard, for instance, in his Seriablueslizm [Serialbluesism] (1995), and with polymodality and polytonality, where his Gonitwa [Pursuit] No. 7 (1995) serves as an example. He also experiments with Polish folk music and the works of classical composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Moniuszko and Chopin, endowing them with the character of jazz.

Leszek Kułakowski has collaborated with a host of distinguished jazz artists, including Eddie Henderson, Billy Harper, Andy Middleton, Ed Schuller, Al Fester, Tomasz Stańko and Zbigniew Namysłowski, to name but a few, and he has performed at Poland’s leading jazz festivals and many of Europe’s major venues, appearing in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Finland and Denmark. He has also given concerts in the USA.

His most important works include Missa Miseri Cordis for soprano, alto, tenor, bass, mixed choir and symphony orchestra (2008); Piano Concerto for piano and orchestra (2012); Sketches for Jazz Trio & Symphony Orchestra (2012), Dyskretny urok konsonansów [The Discreet Charm of Consonances] for string orchestra, (2002); Ewencja [Evention], Free Steps and Walczyk Dekadencki [Decadent Waltz] for jazz trio and symphony orchestra (1995); Eurofonia [Europhonia] for solo voice, jazz quintet and symphony orchestra (2000); Aleatomodalblues and Cap Ca Rap (2004); Repetition 2005 for jazz big band; and Ostinatopermutacje [Ostinatopermutations] for bass clarinet, marimba, gran cassa and piano [2008]. As a composer, he has released seventeen original CDs, with Eurofonia being selected as the 2000 Album of the Year in a readers’ survey run by the prestigious "Jazz Forum" magazine. He has won numerous awards, including the Minster of Culture and National Heritage’s Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Polish Culture (2006) and the Silver Gloria Artis Medal for Services to Culture (2010).


Leszek Kułakowski Project - Komeda Variations

leszek kulakowski project komeda variations

Komeda Variations is a special album. We give You Komeda, the spirit of Stańko, and Kułakowski, the great pianist, master of truly creative arrangements Komeda: Kulakowski’s idol also beacuse of that „datachment”, but mainly beacuse of his lyrical music drawing from native folklore and speaking with an emotional voice. The premiere performance (2001) of Komeda’s film musical germs were written by none other than Leszek Kułakowski. Tomasz Stańko was the solist back then. ”I was sitting nervously in the front seat of the church, completely on edge. The concert was phenomenal. Stańko, as always, surpassed himself ans added many new qualites to Komeda’s music and my arrangements” - recalls Kulakowski. He returned to the project almost twenty years later, makinng minor changes to the score and adding an improvising jazz quartet.The result; a concert for 25th Komeda Jazz Festival in Słupsk (2019). So as not to lose any Stańko’s interpretation he invited as many as three great trumpeters fluent in precisely this music idiom: Piotr Wojtasik, Tomasz Dąbrowski and Christoph Titz. The excellent symphony orchestra Sinfonia Baltica was conducted by Radosław Droń. The symphony orchestra does not provide a pretty background: on the contarary, they angage in dialoque with the fiery jazz quartet, initiating and co-creating the work. As far the art of arrangement (as opposed to tuned transcription), it should be taught on tha example of precisely this composition. What you get is definitely some true Kułakowski content in music by Komeda. ”In my rearranged variations-Kułakowski remarks- I did my best to preserve the spirit, essence and mood of Komeda’s music, show symphony musicians color and technique, and also reinterpret Komeda in the language of my sensibility. The concert was a bridge across almost two decades, which means.... Komeda’s music doesn’t age, it’s always young and attractive”.

This is one of the most important jazz albums of recent years: a jewel in the crown of Leszek Kułakowski’s achievements.

Kulakowski / Sikala – “Red Ice”

Leszek Kulakowski (p, grand p, arr); Mikael Godée (ss, arr); Ebba Westerberg (perc); Tomasz Sowinski (dr); Piotr Kulakowski (b). July 2017.

red ice

This is the debut album by a duo of two veteran Polish Jazz musicians, pianist / composer Leszek Kulakowski and saxophonist Maciej Sikala. The album presents eleven original compositions, all by Kulakowski.

Kulakowski is a versatile and highly imaginative composer and his music always reflects the Polish Jazz lyricism at its best, as echoed by his extended recording legacy. But on this excellent recording his composition are padded and extended by the improvised contribution of Sikala, who turns out to be an ideal partner in this intimate encounter, adding not only his soprano saxophone virtuosity but also his own layer of melancholy and lyricism. The combined result is deeply moving and instantly becomes another exquisite instance of my favorite "Art of the Duo" idiom.

The music is beautifully melodic, and yet offers rich and often quite complex chord structures, which never stop to amaze with their ingenuity, but remain wonderfully coherent. As such it is an ideal vehicle for the improvised contributions, which are natural extensions of the basic melody lines. Sikala does an absolutely amazing work here, not only as a player / improviser, but more importantly as a co-composer of sorts, since his improvisations often add an additional melody line of its own,

The intimate atmosphere of the duo, which in these circumstances bridges between the classic Jazz idiom and the minimalism of chamber Classical Music, becomes completely full and perfectly rounded, proudly standing on its own. I dare to suggest that this music performed by a larger lineup would have probably lost much of its charm in comparison to these intimate versions.

On this album Kulakowski leaves most of the soloing to Sikala, but the few soli he does play here make me smile, longing for a long awaited solo piano album by the Maestro.

Overall this is a brilliant Jazz album, which offers highly rewarding listening experience on many different levels; lovers of Jazz duo albums, fans of both of these excellent musicians, Polish Jazz enthusiasts and Jazz connoisseurs all over the world, all should be equally satisfied with what this album has to offer. Wholeheartedly recommended!

Leszek Kulakowski feat. Mikael Godée Ebba Westerberg Chopin Impressions

Leszek Kulakowski (p, grand p, arr); Mikael Godée (ss, arr); Ebba Westerberg (perc); Tomasz Sowinski (dr); Piotr Kulakowski (b). July 2017.


"Chopin Impressions" are recorded with a formidable soprano player, Mikael Godée. Quoting his web page: "Mikael Godée is one of the main ingredients of what we call the Swedish jazz. His involvement in groups Corpo and nglaspel, where his lyrical and warm soprano saxophone creates a unique musical atmosphere, has been hugely important in today's jazz scene". He is joined here also by Ebba Westerberg, a wonderful Swedish percussionist. Tomek Sowinski and Piotr Kułakowski complete the personnel of this amazing quintet.

The new reading of "Chopin Impressions", seven years after the Chopin Year 2010, is very fresh and very different from other recording of this kind. One can hear it from the starting "Waltz a-moll Op. 34 Nr. 2". Chopin's music is transformed and re-arranged here to a kind ECM/ACT jazz. With Leszek and the section in the brilliant form this is clearly an excellent album.

All the tunes are masterpieces of paraphrase. It is hard to dig something, but for me the reading of "Nocturne g-moll Op. 55 Nr. 1" in an quite unexpected tempo is breath taking. Of course, I cannot resist "Marche Funebre" from "Piano Sonata b-moll Op. 35, III Mov." notable for plenty of percussion and prepared instruments. Last, but not least, "Preludium c-moll Op. 28", again with great drumming and percussion, and wonderful cadenza of Leszek.

Bravo Leszek, who is running on the red carpet in the recent years. Worth to remember at this point his contribution to Leszek Leszek Zadlo "Komeda. Wygnanie z Raju".

Maciej Lewenstein

Leszek Kulakowski Love Songs

Leszek Kulakowski (p, grand p); Joanna Knitter (voc); Zbibniew Ksiazek (lyrics); Tomasz Grzegorski (ts); Tomasz Sowinski (dr); Piotr Piotr Kułakowski (b); Maciej Maciej Grzywacz (g); Orkiestra Kmeralna Progress; Szymon Morus (cond). July 2016


"Love Songs" is a set of very nice and poetic songs composed and arranged by Leszek with lyrics of Zbigniew Ksiazek, interpreted by Joanna Knitter. Generally "Love Songs" is a good album, period. Of course there are here excellent tracks, like "Dam, zolte kaczence", or the wonderful song about jealousy "Obok nas w lozku On". Both the compositions and lyrics are very good. The quartet plays very well, and string arrangement are not too sweet. The entry of Tomasz Grzegorski on tenor in "W lozku zima i szron", as well as the guitar lines of Maciek Grzywacz in "Mialam calym swiatem byc". All of these positive aspect cannot upgrade the overall evaluation of the record.

Leszek Kulakowski Quintet feat. Andy Middleton

Live: Copy & Insert Leszek Kulakowski (grand p); Andy Middleton (ss, ts); Jerzy Jerzy Małek (t, h); Tomasz Sowinski (dr); Piotr Kulakowski (b). November 2016.


"Copy & Insert" is a contemporary mainstream record, employing the tradition of Art Blakey's Jazz Messangers, our Piotr Wojtasik Quartet or Krzysztof Popek quintets. Andy Middleton is an American saxophone player, not very active, but still having on his accound recordings with Ralph Towner, Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler, Renee Rosnes, Jamey Haddad, Joey Calderazzo and Alan Jones. Andy shows his class already on the opening "Japanese Tune" his soprano solo is amazing. But, the whole band is in the great disposition. Jerzy Jerzy Małek plays a solo right after Andy and keeps the top quality, similarly as Leszek, who is simply ingenious. "Wstawiªem ba FB zdj¦cie mojego kotka i nikt nie zareagowal" (I posted a photo of my kitten on my FB wall, as nobody reacted)" is fast post-bop track, with an obvious touch of sadness and melodrama, as title suggests. "Natretna powracajaca mysl" is a very noble ballad, while following "XX Century Memories" is a fast tune, with the Keith Jarrett spirit. "Bagatella", perhaps the most beautiful track of the album, has a lot of connotations with contemporary chamber music. Andy's soprano is again breath taking. Finally, the title and the closig track, "Copy & Insert", is another excursion into the land of hard-post-bop. 13 minutes of mainstream jazz delight!!! In its genre, excellent record!


MUSIC VOX ~ POLAND ~ Jazz, Recorded: 2009 Released: 2010

code numbers

This is a wonderful piano trio album by Polish Jazz pianist / composer Leszek Kulakowski with bassist Piotr Kulakowski and drummer Krzysztof Gradziuk (of RGG fame). The album presents thirteen original compositions, all by Kulakowski, some quite short, like outlines if a musical idea which is repeated four times, others lengthy and expanded with elaborate improvisations. The album was recorded at the Studio Tokarnia and was engineered and mastered by Jan Smoczynski, as usual with spectacular sonic results.

Kulakowski is a musician of many diverse preferences, moving between the pure Jazz idiom and Jazz-Classical Fusion, feeling comfortably in both situations. Although this album presents him in seemingly "pure" Jazziness, both his playing and his compositions always incorporate a certain element of contemporary Classical music, even if not stated openly. He is a master of melody, but also of atmosphere and suspense, which keeps the listener in a state of anticipation. Personally I find this ability quite remarkable as it emerges in Kulakowski´s work with such intensity for the first time since the works of Krzysztof Komeda, the Godfather of Polish Jazz, were created in the late 1960s. The music also champions the typical Polish lyricism and intrinsic melancholy, which although omnipresent in Polish Jazz, are rarely revealed with such exquisiteness and compassion, as in the music presented here.

The performances are all quite brilliant, with the piano often performing without accompaniment, and when the whole trio is present, the rhythm section often takes a deliberate step back, respectfully keeping the piano in the spotlight. Of course when the rhythm section does step in full swing, the musicians sound like one coherent unit. Gradziuk displays his usual virtuosic, yet reserved ability to keep time in a most inspired way and even is his solo tries not to outshine his colleagues. The bassist also performs wonderfully, providing those magnificent riffs that keep the anticipation in the air. The whole thing is simply brilliant.

This music should be heard by every piano trio connoisseur on this planet, as it is definitely has to offer many novel ideas and deeply moving music, which deserves to be discovered and shared. Not to be missed!

Adam Baruch


FOR TUNE 0043 (Barcode: 5902768701524) ~ POLAND ~ Jazz Recorded: 2014 Released: 2014


In the last few years preceding the release of this album celebrated Polish Jazz pianist / composer Leszek Kulakowski concentrated on producing large orchestral works, which had either no direct connection to Jazz while pushing the boundaries of contemporary Classical idiom or floated somewhere within the Jazz-Classical Fusion, combining the two genres. Therefore this album comes as most welcome return to his Jazz roots. Recorded in a sextet setting with German trumpeter Christoph Titz, saxophonist Tomasz Grzegorski, cellist Krzysztof Lenczowski, bassist Piotr Kulakowski and drummer Tomasz Sowinski, the album presents nine original compositions, all by Leszek Kulakowski.

Kulakowski was always first and foremost a superb song-weaver, which is very evident on this album from start to finish. The various melodies are the deepest root of this music, which then gets expanded into the modern mainstream language, floating gently and elegantly from one tune to another, caressed and pampered on its way by the musicians, who add their individual touches. There is plenty of freedom and breathing space within this music to inspire a relaxed, moderate approach by the players, which proves to be ideal in this context. Of course certain traces of Classical compositional tricks and arrangement devices can be picked up by the experienced listeners. The overall atmosphere of this recording is reminiscent of the Scandinavian sound, more so than to the usual Polish Jazz recordings. A certain ECM-ism can also be detected.

The individual contributions by its participants are another forte of this album; everybody´s playing sounds truly inspired here. Titz is a wonderful trumpeter, who somehow never really gets the credit for his work that he usually deserves. His performances on this albums rank among his best work done on record, and although his phrasing derives from other great European trumpet Masters, his deep lyricism and feel are uniquely his own.

The most surprising and at the same time impressive soloist on this album is the young cellist Krzysztof Lenczowski, whose name pops up on the local scene with a feverish frequency and in some most unexpected places, in addition to his regular work with the Atom String Quartet. Kulakowski relays on his solo parts in several of the compositions presented here, and his decision to engage Lenczowski in this project pays off splendidly.

Grzegorski and Kulakowski also play some excellent solos in the various tunes, which perhaps are less spectacular but no less expressive and supportive in the common effort invested to create this music. The rhythm section is extremely supportive throughout and plays with precision and sensitivity, exactly when and as needed.

In many respects this is probably the most "conventional" album released by the For Tune label so far and it´s good to see that the people running the label have no preconceptions overshadowing their judgment and recognize great music even if it is decently (but not to conservatively) dressed. It´s good to see Kulakowski playing and composing Jazz again, especially when the music is as good as what we can hear on this album. Chapeau bas indeed!

Adam Baruch


DUX 0387 (Barcode: 5902547003870) ~ POLAND ~ Jazz-Classical Fusion Recorded: 2011 Released: 2012


Polish pianist / composer Leszek Kulakowski is undoubtedly one of his country´s most idiosyncratic musical personalities, spearheading and representing the continuous love affair between Jazz and Classical music in his country. Considering the fact that most Polish Jazz musicians are graduates of musical academic institutions, some of them with Classical as well as Jazz studies behind them, it is hardly surprising that the amalgamation of these two genres happens quite often on the Polish scene. Some Polish Jazz musicians play their interpretations of Classical compositions, most often those by the Polish pianist / composer Frederic Chopin; others utilize Classical music methods, devices and techniques in their Jazz compositions; and yet others compose large scale compositions, often involving entire symphonic orchestras, like the music by Kulakowski included herein.

This album includes two separate works by Kulakowski, both involving piano and a symphony orchestra: his "Piano Concerto" and the "Sketches For Jazz Trio & Symphony Orchestra". The piano concerto is performed by his brother Bogdan Kulakowski as the soloist and the sketches are performed by a piano trio, this time with the composer in the piano chair, with bassist Piotr Kulakowski and drummer Jacek Pelc. Both works are performed with the Baltic Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in Gdansk conducted by Szymon Bywalec. The music was recorded live at the Baltic Philharmonic in Gdansk during the Komeda Jazz Festival.

Although this is by far not the first attempt of its kind to merge Jazz and Classical music, the music on this album is quite surprising, principally as far as the attempt to create a bona fide Classical composition, especially in the case of the piano concerto, rather than a more "entertaining" mixture of the genres, which could be much more accessible to the average listener. There have been very few attempts to compose a piano concerto, soaked with Jazz undertones and yet so typically Classical in approach and structure. The obvious example of George Gershwin´s "Piano Concerto in F" (and his other works) comes to mind immediately, not suggesting any direct links between these works, but as a point of reference. The composer seems certainly to be able to create a fully organic, although stylistically retrograde, piece of Classical music, which is moving and aesthetically fulfilling. The Jazz citations, chords and references will be of course more obvious to listeners with a Jazz background rather than to those with a strict Classical one, but both should be able to immensely enjoy the music.

The sketches are definitely more "entertaining", with easily recognizable melody lines and fine lyrical atmosphere, lush string accompaniment and nice orchestral "outbursts" always in the right places. This is an elegant and intelligent piece of music, and although less original than the piano concerto, it has its own merits, especially the wonderful balance and integration between the trio and the orchestra, which is usually the weakest link of this type of musical encounters.

The performances are quite excellent, both those by the soloists and by the orchestra. The live recording is somewhat mushy and lacking definition, but mostly well balanced, but that is a matter for fineschmeckers to deliberate upon; most listeners should be utterly satisfied with the sonic quality, on top of their admiration of the musical contents.

This album is an excellent testimony as to the versatility, quality and artistic ability of the Polish Jazz scene, which has truly very little competition elsewhere. Of course it is another superb addition to the musical legacy of Leszek Kulakowski, who is surely about to take all his admirers by surprise again sometime in the near future. Kudos Maestro!

Adam Baruch


MULTIKULTI MPJ 004 (Barcode: 5907529223642) ~ POLAND ~ Jazz Recorded: 2006 Released: 2011


This is an album by Polish Jazz pianist / composer Leszek Kulakowski, recorded in a quartet setting with celebrated American trumpeter Eddie Henderson, bassist Piotr Kulakowski and veteran drummer Jacek Pelc. The album comprises of ten original compositions, all by Kulakowski. The music was recorded in 2006 but released only in 2011.

The music is set well within the mainstream Jazz boundaries, with clear melodic themes and pretty straightforward improvisations, all very well performed by the quartet members, but hardly innovative or challenging. Kulakowski is a very skilled weaver of melodies, and his slow melancholic themes are usually more moving than the mid to up-tempo numbers.

All the players are of course very experienced performers and the overall level of personal output is excellent. Piotr Kulakowski plays some beautiful bass riffs and holds the quartet together and Pelc is always doing what is expected of him in every situation. Leszek Kulakowski is a charmer, as usual, and his delicate piano chords and solo parts are heartwarming. Henderson, after playing Funk and Jazz-Rock Fusion for many years, is back as a post Bop player, doing a splendid job both on trumpet and Flugelhorn. However, in comparison to many Polish Jazz trumpeters, who appeared on the scene in recent years, his performances quite honestly a bit pale as to what one might expect.

All in all this is a fine mainstream album, which many Jazz fans should be able to enjoy and one that is definitely worth discovering. Perhaps not the strongest statement by Kulakowski to date, but this is definitely a valuable component of his splendid legacy so far.


Leszek Kulakowski – “Witkacy Narkotyki”

This is an album by Polish pianist / composer Leszek Kulakowski, which presents a live recording of a spectacle, featuring music composed by Kulakowski and texts written by the Polish writer / poet / painter Witkacy (a.k.a. Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz). The participants comprise of Kulakowski, who plays electronic keyboards rather than piano, vocalist Jorgos Skolias, trumpeter Tomasz Dabrowski, guitarist Marcin Wadolowski, bassist Konrad Zolnierek, drummer Sebastian Frankiewicz and actor Jerzy Karnicki, who narrates the texts. The album presents seven tracks and is beautifully packaged with an informative booklet, which also includes all the texts, as well as Witkacy’s paintings.
Witkacy’s literary / philosophical / artistic heritage remains to be controversial and more often than not misinterpreted since the day it was conceived and published, and the state of affairs did not change much during the last century. Many of the subjects touched upon by Witkacy in his works, like sex, drugs and social relationships remain a taboo in Poland to this very day, despite the superficial openness and modernism. Therefore, his artistry is often treated as scandalous and sensational, rather than prophetic and educational.
This is not the first attempt to interpret Witkacy’s “aura” within the Polish Jazz setting of course. In the mid-1980s iconic Polish trumpeter / composer Tomasz Stanko made a groundbreaking recording inspired by Witkacy’s legacy, which also related to the subject of drugs, which of course was a household issue among many Jazz musicians, not only on the west side of the Iron Curtain. The trumpet duos between Stanko and Andrzej Przybielski are certainly some of the Polish Jazz highlights of that period.
Dabrowski’s parts on this album serve as a bridge between that momentous album and this new creation. But Kulakowski managed to create a completely new and original approach herein in every respect. The music is highly melodic, with clearly defined themes, the Funky, Fusion oriented rhythmic background makes the music sound contemporary and vigorous. The synthesizers suit this environment way better than acoustic piano, and Kulakowski certainly made the right choice here. Wadolowski’s guitar fits the scenario perfectly as well as the round and pulsating bass parts. But the greatest asset of this album are the vocal / vocalese parts by Skolias, who is as demonic and fascinating as only humanly possible.
Overall, this is an important, courageous attempt to interpret Witkacy and his legacy, highly original and moving, and beautifully performed, especially considering the fact that this is a live recording, which offers a superb sound quality. Kulakowski never ceases to re-invent himself, and despite the fact that I know him and his music for so many years, he still manages to surprise me time after time. Hats off, Maestro!

Adam Baruch

Leszek Kulakowski – “Witkacy Narkotyki”

As explained above, Leszek Kulakowski, one of most prominent jazz pianist, composers and leaders in Poland, has an entry with practically full discography till 2016 in my previous book, "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond" [2]. In the present book, devoted to avantagarde I report only selected albums of Leszek, like the excellent "Leszek Kulakowski Project: Komeda Variations", see the previous entry. Here, Leszek is back with a new project and a new super-group, recorded live at XXVII Komeda Jazz Festival in SLupsk, at Aureus Palace in October 2021. This new project is inspired by the famous bokk of Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, a.k.a. Witkacy, "Narkotyki". This is the second case in the history of Polish Jazz that the whole album is inspired by this amazing book, describing experiences of Witkacy with various drugs and narcotics. The previous case was the magnicent "Witkacy Peyotl/Freelectronic" of Tomasz Stanko, a true masterpiece of freelectronic, on which Witkacy's texts are read by the incredible, unfortunately late Marek Walczewski (see Tomasz Stanko's portrait). Here, a professional actor, Jerzy Karnicki reads the original Witkacy's prose, supported by vocal and phenomenal vocalese of Jorgos Skolios. The music belongs clearly to the genre of jazz, and has even some similarities with Stanko's freelectronic.
Witkacy to try the drugs, on one hand, and stimulate him to paint his surrealistic portraits "under influence" on the other (some of them reproduced on the cover of the record). For me this album is an outstanding achievement of Polish jazz!

Maciej Lewenstein

Leszek Kulakowski – “Komeda Variations”

This is an album by veteran Polish pianist / composer / arranger / bandleader Leszek Kulakowski. It presents a live concert recording of Kulakowski's arrangements of film music by the Godfather of Polish Jazz, Krzysztof Komeda, for a Symphony Orchestra. These arrangements were originally written by Kulakowski in 2001 and performed the same year by the Lodz Philharmonic with the participation of the brilliant Polish Jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko as a soloist. Almost twenty years later the concert was repeated and recorded, this time with slightly changed arrangements featuring a Jazz quartet with Kulakowski on piano, bassist Adam Kowalewski and drummer Tomasz Sowinski, and the sadly departed Stanko replaced by three trumpeters: Piotr Wojtasik, Tomasz Dabrowski and German Christoph Titz, playing with the Sinfonia Baltica Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Radoslaw Dron.

The genius film music by Komeda is of course a wonderful subject matter, and in Kulakowski's hands (or rather mind) it metamorphoses into its Classical form gracefully and "willingly", proving the greatness of both the composer and the arranger. The transformation sounds absolutely naturally and manages to bring to light many aspects of the original compositions, which often remain hidden in their Jazz interpretations. Although the arrangements may appear bold and "invasive" in some ways, they are absolutely justified and artistically coherent.

The performances are also absolutely brilliant from start to finish. The balance between the orchestra and the quartet is perfect all along the way and the focus on the trumpet soli is holding the internal tension and creates a superb continuity, which keeps the listener mesmerized. Having three trumpeters, each with his idiosyncratic approach, adds another layer of diversity to the entire project. Kulakowski spices the proceedings with his superb piano solos, full of delicate touches and melancholic twists.

It is a well-known fact that Komeda's music has been abused and mistreated many times by Polish Jazz musicians, thinking that by playing his music they would be automatically immune from criticism. It gives me a great joy to see (and hear) Komeda treated with respect and love, and mastery and imagination, which he truly deserves, like in this case.
Overall, this album is an instant classic, a must have by Polish Jazz fans and Komeda admirers all over the world and a sublime example of Polish / European Jazz ingenuity, which does hesitate to reach boldly beyond the obvious. Well done my Friend!
#AdamBaruch #RecordReviews #MusicCriticism #Jazz #PolishJazz

Leszek Kulakowski Project: Komeda Variations} For Tune 0148 093

- Leszek Kulakowski (p); arrangements
Piotr Wojtasik (t); Tomasz Dabrowski (t, flh); Christoph Titz (t, flh); Adam Kowalewski (b); Tomasz Sowinski (dr); Polish Philharmonic Orchestra Sinfonia Baltica; Radoslaw Dron (cond).} October 2019.
Leszek Kulakowski is one of the most prominent Polish jazz pianists and leaders. Quating his biography: "Leszek Kulakowski, an outstanding composer and jazz pianist, is deemed a "jazz visionary" by music critics. As a music theorist and full professor who lectures in composition, he heads the Department of Jazz at the Gdańsk Academy of Music, where he established the Jazz and Popular Music course. He is the founder and artistic director of two international events, the annual Komeda Jazz Festival, held for the twenty-second time in November 2016, and the biennial Krzysztof Komeda Composers’ Competition, the only competition of its kind in Poland" His music belong mostly to contemporary mainstream, but drifts often toward third stream or free jazz. His discorgraphy until 2016 is quite extensively described in the second edition of my bookcite {mabook2}.
The present album contains a live recording from the Concert Hall of the Polish Philharmonic Sinfonia Baltica at the XXV Komeda Jazz Festival in Slupsk. The super-quartet with 3 variable trumpet/flügelhorn players, supported by Sinfonia Baltica celebrated not only XXVth edition of the Festival, but made a tribute to the late Tomasz Stanko, one of the clos et Komeda disciples and collaborators.
The concert starts with three tracks with Piotr Wojtasik, as I call him a Polish Freddy Hubbard. The band plays "Cul-de-sac", "Repetition", and "Sleep Safe and Warm". Leszek is known for fantastic combinations of jazz with symphonic music, which can be already heard in the opening track. "Repetition" has also a great orchestral arrangements and wonderful trumpet sound. The lullaby from "Rosemary's Baby" of Roman Polanski is for me a little too sweet, but Wojtasik's lines are heart breaking.
The next three track include Tomasz Dabrowski. "Crazy Girl" has a particularly interesting orchestral arrangement, and a great solo by Tomek. "Cages" is notable for yet another breath-taking arrangement, while "Kattorna" for wonderful piano-trumpet dialogues. "Ballad from Knife in the Water" is led here by Christoph Titz on trumpet. Titz contributes also with "Roman Two", another track with absolutely stunning orchestra arrangement. The final "Exile from Paradise - Finale" belongs to
Tomek Dabrowski again, although the piano solo clearly reminds, who is the main genius and creator behind this project.”

Maciej Lewenstein

Leszek Kulakowski Maciej Sikala: Red Ice Soliton SL 662-2 Leszek Kulakowski (p, grand p, arr); Maciej Sikala (ts, ss). 2019

For me a true revelation, the best record of Leszek so far. Stanisław Danielewicz compares it to "Soul Brothers" by Ray Charles and Milt Jackson from 1958, no467 table for Ray Charles playing piano, electric piano, and... alto saxophone, Milt Jackson playing vibraphone, piano and... guitar, Billy Mitchell tenor saxophone Skeeter Best or Kenny Burrell guitar, Oscar Pettiford bass, and Connie Kay - drums. The second interesting comment of Stanisław is that this is the best ECM album of the recent years, despite being released by Soliton. My associations are more focused in duo records that I love, like the series of discs of Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron "Sempre Amore", "Communiqué" etc. Also, because of the impressionistic character this music evokes that of Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock on "1 + 1" from 1997. There are three aspects of this album that make is very special: First, it is the intellectual, the mentioned already impressionistic spirit of the music; Second is the amazing synergy and collaboration between the two masters; Third, is the high complexity and structure of compositions, which make quite easy impression, but are in fact very complicated. There are eleven songs, and all are beautiful. I dig the opening "Raindrops" played in soprano, "Bagatella" and "Red Ice" for their shear beauty, "Happy News" for their happiness, and the closing "Septyma" for especially deep Slavic sadness.

Maciej Lewenstein


Leszek Kułakowski Witkacy Narkotyki, OdNowa Jazz festiwal Toruń

Leszek Kułakowski Eurofonia, XXIX Komeda Jazz Festival,Słupsk, Filharmonia

Leszek Kułakowski Ensemble piccolo ,XXIX KJF,Słupsk, pałac Aureus

Leszek Kułakowski Trio- Sketches for jazz trio & symphony orchestra, Filharmonia Łódź

Leszek Kułakowski Trio-Komeda, Filharmonia, Koszalin

Leszek Kułakowski solo-Dworek Sierakowskich, Sopot

prawykonanie, Dialogues for an improvising piano & string orchestra, Filharmonia, Słupsk

Leszek Kułakowski Red Ice, Manu Summer Jazz Sundays, Manufaktura, Łódź

Leszek Kułakowski Love Songs, Sieradzkie Centum Kultury

Leszek Kułakowski Komeda Symfonicznie , Filharmonia w Kaliszu

Pod Filarami, Gorzów Wlk.

Leszek Kułakowski, Red Ice, Jazz Jantar Festival, klub Żak, Gdańsk

Leszek Kułakowski Red Ice, Szczecin

Leszek Kułakowski Red Ice,Milleunanota Jazz & Co Festival, Alba, Włochy

Leszek Kułakowski Red Ice, Komeda Jazz Festival, Słupsk



76-200 Słupsk,
ul. Jasminowa 38







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