Photo Credit: Dave King. All Rights Reserved
Agata Kubiak is a Polish composer / violinist / singer whose début album Polarity is to be launched on the 10th of May at Jazz Cafe POSK. Agata has had some successes in Poland, with multiple groups and projects. She has appeared on Polish TV and toured through the country, she is now living in the London. Rob Edgar interviewed her.
Rob Edgar: Tell me about the album
Agata Kubiak: Throughout my life, I’ve tried to focus on one thing at a time: my classical violin playing, my string quartet, and the jazz influences that I have. This is the first time that I realised I don’t have to make my mind up about one thing or another, because it is never very satisfying for me as a musician. I connected two projects together and the album and the gig on the 10th of May will be a launch of a whole new project and band, and a new way of thinking.
RE: What’s your story as a musician?
AK: I have studied classical violin throughout my life (since I was six), I went through the whole conservatory route back in Poland. Besides that, I got into improvisation early on, I actually played in some punk bands in Poland when I was about fifteen.
RE: Playing violin?
AK: Yes. These guys didn’t have any musical education so I had to make up my own parts. Around the same time, I got hugely into sung poetry which is quite big in Poland, I was going to some festivals – writing my own songs and exploring the singing side as well as violin from the classical side. I’ve always been quite divided.
RE: When did you start singing?
AK: Around the age of thirteen or fourteen. My début was in one of the sung poetry festivals in my home town when I was fourteen. I was too young to compete so they gave me an award for a début. I quickly realised that what I get from singing, I can never get from violin playing. It felt much more personal, I couldn’t separate myself from it, and it had that overwhelming ‘exposed’ feeling that’s quite difficult to get on an instrument. I think after years and years of playing it’s more possible but it’s still not the same: I never think “oh I can just do violin instead of singing”.
RE: There are to be a couple of new pieces on the night?
AK: I’m listening a lot to Krzysztof Komeda (a Polish pianist who played with Stańko). I’m really fascinated with the idea of free sections within tunes so I want to explore that and I’ve been working on some arrangements of Polish folk tunes too, one of which we’ll play.
RE: What about the musicians that you’re playing with?
AK: It’s been a journey so far I can tell you! Polarity was recorded with Sam Greenland on drums, Ralph Brown on piano, Jon Mapp on bass, and several string players. Now, we have JJ Wheeler on drums: he wrote his own charts to tunes before I got the chance to send him any! Unfortunately Ralph is now on a South American cruise, so we have Sam James who I’ve been working with for about half a year now; he’s got a great understanding of what we’re trying to get, and we have my Konvalia String Quartet joining us.
RE: They are an Hungarian quartet?
AK:Yes. They’ve been in London for just over a year now and we’ve been playing together since June. What’s really great about them is that they’re open to new sounds and music. We agree that it’s important to play new compositions and not to lock yourself in one genre of music. They’re really interested in improvisation, and they’re looking to explore it further so I don’t think this is going to be the end of me using a string quartet in my jazz projects; I’m actually planning to do a record just with strings.
RE: You’re doing a bit more work with drummer JJ Wheeler right?
AK: Yes, his project Come Back Stronger will be on at the Forge and he’s invited my band to join him as a joint act. One half will be his project and the other half will be my band. It’s on the 25th of May
Rob Edgar: What can we expect to hear on the 10th of May?
Agata Kubiak: There will be a mixture of some original compositions and arrangements; each song represent a different period of my life. Obviously the originals are quite recent but there will be an Ewa Demarczyk tune – Tomaszów – I’m hugely inspired by her.
We will also have a special guest at the concert: Tom Millar from Way Out West is writing an arrangement of one of his tunes for my band with strings, he will be joining us for that.