“I am a jazz player, which means that I am constantly developing.” Polish-born, London-based, award-winning jazz saxophone player KRZYSZTOF URBAŃSKI will perform at Jazz Café POSK with his band Urban Jazz Society on Saturday 12th of November. The saxophonist talks about his career and explains the background to this gig to Tomasz Furmanek:
Tomasz Furmanek: The Thelonious Monk Institute in Chicago is recommending you all over the world. What’s the story?
Krzysztof Urbański: Oh Man, that was a long time ago, in 2012. I was selected from hundreds of musicians to go to Los Angeles for a live audition. We had a chance to perform for Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath, Wayne Shorter and Kenny Burrell. It was an amazing time for me to play for my musical heroes and to talk to them. Talking to Herbie Hancock about my sound, harmony and all that jazz stuff was a very helpful and uplifting experience. The Institute was impressed with my playing and started to recommend me. That’s the story. I am glad I met those gentlemen.
TF: You won awards at the Hoeilaart International Jazz Competition in Belgium, Taichung International Saxophone Competition in Taiwan and Idol I.S.C. in US. What has taking part in these competitions and winning them meant to you?
KU: I have always wanted to perform and share my passion for music – simply to be busy playing and growing as an artist. Competitions seemed to be a perfect platform for doing that. Every single competition has brought a new experience and a new perspective to me. You have a chance to meet people from all over the world who are sharing the same interest in music. Generally speaking, music is a force which brings people together and competitions are a sort of platform for that.
TF: Where are you originally from and when did you move to The UK?
KU: I was born in Poland. I lived there for about 27 years and after my graduation from the Music Academy in Wrocław I decided to move to the most multicultural place in Europe, to London. It was just for a musical reason. I have always wanted to be part of a widely influenced, diverse music scene. London attracted me with its great jazz community as well as with its very highly structured educational system. I am a jazz player, which means that I am constantly developing. I am a student of that form of art called jazz. But I am also an educator and there is nothing better than working with my students and passing on my knowledge and experience.
TF: When was The Urban Jazz Society formed and who is with you in the band? What have you set for this band as a musical goal?
KU: I have been working with some of the most innovative musicians in the UK: the drummer Sam Gardner, pianist John Turville, guitar player David Preston and bassist Will Harris. I formed that band about 5 years ago. It all happened in a natural way, by a communication between those musicians and I found myself in a very comfortable position when I could express myself through my original music. The fact that all these Cats have got their own original sound based on the jazz tradition gives us a solid platform to communicate, using a wide spectrum of influences. My goal is to create a fresh and honest sound of our generation, to keep jazz cool and at the same time push jazz forward. Because everything is always changing, my goal is to keep jazz as an art form that is constantly alive. As a result, jazz is in a continuous state of innovation and development. I want to grow as an instrumentalist and also as an improviser, but the main goal for me is to create my own voice as a composer.
TF: Your last album called “History of Tomorrow” brought us a new take on jazz sounds and on contemporary swing. Please tell us more about the music on that album.
KU: I am glad you captured that. I wanted to create a sound to attract our generation to attract maybe a bit younger part of the jazz community. Jazz used to be cool and hip. Jazz artists used to play the music that reflected the times they were living in. They were more focused on feelings and emotions, whereas today’s music, especially jazz, is too academic. With my previous album I wanted to break the common rules and create music for the listener, not only to attract my fellow musicians.
TF: You recently received the scholarship from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland for creating your next album. What musical direction will your new record take?
KU: I can’t describe our music, simply because it is a reflection on our thoughts in the moment of creation. I have written new material for an upcoming album. It is a mixture of my experience as an artist, a traveller and a human being. If you can imagine the sound of a modern jazz Quartet/Quintet then that’s where you will find us. Talking about music using a verbal way of communication is always tricky for me.
TF: The Urban Jazz Society gig at Jazz Café POSK….what will you present to the audience on that evening?
KU: We are going to play new music from our upcoming album, as well as some older stuff I wrote for different collaborations. Sound, improvisation, melody, creativity, fun, chemistry between all of us, expression and energy – that is what you can expect coming to our gig. Music is sound and it reflects the time we are living in. Imagine the sound of today and it will match the sound of my band.
Tomasz Furmanek is a music journalist and jazz promoter, and is involved in the promotion of CAFE POSK.