|Quantum Trio (from left): Michał Jan Ciesielski, Kamil Zawiślak, Luis Mora Matus
Photo credit: Kasia Kukiełka
Quantum Trio from Poland and Chile won the Grand Prix in the Hitch On Jazz Juniors International Exchange 2017 in Kraków. With two well-received albums under their belt and a live album just released, the unconventional band whose music ranges from dynamic compositions through lyrical ballads to rock energy anthems release their third studio album soon. Mary James recently interviewed the band – Michał Jan Ciesielski, tenor/soprano saxophone; Kamil Zawiślak, grand piano; Luis Mora Matus, drums – about the nature of their improvisation and what they have been doing since their win.
London Jazz News: An obvious question, but why is the band called Quantum Trio?
Quantum Trio: We met in Rotterdam in 2011 at the Codarts Conservatorium, all studying in the jazz faculty. Michal had studied electronics in Gdansk and took a brief course in particle physics. We all got interested in the idea of quantum physics and its implications, where there is a lot of room for interpretation. The notion of uncertainty and the unknown is artistically very interesting for a musician.
We would play without a bass player and engage in a constant change of grooves, kicks, motifs – basically just reacting to each other. Before almost every Ensemble class the three of us would come a bit earlier and improvise together. We liked it a lot and decided to meet every couple of days for a session of improvised music, a sort of collective instant composition. We would record these sessions and then choose the best ideas and work with them as cues. Then finally we would bring precomposed bits to the rehearsals and see what would happen and where would it lead us with the same open approach. It has always been an exciting journey to create together. Somehow we could guess each other’s minds while improvising, but we never knew what the final outcome would be. We believe the name came out as a representation of our creative process. Improvisation in music, as in the apparent randomness in quantum mechanics, is a big mystery in the way that it works, and also that represents a big inspiration in our music.
LJN: Please tell us more about that process.
QT: We take chances and go to unknown places. At the time that we are improvising we also act as some sort of duality. On the one hand we are ourselves, the individual instrumentalist, and we are creating music on the spot, spontaneously to what we hear and feel. But, on the other hand, we are more than ourselves. We are a unit, some sort of separate entity from us, and that entity has its own idea of where it wants to go. We, the instrumentalists, don’t know where it’s going, and we shouldn’t dare to “turn on the light” to see where we are going, because it would affect the final result. We are an active/passive element of the whole, and we let the music tell us what it needs and where it wants to go.
LJN: I detected a change in your sound when I heard you recently.
QT: We have all grown as musicians but also as people and friends. Recently we released a video of a session that we did in April 2018 in Warsaw where we played the material from our first and second albums. We had not listened to it until November and we were surprised ourselves. So we have decided to release it as a live album. The songs have changed, matured in a way that it was a new piece of music, the music had crystalized in a surprising way. It marks something in the history of the band.
LJN: So what’s happened over the last year?
QT: Well we have recorded our third studio album and we have also matured. All of us have had many changes in our personal lives. We are not looking for an aggressive sound all the time; if the music needs silence, we give it silence. Our attitude to music is more humble, you give the music what it needs, not what you want to show. We have been performing a bit less this year, we needed time to think and not go into dangerous mode of automatic pilot that many bands play in. We didn’t want that. What makes us special as a band is the interpretation of the moment. We needed a different way of hearing the music so that’s why we sound different now. When we write a composition, there is always a limitation to that song, it serves a purpose emotionally but when you are more mature you take the limitation and you want to serve it better with the tools you have. We would never like this band to fly off the handle. We want to convey emotions by refining them so they are received better and better.
LJN: Your talk of refinement makes it sound like a scientific process.
QT: Well let’s call it emotional science. We deal with emotions through music. We are doing a scientific search in a way – we look for uncertainty. We feel comfortable with uncertainty. Music allows you to say what you cannot say in words.
LJN: What have you been doing since you won Hitch On?
QT: Besides the regular shows, we have been preparing for the new album Red Fog mostly. We did a gig in Warsaw in April that we just released as a video and a new live album. We took time, we all have other projects. But as a band, Quantum Trio is a representation of our inner selves. There is a connection of every element of what each of us does, whether pop, jazz or other things, it’s all music. All our different experiences come together when we play as Quantum Trio, that’s why it’s a band and not “just” a project.
LJN: Tell us about your new album Red Fog.
QT: We have had a restricted time to prepare for this album. For our first two albums we had no deadlines so the material developed organically. Originally, we had planned to record it in autumn 2018 but the label asked us to do it earlier, in July 2018. So we were forced to compose in a more instinctive way. The title song Red Fog was composed only one week before the recording session. In the last moment we had a lot of unconscious things in our heads and it all poured out.
Afterwards we were producing and mixing it ourselves, and we have created the atmosphere which was also a discovery for us. What we have learned from producing this album was where our music can go in the future. Red Fog will be released in March 2019 on Italian label, Emme Record Label. We are already planning our next albums, both studio and live. We also hope to come to London this year!
LINK: Quantum Trio’s website
Mary James, who lives in Gloucestershire, is a jazz promoter working with John Law and others. Twitter @maryleamington