Violinist, singer, composer Agata Kubiak was born in Mława in Northern Poland and grew up in Grudziadz. After graduating from the Stanisław Moniuszko Conservatoire there, she moved to the UK in 2007, and has been a lively creative and instigating force on the London scene ever since. She completed a doctorate on ‘Creativity in new music for strings“ in 2019 .
Her debut album Polarity was released in 2014 (link to interview below). The launch gig was at Jazz Cafe POSK. For what she is calling a ‘project launch’ for the material from her forthcoming second album The Other, her quintet will be returning to POSK on 8 July. She talks about jazz, metal bands, and her love/hate relationship with the foghorns of the Solent. Interview by Sebastian .
LondonJazz News: There are a lot of sides to your musical personality…
Agata Kubiak: I guess I would say I am a violinist first (simply because I’ve been doing it the longest), a singer second and a composer + academic researcher somewhere in-between. There are three main ‘genres’ of music I just can’t stay away from: jazz, contemporary classical and metal. All of these types of music have accompanied me throughout my life and I’m sure they all influence how I write and play.
Apart from my original music, there is also the Standards Quartet with which I run the Harrow Jazz Night, plus the premiere of a contemporary classical piece that the wonderful Nick Williams kindly wrote for me – and also collaborations with a few metal bands from the London scene…
LJN: Of these many sides, which would you say comes to the fore the most on the new album?
AK: I was really determined for the energy levels to be higher with my second album. I do like my debut record but I always felt that it lacked something. The material I wrote for the new one features higher prevalence of rhythmic energy, riff-based structures and sonic exploration, while maintaining the strong connection with Polish jazz tradition, ECM-inspired sound worlds and intimate, poetic approach to lyrics both in Polish and English.
LJN: You spent some of the lockdowns in Southampton, how did that happen?
AK: Having lived in London for 10+ years, we suddenly had to relocate to Southampton because of my husband’s work in the beginning of 2020. Before we got our heads around this new situation, Covid started. It was a strange time for me. Despite not having touched my violin for the first 6 weeks of lockdowns, it turned into quite a creative self discovery journey, which resulted in me writing the Intro and Outro for the album (Inside-Outside I and II) as well as the string accompanied version of Smile .
LJN: There is something on the album which sounds like a foghorn, what’s that about?
AK: We lived very near the industrial port in Southampton, which made me develop a bit of a love/hate relationship with the periodic ‘orchestra of foghorns’ that accompanied our lockdowns. It became this lucid proof that the outside world still existed but it also drove me a bit mad. In an attempt to creatively deal with it I wrote “Inside-Outside”, where the cluster chords made of 11 string parts represent the foghorn sounds that we couldn’t get away from during lockdowns.
LJN: What’s gone into the string writing for the new music?
AK: Most of the tracks are heavily violin-led. There are some explorations of Polish folk tonalities as well as some almost modal tendencies combined with pentatonic and chromatic sounds. When it comes to Inside-Outside and Smile, I was keen to explore close voicing and quite radical re-harmonisation in the strings only accompaniment. There are so many melodic and sonic possibilities in jazz violin performance, it often feels like a playground to me. I am excited to have the chance to explore a great variety of it with those new compositions.
LJN: You have the launch of the material of ‘The Other’ coming up at The Polish Jazz Cafe POSK? What will you be playing?
AK: We are really excited to be back at POSK, eight years after my debut album release! I was so pleased to hear that the club had re-opened in January. We feel lucky to be invited back to POSK as the level of music featured on their stage is always very high and exciting (since January this is due to hard work of Tomasz Furmanek!). On 8 July we will play all original material from our upcoming album ‘The Other’ as well as a few tunes from my debut record ‘Polarity’.
LJN: Who’s in the band and why do you like to work with these people?
AK: In the new Quintet we’ve got: Ralph Brown on piano, Tom Kenworthy on guitar, Charlie Pyne on bass, Dave Storey on drums and myself on violin and voice. I feel extremely privileged to be working with these people. I’ve been working with Ralph for 12 years now (he’s also featured on my debut album), Tom and I have been playing together for 9 years, and Charlie and I for five. They are all not only amazing instrumentalists, they are also all composers. I am a big fan of their individual voices and I feel that we work really well together. (for the POSK gig only, we’ve got Aram Bahmaie on bass, who also features in Ralph Brown’s Quartet)
LJN: When is the album going to come out?
AK: We expect the new album (‘The Other’) to be out in early spring 2023. In the meantime we have a few teasers, videos (including ‘the making of the album’) scheduled to release, so do follow us on social media if you would like to stay in touch. (On a side note…I am currently 6 months pregnant so a few gig-free months between the project launch and album release will be needed!)
LINKS: Artist website
Agata Kubiak will present The Other at Cafe Posk on 8 July 2022 – BOOKINGS