Sep 13, 2022
Tomasz Stańko – one of Europe’s most original and beloved jazz musicians – was born on July 11, 1942, in Rzeszów, Poland, and he passed away in Warsaw on July 29, 2018. In many ways, his life traced the course of modern jazz in Europe, beginning with his tenure – when barely into his twenties – in the band of the great Polish composer-pianist Krzysztof Komeda, through his association as a leader with the iconic German art-house label ECM Records that would produce a dozen masterful albums up to his final release, December Avenue, in 2017.. To mark what would have been his 80th birthday year, an all-star memorial concert – “Remembering Tomasz Stańko” – will be held at Brooklyn’s Roulette at 8:00pm on September 18, 2022, with tickets free of charge. The event will include musicians who worked closest with Stańko in his last, highly productive decades and others who collaborated with him on special latter-day projects.
“Remembering Tomasz Stańko” will include two illustrious soloists on trumpet: Wadada Leo Smith and Ambrose Akinmusire. The night’s revolving cast of musicians will be anchored by the rhythm sections from both Stańko’s New York and Polish quartets: pianist David Virelles, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gerald Cleaver, from the former; and, from the latter, pianist Marcin Wasilewski, bassist Sławomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michał Miśkiewicz. Stańko discovered the Poles when they were just teenagers; in addition to working as an established trio, they now play with saxophonist Joe Lovano – who will also join them for this event. Guitarist Jakob Bro, who played on Stańko’s Dark Eyes album, will be on hand, as will saxophonist Chris Potter and pianist Craig Taborn – who were part of a special band that Stańko put together for a concert at New York’s Jazz Standard in 2011. Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bassist Dezron Douglas will also perform; they, along with Virelles, featured in a quintet that recorded POLIN, a suite that Stańko composed for an exhibition at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
I spoke with Dezron Douglas about his time with Stańko, the man he calls “my Polish O.G.” Dezron has a strong sense of the history of jazz, and his love and respect for Tomasz was clear in our conversation. Douglas knows the masters of this music well – he was tutored as a teenager in Hartford, Connecticut by his great-uncle Walter Bolden, as well as saxophone legend Jackie McLean. Since then, he has become one of the foremost bass players in the business, leading his own group and playing with acts as diverse as Pharoah Sanders, Ravi Coltrane, Mulgrew Miller, Enrico Rava and more, including his current spot with jam band master Trey Anastasio.
Podcast 934 is my talk with Dezron, as he remembers his time with Tomasz Stańko, and shares insight into how he moves effortlessly between genres of music. Musical selections include the title track from POLIN.