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The Warsaw Voice » Other » January 9, 2008
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Sax Appeal
January 9, 2008   
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Saxophone player and composer Adam Pierończyk, considered by many the young hope of Polish jazz, is starting his European concert tour. He spoke with Magdalena Kuszewska.

In the summer you played for the first time at the North Sea Jazz Festival, the world's biggest jazz event. What were your impressions?

On stage I felt the same as during any other performance. With my band I played one of the festival's first concerts for over 700 people, or maybe even more. Nevertheless, just being at the event is an amazing experience. The North Sea Jazz Festival attracts 70,000 people from all over the world. On the one hand it is fascinating, on the other it is overwhelming.


During the festival performances happen on 17 stages simultaneously. Thus it is difficult to concentrate on just one concert or one artist. Everyone has a hard time in deciding who they want to listen to. It often happens that three or four very interesting bands play at the same time. I would compare the festival to a huge music trade fair. Among the good names in music are always some commercial ones, such as Snoop Dogg or India Arie in 2007.

I myself had a problem choosing a favorite band to listen to. This festival has given me enormous motivation. The fact that I performed at the festival was for me a huge personal achievement. I am, however, aware that due to the scale of the festival the audience does not appreciate the music to the same degree as at smaller festivals. But that is the formula. We can say that we listened to many but in reality it was hardly anyone.

You do not take part in jazz jam sessions. Why is that?

Usually people play classic jazz at jam sessions. My answer is simple: I just do not play and have not played such music for some time. There are people who play classic jazz every day and thus play it better than me. I concentrate on performing mainly my own compositions. Moreover, in the 1940s and '50s not many jazz musicians composed their own music since classic jazz was very popular at the time. Today it is a bit outdated, and it is possible to vary the music you play by composing tunes yourself.

"Excellent instrumentalist," "new direction in jazz," "the hope of Eastern European jazz"-you seem to be the critics' darling. How do you react to such accolades?

On the one hand, of course, they motivate me and acknowledge my years of effort and work. On the other, I try to distance myself from both positive and negative reviews. I try to react very casually. I am sure they are kind, but in fact I don't dwell on them.

How much time do you spend on your music? How long do you practice?

If time allows, about two hours a day. I compose at night. With everyone asleep there is a wonderful silence. The best ideas come at this time.

The phone stops ringing for instance...

Exactly. However, I have a couple of friends who also work at night and sometimes they call. When most people get up at 7 a.m., yawn and go off to work, I can go to bed.

You play more concerts in Europe than in Poland. Does the audience differ from country to country?

I personally do not see huge differences. You often hear that German or French audiences are somewhat cold but I do not get that impression. I will give you an example. Some foreign critics or listeners reckon that I have a Slavic soul, while some in Poland say that I do not play in a Polish way. These are stereotypes. However I know one thing: every performance and every trip abroad enriches me. Contact with different cultures develops you. You need only to be open and not closed within yourself.

You studied at a prestigious school in Germany.

Yes, in Folkwanghochschule in Essen. Earlier I had private saxophone lessons with Peter Decker. It was actually in his house that I saw for the first time two huge posters for The North Sea Jazz Festival. I was convinced that he had played at the festival with his band. When I asked him about it, he laughed and said that he was there but just in the audience. Since Peter died a few years ago, I dedicated my North Sea Jazz Festival concert to him.

You returned to Poland a couple of years ago. Is it difficult to be a jazz musician here?

I think that it is not as difficult as some people make out. Many musicians manage to make a living here just from playing jazz. They even do not need to give music lessons as musicians often do in Germany or Austria to supplement their earnings. We also have a wonderful and above all young audience here. This is pleasing.

How do you rate the music market?

European musicians most often meet each other in New York, which acts as a musical mecca and attracts people from all corners of the world. It is just a shame that, after returning from the U.S., European musicians rarely work together. The majority of them continue to set their sights on the U.S. In Poland people also listen in the main to American music.

What are your musical ambitions?

To develop for as long as possible and as strongly as possible. I feel like a student all the time and I hope that I continue to feel this way for a long time. I want and like to work at my music.

Will you ever teach?

Perhaps this might happen but I admit that I prefer to fulfill my potential as a musician.

International Career

Adam Pierończyk was born on Jan. 24, 1970, in Elbląg. He lives in Cracow. He has worked with artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Archie Shepp, Gary Thomas, Ed Schuller, Tomasz Stańko and Leszek Możdżer. He has performed in clubs and at festivals in Poland, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Morocco, Israel and the United States. His best known albums include Few Minutes in the Space, Around Sao Paulo by Bus and Live in Berlin by the Adam Pierończyk Trio; Live in Sofia with Leszek Możdżer and Digivooco.

Concert Dates
The Cox-Pierończyk-Mears-Dziedzic quartet brings together internationally acclaimed jazz musicians. The four, hailing from three continents, start their European concert tour Jan. 14. They will perform a specially prepared new program.

Jan. 14 Sucha Beskidzka, Cofeina Club
Jan 15 Łódź, Jazzga
Jan. 16 Toruń, Od Nowa
Jan. 17 Gdańsk, Baltic Philharmonic
Jan. 19 Berlin, A-Trane
Jan. 20 Berlin, A-Trane
Jan. 21 Leipzig, Polish Culture Institute
Jan. 22 Munich, Unterfahrt
Jan. 23 Nuremberg, Krakauer Haus
Jan. 24 Passau, Cafe Museum
Jan. 25 Linz, Count Davis
Jan. 26 Budapest, Take Five Jazz Club
Jan. 27 Tarnów, Mościckie Culture Center
Jan. 28 Cracow, Piecart
Jan. 29 Warsaw, Tygmont
Jan. 30 Warsaw, Tygmont
The concert tour is sponsored by the U.S. embassy and the Australian embassy.
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