Active since the early 1980s, Aleksander Kolkowski has quite a diversified track record, especially for a violinist. His is not a well-known name, yet he has a tendency to pop up where you least expect him. Classically trained, he started in contemporary classical ensembles, did rock sessions for a living, some jazz too, and finally turned to free improvisation and experimental music. At the turn of the millennium he was best known for his use of a Stroh violin, an instrument invented in 1899 consisting of a violin equipped with a large aluminum horn replacing the usual wooden sound box (to direct its sound, thus facilitating gramophone recording). His first solo album came out in 2000. The course of his career and his fondness for strange instruments and an awkward sense of humor put him in the same category of maverick improvisers as Jon Rose.
Kolkowski was born in London, 1959. He began to play the violin at a young age and attended the Royal Academy of Music, studying with Clarence Myerscough. He later took courses in mediaeval music and electronic music (with Hugh Davis). In his early twenties he was performing in small and large contemporary ensembles. Even after his conversion to free improv, he remained a reputed new music interpreter, leading to work with composers like John Cage, Christian Wolff, and Klaus Lang. To pay the bills, he also performed on rock albums, namely by new wave singer Henry Badowsky and punk rockers the Damned. In 1983 he founded the Ubiquity Orchestra, a group in which he experimented with improvisation, leading to collaborations with many improvisers from the London scene and beyond. The next decade saw him performing and/or recording with Evan Parker, Tony Oxley, Phil Minton, Tristan Honsinger, and Sainkho Namtchylak.
In 1995, Kolkowski moved to Berlin, looking for new faces. He quickly formed SPOK with Rudi Mahall, Axel Dörner, and Matthias Bauer and was drafted for Lawrence "Butch" Morris' Berlin Skyscraper tour. The following year he put together the Media Luz Ensemble to perform his "horticultural drama" "My Garden Makes Me Glad." With Bauer and Jon Rose he formed the Kryonics, a free improv trio performing without amplification on modified instruments, including the Stroh violin. In 2000, the label ASC released his first solo CD, Portrait in Shellac, featuring the Stroh. Afterwards, Kolkowski joined Aki Takase's Dempa trio.