Bronislaw Suchanek

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While a last name like Stanko might be inviting trouble from those nasty jazz critics, Suchanek might be interpreted much more positively. In the case of someone hauling the enormous double bass around…
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While a last name like Stanko might be inviting trouble from those nasty jazz critics, Suchanek might be interpreted much more positively. In the case of someone hauling the enormous double bass around Europe, Eastern Europe no less, it might be taken as a compliment to the instrument itself, which no doubt needs a little sweet talk after all the hard knocks it gets, especially on its tender neck. In the case of the Polish jazz scene, names such as Tomasz Stanko, Bronislaw Suchanek, and Zbigniew Siefert are run of the mill, devoid of double meaning. But that's alright, the main talent required was simply the ability to play a rhythm instrument, not a gimmicky moniker. In the '50s and '60s, there were still relatively few jazz musicians in Poland, and especially a dearth of players on either percussion and contrabass. Creating a rhythm section, the basis of existence for any jazz formation, seemed as far off as an above-ground Solidarity movement. As a result, decent rhythm section players were the trophy in inter-band battles that rivaled the territory disputes of the old Turkish pashas. During jazz festivals, a good bassist often performed in more than one band. By the '70s, the top of the heap were these players: Roman Dylag, Janusz Kozlowski, Pawel Jarzebski, Bronislaw Suchanek, and Jacek Bednarek.

Suchanek studied double bass at the Katmoice Higher School of Music beginning in 1967, finally concluding his studies in the early '70s. By this time, his startling bass playing had already become a fixture the Silesian Jazz Quartet. He also began collaborating with pianist Mieczyslaw Kosz in 1971. A relationship with the modern jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko is what brought this bassist notoriety on the European scene, as he was one of the country's first improvisers to break through to recognition in a big way. Suchanek was a big part of several important Stanko albums. Stanko also provides a link with the country's most well-known and perhaps best-respected modern jazz artist, Krzysztof Komeda, who although not a virtuoso pianist was still considered the most outstanding Polish artist in this genre of music. The bandmembers of Krzysztof Komeda's Kwintet would be the Suchanek's instrumental partners in the later dynamic Stanko bands. For example, this is where saxophonist and violinist Seifert comes into the picture, as well as saxophonist Janusz Muniak. The music included contents that, were they to be printed accompanied with appropriate measurement instructions, might serve as a recipe for cooking up the Polish jazz of that period. There were traces of the standard tunes that had been at the heart of all jazz since it came up the river, but also Polish themes, not only folk but the inspirations of Witkacy's avant-garde theater.

The album Music for K was considered a groundbreaking release from the Stanko quintet, to some listeners an important recording in the history of European jazz. It is dedicated to Komeda, who died tragically in 1969. This was around the time that Suchanek began a period of work with the Orchestra of the Polish Radio Jazz Studio, an organization that benefited greatly from the music's increased acceptance in a new, more tolerant political system; jazz was literally coming up from out of the cellars, Suchanek carefully trying not to whack his neck on the bricks on the way out. In the mid-'70s, he did what quite a few artists from eastern Europe had been doing all along: leave. His destination was Scandanavia, where he became part of the jazz scene, by 1976 recording with the tenor saxophonist Urban Hansson as well as Swedish-radio jazz groups under the direction of the iconoclastic George Russell. In the early '80s, Suchanek showed up in projects based out of Austria, including the 1983 G.A.P. band, and also played with the fantastic Oriental Wind group, led by the firecracker Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz. Allegiances were strong with Polish compatriots, and in that year and 1985 he toured with Leszek Zadio's Polish Jazz Ensemble. In the early '90s, he had situated himself as an instructor at the Maine School of Music, and his musical odyssey continues.