Jan "Ptaszyn" Wroblewski [YAHN PTOSH-shin vroo-BLEFF-ski] - a leader of the Polish jazz scene, originator of numerous unconventional projects, and animator and promoter of jazz in Poland for half a century - can surely be regarded as the godfather of Polish jazz.
Born in 1936 in Kalisz, Poland, he's from the generation that, in the Stalinist era, discovered jazz on clandestine radios when it was considered degenerate, immoral, and subversive. The first professional jazz bands - Music Lovers of Jerzy "Dudus" Matuszkiewicz, the Krzysztof Komeda Sextet, the Jazz Believers of Jan "Ptaszyn" Wroblewski, and the New Orleans Stompers could only have developed in Poland as a result of the post-Stalinist thaw.
Wroblewski debuted at the first Sopot Jazz Festival in 1956 with Krzysztof Komeda's Sextet. "Ptaszyn" participated in their recording of the score for Roman Polanski's famous student film, Two Men and a Wardrobe. He also wrote his early works for the group.
Wroblewski was quickly spotted by George Wein, founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, to represent Poland in the International Youth Band conducted by Marshall Brown at the 1958 Festival. He was the first musician from behind the Iron Curtain to perform in the group. The Band's performance with a guest appearance by Louis Armstrong was memorialized in the American cult classic documentary "Jazz on a Summer's Day" and partially recorded for Columbia (CL-1246). As a result, "Ptaszyn" toured the US (Boston, New York, Los Angeles), Holland, and Belgium, where he gave several concerts at the American Theatre at Expo'58 in Brussels, along with Sarah Vaughan, Teddy Wilson, and Sidney Bechet, among others. After coming back to Poland, he became the leader of the Jazz Believers band (1958-59; other members included Komeda and Kurylewicz), and incorporated jazz motifs heard in America into their compositions. During the same year, Wroblewski recorded his first album for the Polish Recording Company and debuted at Warsaw's famous Jazz Jamboree Festival. In 1960, he formed the Jazz Outsiders quintet. In the late 1950's and early 60's, "Ptaszyn" toured extensively with his groups in Europe, Africa and Asia.
His close collaboration since 1959 with Willis Conover, the jazz promoter at Radio Music USA, resulted in his creation of Forty-Five Minutes of Jazz, "Ptaszyn's" weekly broadcast at the Polish Radio that has been on the air since 1970.
Wroblewski's last collaboration with Krzysztof Komeda before the latter's death is also worth emphasizing: their successful performances in Stockholm's Gyllene Cirkeln and Copenhagen's Montmartre resulted in their recording an album for Metronom titled "Ballet etudes/the music of Komeda" (MLP 15132).
In 1962 Wroblewski joined the top Polish band at that time - the Andrzej Kurylewicz Quintet. The quintet toured East Germany and Yugoslavia, recorded regularly for radio, and presented its own radio shows. Director Janusz Majewski made the film "Opus Jazz" about their work. In 1963, the Kurylewicz Quintet was invited to the Juan les Pins Festival in France but its leader was not given a passport. The rest of the group, which since then existed as the Polish Jazz Quartet, left for France: Wroblewski - tenor sax, Wojciech Karolak - piano, Andrzej Dabrowski - drums, and Roman "Gucio" Dylag - double-bass. Following the Juan les Pins Festival, the group gave concerts at the Blue Note in Paris and toured West Germany for several months. The formation came back to Poland in 1964 at their best, and in the same year released the noteworthy album in the Polish Jazz Series (Polish Jazz Quartet), and had another success at the Bled Festival in Yugoslavia.
In 1967 Wroblewski became director of the M-2 Studio Group. Their performance under the name Jazz Studio during the 1968 Warsaw Jazz Jamboree was such a great success that Polish Public Radio gave up the M-2 Studio name, transforming it into the Polish Radio Jazz Studio. The Studio was a unique blend: part venue for free expression by virtuosos and soloists and part workshop for musicians and composers. The Studio existed for almost 10 years (from October 1968 to January 1978) and featured all the prominent Polish jazz performers, including Tomasz Stanko, Zbigniew Namyslowski, Michal Urbaniak, Andrzej Trzaskowski, Wlodzimierz Nahorny, Adam Makowicz, Janusz Muniak, Tomasz Szukalski, Wojciech Karolak, and many others. The Studio recorded for Polish Radio, produced almost 20 TV programs, released two records, performed at festivals in Kongsberg (Norway), Ahus (Sweden), Pori (Finland), Nuremberg (Germany), Szekesfehervar (Hungary), and at all Warsaw's Jazz Jamboree Festivals at that time. The Studio also gave concerts at the Montmartre (Copenhagen), Fashing (Stockholm), and Club 7 (Oslo).
From the 1960s to 1980s, "Ptaszyn" collaborated with the Flemish Radio in Brussels (BRT Orchestra conducted by Etienne Verschueren) as arranger and composer. He was invited for the recordings - for which he performed as a soloist together with Benny Bailey and Nathan Davis - and, finally, as the conductor of his own scores.
Wroblewski's Grand Standard Orchestra, existing only in a studio format, was created in order to allow all top Polish jazz musicians to record their works with a string orchestra, rhythm section, and other additional instruments. It produced a series of radio recordings and 3 LP records in the 1970s.
Wroblewski also specializes in writing Third Stream symphonic compositions. In 1975, the National Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Witold Rowicki) premiered his composition "The Warsaw Variant" written for string orchestra and jazz quartet (Tomasz Stanko, Zbigniew Namyslowski, Bronislaw Suchanek, and Czeslaw Bartkowski), and later recorded by the Polish Radio and Television Orchestra. Soon afterwards Wroblewski wrote "Maestoso Combinato" for orchestra and solo baritone saxophone. The composition was performed at several Philharmonic Halls, with Henryk Miskiewicz as soloist. Wroblewski's third philharmonic composition was "Readers for Orchestra" - with parts for the improvising composer on tenor sax, followed by the "G-man" for chamber music orchestra and clarinet. "Altissimonica", written in 2000 for symphonic orchestra and the improvisational alto saxophone of Henryk Miskiewicz, was performed by various orchestras and at the Jazz Jamboree 2004, and was recorded by the Polish Radio Orchestra. Wroblewski's latest symphonic composition "Coexistence" premiered on November 24, 2006, at the Wroclaw Philharmonic.
In the 1970s Wroblewski returned to playing saxophone in smaller bands. From 1973 to 1977, together with Wojciech Karolak (on Hammond organs), he led Mainstream, a leading Polish straight-ahead jazz band. The group recorded two LP albums, performed in Germany, Hungary, and the USSR, toured Holland, and recorded for Polish Radio. In 1977, on the basis of Mainstream, "Ptaszyn" Wroblewski's Quartet was formed (Marek Blizinski - guitar, Witold Szczurek, later replaced by Zbyszek Wegehaupt - double-bass, and Andrzej Dabrowski - drums). The quartet often collaborated with vocalist Ewa Bem. The formation was very active, recording two LPs, performing in Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and India (Calcutta Jazz Fest and in Bombay), and touring Holland twice. A high point for the original Ptaszyn Wroblewski Quartet was its 1981 US tour with spectacular appearances at New York's Village Vanguard and the NAJE Convention in St. Louis.
In 1981, after his quartet broke up, "Ptaszyn" focused on collaborating with the new generation of musicians. After leading workshop classes with a group of debutants at Chodziez Music Workshop in July 1982, Wroblewski decided to introduce these young musicians to the Polish jazz scene by forming his new band New Presentation, with Jerzy Glod on drums, Jacek Niedziela on double-bass, Wojciech Niedziela on piano, and Robert Majewski on trumpet. The group did not tour abroad because of martial law in Poland, but it took part in two editions of the Jazz Jamboree Festival and recorded an LP for Poljazz before it broke up after two years. Wroblewski considers New Presentation one of the most important groups in his career. Wroblewski's collaboration with young musicians had a tremendous impact on the Polish jazz scene: he continued experimenting with debutants (including Kuba Stankiewicz - piano, Darek Oleszkiewicz - double-bass, Marcin Jahr - drums) in his next bands.
At the end of the 1980s "Ptaszyn" started his collaboration with guitarist Jarek Smietana. Together, they took part in festivals in Italy, Germany, and Turkey, recorded for the Polish Radio and TV shows, and performed at the Jazz Jamboree (1990-1991).
In the 1980s, finding inspiration in such composers as Wladyslaw Szpilman, Wroblewski formed the Swingulans Nostalgic Society - an orchestra consisting of 11 members, devoted to preserving swing traditions, and performing jazz covers of old Polish evergreens. A similar concept was pursued by Wroblewski's Capella Warsoviensis sextet, formed in 1985. The name refers to Henryk Wars, another author of post-war hits. Both formations recorded albums.
Simultaneously, "Ptaszyn" cooperated as arranger with various radio orchestras such as the Polish Radio and Television Orchestra, conducted by Jan Pruszak and the Studio S-1 jazz orchestra, conducted by Andrzej Trzaskowski.
Another important stage in "Ptaszyn's" career has been the Made in Poland mini-orchestra, formed in order to present Polish jazz compositions. Made in Poland released one album, performed at jazz festivals, gave a concert of Komeda's compositions at the Jazz Jamboree during the "Komeda Day," as well as a concert titled "40 Years of Polish Jazz". As the band's leader, arranger, and both baritone and tenor saxophonist, Wroblewski has been winning all "Jazz Forum" magazine readers' polls for over 10 years now.
In the 1990s "Ptaszyn" returned to re-developing and fine-tuning his perfect quartet: he worked with young and accomplished jazzmen, including the Simple Acoustic Trio with Marcin Wasilewski, Slawek Kurkiewicz, and Michal Miskiewicz (today playing with Tomasz Stanko), or Andrzej Jagodzinski. In 1996, the new "Ptaszyn" Wroblewski Quartet was finally formed with the brilliant musicians Marcin Jahr on drums, Jacek Niedziela on double-bass, and Wojciech Niedziela on piano. The quartet, sometimes playing as a sextet (with Henryk Miskiewicz, Henryk and Robert Majewski) has been giving concerts in the same line-up ever since.
Selected discography :
As a Leader:Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski, Jazz Believers, 1958Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski, Jazz Outsiders, Polskie Nagrania - Muza 1962Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski, Polish Jazz Quartet, Polskie Nagrania - Muza /Polish Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski, Jazz Studio Orchestra of the Polish Radio, Polskie Nagrania - Muza /Polish Jazz vol.19/ 1969Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski, Wojciech Karolak, Mainstream, Polskie Nagrania - Muza /Polish Jazz vol.40/ 1973 (1974)Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski, Jazz Studio PR (conducted by Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski), Sprzedawcy glonow (Seaweed Paddlers), Polskie Radio / Polskie Nagrania - Muza 1973 (with T. Szukalski, M. Urbaniak, Z. Namyslowski, T. Stanko, A. Makowicz, M. Blizinski, W. Karolak, W. Nahorny, Z. Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski Quartet, Flyin' Lady, Polskie Nagrania - Muza /Polish Jazz vol. 55/ 1978Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski, Skleroptak, Pronit /Polish Jazz series/ 1976 (with BRT Orchestra (Belgium) conducted by Etienne Verschueren)Ptaszyn Wroblewski Orchestra, Made in Poland, 1993Ptaszyn Wroblewski Quartet, Real Jazz, 2005Ptaszyn Wroblewski Quartet, Supercalifragilistic, 200
As a Sideman:Andrzej Kurylewicz Quintet, Go Right, Polskie Nagrania - Muza /Polish Jazz vol.0/ 1963 (A. Kurylewicz, J. "Ptaszyn" Wroblewski, W. Karolak, T. Wojcik, A. Dabrowski)Krzysztof Komeda, Ballet etudes/the music of Komeda, Metronom (Copenhagen) 1963 (K. Komeda, A. Botschinsky, R. Carlsson, R. Dylag, J. "Ptaszyn" Wroblewski)
Please, note: The above bio contains a selection of Jan "Ptaszyn" Wroblewski's artistic achievements.