Whatever Happened to Michal Baranski?


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Nine years ago, the clarinetist, improvisational whistler and musical educator Brad Terry hosted in the United States three young musicians he had worked with in Poland. I mean young.

Mateusz Kolakowski, the pianist, was thirteen. In this picture from that period, we see him with Terry. Bassist Michal Baranski and drummer Tomek Torres were fifteen. Terry toured the country with them in his old Dodge van, overnighting in RV parks and driveways and playing whenever they could, sometimes in paying gigs. They even stopped in Montana and jammed with Buddy DeFranco. Here is some of what I wrote about them in the November, 1999 Jazz Times:

Baranski and Kolakowski have facility, harmonic acuity and solo skills that would do credit to players ten years older. The steadiness and propulsiveness of Torres' timekeeping complements his partners' imaginative playing. Torres has been a pianist since the age of seven. He also plays guitar. He won first place in the 1997 Polish national Young Drummers competition. Baranski started on piano when he was seven, moved to cello and was laureate of Poland's National Chamber Competition in 1993. He started playing bass at the age of 12. Kolakowski, born in 1986, has won prizes in several classical piano competitions devoted to the music of Chopin and Paderewski.

“The most astounding thing about these kids is that at 13 and 15, they already have a sense of ensemble," pianist Roger Kellaway says. “They really listen to each other. And look out for the bass player."

Look out, indeed. The other day, Brad Terry sent me a link to a video clip of Baranski, who is now twenty-four, playing in Prague with the trio of the young Czech guitarist David Doruzka. To see and hear his development by way of an intriguing treatment of Gershwin's “Who Cares," click here.

As for Baranski's former trio mates, Kolakowski is still pursuing Chopin, Paderewski and jazz. Torres, though he is Polish, is exploring his Latin heritage.

As a bonus, here is more of Baranski, this time with the excellent Polish singer Aga Zaryan.

Now, back to work on my long essay about Oscar Peterson. It will show up with the next batch of Jazz Icons DVDs. Have a good weekend. 

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