Around the World: Poland’s Tomasz Stanko

13 Jun

Tomasz Stanko's album Lontano

Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's 2006 album Lontano

It’s bad enough to lose your teeth, even worse when your vocation depends on them.

Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko lost his in the 1990s, not long after his country lost more than four decades of Communist rule. Stanko was nearly 50, and as his country regenerated, so did he — his teeth were replaced, and so was his lifestyle. Stanko said it was about then he stopped using drugs, and re-taught himself to play the trumpet.

From the New York website thirteen.org: “Some great trumpet players who have lost their teeth and replaced them say they never fully regain their technique or their old comfort on their instrument. In Stanko’s case, things turned out differently. He got new teeth and regained his glory by playing hours of long tones while watching television.”

Stanko from a 2002 article on jazztimes.com: “All those long tones, long tones. I even played them watching television — stupid soap operas, football, Tour de France. Tennis was best!”

Our head hurts just thinking about Stanko, practicing the trumpet, watching the ebb and flow of a long rally, back and forth and back and forth (but not as much as thinking about Stanko’s countryman of an earlier century, the great novelist Joseph Conrad, about whom it was once said, “he thought in Polish, arranged his thoughts in French and expressed them in English.” Conrad took issue with the quote).

But after all those hours watching Sampras and Federer and Graf and the Williams sisters, Stanko’s art was again equal to theirs. Stanko is 68 now, and he has always cited a 1958 tour where he saw Dave Brubeck as one of his first introductions to jazz.

Stanko, from a 2006 Nate Chinen New York Times article: “The message (of jazz) was freedom. For me, as a Polish who was living in Communist country, jazz was synonym of Western culture, of freedom, of this different style of life.”

A link below to the song Tale (the pictures accompanying it are almost as good as the music).

Sources: thirteen.org, jazztimes.com, nytimes.com

Next Around the World: Hungary

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