Włodek Pawlik is a Polish composer, jazz pianist. On 26 January 2014, he became the first Polish jazz musician to receive a Grammy Award, having won in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category with his album Night in Calisia, recorded with Randy Brecker and the Kalisz Philharmonic Orchestra, released in the USA by Summit Records.
He is a graduate of the F. Chopin University of Music in the piano class of Barbara Hesse-Bukowska. He also studied jazz at the Hochschule für Musik in Hamburg.
He is a laureate of Grand Prix of the International Jazz Contest in Dunkirk (1984 France) and the second prize at the International Jazz Composition Contest in Monaco (1989), among others. Apart from jazz, his artistic output includes film soundtracks, orchestral works, 2 piano concertos, ballet music, opera, cantata and theatre music. He is an author of soundtracks for a number of acclaimed films, such as “Crows” ("Wrony") and "Pora umierać" by Dorota Kędzierzawska, “Reverse” ("Rewers") by Borys Lankosz (awarded with the “Złote Lwy (“Golden Lions”) at the 34th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia and with the “Orły” (“Eagles”) by the Polish Film Academy in 2010, both for the Best Original Score of the Year.
He has appeared at some renowned jazz festivals, such as North Sea in Hague (1998), Warsaw Summer Jazz Days (several times), European Jazz Festival in Athens (2006), Takasaki Music Festival (2014), Kaunas Jazz Festival (2015), as well as classical music festivals, such as Wratislawia Cantans in Wocław (2003), Altstadt Herbst in Duesseldorf (2007), and Polish Music Fesival in Cincinnati (2016).
Throughout the 90s he performed regularly with the Western Jazz Quartet – a faculty jazz ensemble based at Western Michigan University (Trent Kynaston - saxophone, Tom Knific - bass). The collaboration was marked by numerous concerts around the globe and three CD albums: “Live at Jazz Club Aquarium” (feat. Billy Hart, 1993), “Turtles” (feat. Randy Brecker, 1995) and “Waning Moon” (2000).
In 2002 he had a successful solo tour of Australia that was hailed by the “The Age” daily newspaper as one of the two "most mesmerising concerts during the year" in the country.
He won “Fryderyk” (Polish music prize) in 2006 for his album “Misterium Stabat Mater” for the improvising piano and Gregorian choir and the Award of TVP Kultura (Polish National Television Culture Channel) for this trio album „Anhelli” in 2006.
In 2008 he composed and recorded jazz-suite “Tykocin” along with Randy Brecker. The record was re-released in the USA by Summit Records and met with a positive reception in the USA gaining Pawlik the title of Jazz Composer of the Year 2009 from the Los Angeles-based blog “Jazz Station”.
That same year “Grand Piano” – a 2CD album containing solo piano improvisations was released, followed by “Struny na Ziemi” (“Strings in the Earth”) in 2011 with the original music composed by Pawlik to poems by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz.
In 2013 the album “Wieczorem” (“In the Evening”) with the music to poetry by Józef Czechowicz was released.
In 2014 he composed “Freedom” – musical work for choir, orchestra and jazz trio, commissioned by the President of Poland Bronisław Komorowski, which was performed on June 4, 2014 at the Royal Square in Warsaw as part of the celebrations of Polish Freedom and was attended by many heads of states, including the President of the USA Barack Obama.
In 2016 Pawlik released an album with his original works for orchestra under the title “4 Works 4 Orchestra”, including his second piano concerto.
He has been an active lecturer and clinician. He attained a doctorate at F. Chopin University of Music where he has conducted lectures on improvisation since 2007.
He has given clinics and master classes at the Eastman School of Music, Western Michigan University, Cincinnati College of Music, at the IAJE Jazz Conference in Los Angeles (1999) and at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.
Important honours and distinctions:
- "Fryderyk" (annual award in Polish music) for "Misterium Stabat Mater" (2005)
- Order of Polonia Restituta
- Freedom of the City of Kalisz
- Freedom of the City Podkowa Leśna
- “Coryphaeus of Polish Music” in the Personality of the Year category (2014)
- "Fryderyk" for the Jazz Artist of the Year (2014)
- “Angel of Jazz” awarded at Bielska Zadymka Jazzowa Festival (2015)
- Grand Prix Jazz Melomani (2015)
- Award of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (2016)
Polish-Jazz Blogspot Review of "Night in Calisia"
"This album is highly recommended to listeners, who love the proximity of Jazz and contemporary Classical music, and who will find this work delicious at all times"
Read the whole review
CD discoveries of the week: "Jazz Suite Tykocin"
(Wall Street Journal)
".(...)On this new album, Randy plays a suite by Wlodek Pawlik, the contemporary Polish jazz and classical pianist, composer and orchestrator. This orchestral album is a jazz-classical work of the highest order and was written by Pawlik specifically to showcase Randy's solo trumpet. Think Thad Jones-Mel Lewis meets Stravinsky. Randy's playing here is flawless and packs enormous energy and verve, soaring and swooping over the swelling score, eagle-like. Sample Let's All Go to Heaven for a taste of what makes Randy special."
Marc Myers, Jazz Wax
Review of "Grand Piano"
"The great come-back of the pianist and composer Włodek Pawlik. His newest record is a masterpiece of total improvisation suspended between jazz and contemporary classical music. The 2 CD album is a result of a double night-session approached without any preparations, any sheet of music, scores or sketches outlined on scrap of paper. One-on-one with the piano. The total improvisation.(..)..For Pawlik it's no problem to conjure 25 pieces of music on the spot. However, the ones created are by no means light or trivial.(..)..His music enraptures with its complexity, richness of colors and moods. In Pawlik's improvisations one can sense the traces of Bach, Chopin , Debussy and Ravel. It's equally pointless to make references to the classic of the genre, like Keith Jarrett's solo recordings from La Scala, Cologne or Paris. Because Pawlik is worlds apart. He has his own, original style. He translates his private thoughts, emotions and experiences into the musical language. Result ? An inspired and unparalleled symphony of sounds."
Tomasz Handzlik, "Gazeta Wyborcza"
- „Pawlik is a Vladimir Horowitz of jazz. He is a phenomenon in his own right. Everybody should listen to him play.” Eric van't Groenewout's "Who is Who," North Sea Jazz Magazine, 1998
- (...)the players' considerable facility and complicated turns of thought are so readily translated into high-quality modern jazz." From the review of "Turtles" album by Frank John Hadley, „Down Beat”, 1997
- „The Jazz Hour starring Włodek Pawlik Trio (…) technical mastery, superb improvising skills.”
Klaus Berger, „Hamburger Abendblatt”
- „Nostalgic Journey/Tykocin Jazz Suite is a magnificent CD that presents both a new side to Randy Brecker and a fine introduction to Włodek Pawlik.” Dan McClenaghan, "All About Jazz"
- ....well-acted and unpredictable story (…), all of it tied together with a terrific jazz-inflected score.”
„Rewers” - film review by Sheri Linden, „Hollywood Reporter”