Take Five With Daniel Stawinski
Born in Berlin in 1979, Daniel Stawinski began his musical education at age six with classical piano. Some years later he started playing jazz under the guidance of Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase, two of Germany's main free jazz pianists. From 2001 till 2005 he studied jazz piano at the Musikhochschule Hanns Eisler and joined the Bujazzo (German Youth Jazz Orchestra), directed by Peter Herbolzheimer. During this time he was part of numerous jazz bands, and played with virtually all salsa groups in Berlin.
After finishing his studies at the Conservatory, Stawinski decided to live in Paris, looking for new challenges and perspectives. He was attracted in particular by the strong presence of Latin-American and African music in the French capital. Since then he's been working in France as well as in neighbouring countries (Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Great Britain, The Netherlands). His musical endeavours span the whole spectrum between jazz and Latin-American music, as well as related styles like African or popular Afro-American music.
Teachers and/or influences?
Having started with classical piano at age six, I began studying jazz piano in my teens with two extraordinary teachers, both of whom are emblematic figures of the German and international avant-garde: Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase. Both of these great pianists had a deep knowledge of the jazz tradition and, at the same time, were extremely free and creative in their own musical work. This attitude certainly left a lasting mark on my own musical philosophy, although I eventually turned away from purely avant-garde music and got very deep into Afro-CVuban music, which resulted in my particular interest for Latin Jazz.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
Actually, I don't remember ever seriously planning to be anything else than a jazz musician. Of course, during my childhood I dreamed of being a railroad engineer, but already in my teens it just seemed logical that music should become my profession; I never had any doubt about that.
Your sound and approach to music:
Classical music has always been present in my musical universe. My parents listened to it at home and I naturally started piano with Bach, Mozart and others. Even after getting into jazz and Latin music I still continue working on classical pieces at home (not in concert, I am not a professional classical pianist) and listen to all kinds of composers, with a preference for Bach, Schubert, Brahms, Prokofiev and Shostakovitch. Naturally all of this is reflected in my piano playing and composing.
When I started to get interested in jazz during my teens, I studied all the history of jazz up from the beginnings to the current developments. It is really difficult for me to name a single jazz pianist as my principal influence because I believe my piano playing has been influenced by a whole lot of pianists. Finally, I met with Latin music, particularly Cuban music. Of course I played (and still play) in a lot of salsa groups. My growing interest led me to study and play several Afro-Cuban percussion instruments such as congas, timbales and batas. The practical experience with percussion certainly left a mark on my piano playing, too.
All of these influences had an impact on my musical identity and formed the sound of my music as a pianist and composer.
Did you know...
In my family history there is a very important musical antecedent that could have directed my career in a different direction: Actually, a long time ago one of my uncles was no one else than George Frideric Handel, the famous baroque composer. Could it be that a grain of this man's overwhelming talent has been treasured for centuries and been passed on from generation to generation, in order to flourish some 300 years later in one of his nephews?
What is in the near future?
I am working right now on three different projects: First of all I'm promoting my new album, Looking Inward, which has been recorded by my Latin jazz project "Clave Azul." By the way you can listen to it at my AllAboutJazz musician profile.
Cuarteto Noche Cubana is another project that is gathering momentum. Its music is a contemporary reinterpretation of the rich tradition of Cuban song.
Finally, there is NuoDuo, which includes just piano and percussion. This combination is really a challenge, because the polyrythmics of Latin music usually call for more musicians. But we found a way of playing this complex music in a duo formation that ultimately lends us a lot of creative freedom.
Courtesy of Daniel Stawinski