Adam Makowicz - jazz legend, master of improvisation, piano virtuoso. Voted Europe's Number One Jazz Pianist six years in a row by the readers of Polish jazz magazine Jazz Forum, decorated with the Officer’s Cross of Merit of the Republic of Poland, he has recorded 37 albums and performed in the world's best concert venues, playing with the world's best musicians. He has composed music for string quartets and jazz trios, several piano pieces, over 100 short jazz compositions, as well as two movie scores.
Makowicz was born in 1940 in Czech Silesia to Polish parents. In 1946 his family returned to Poland. His real name was Matyszkowicz. He received extensive classical music training. The first music teacher of 10-year-old Adam was his mother, a pianist and a singer. He was an exceptionally talented child and was sent to a school for musically gifted children, and subsequently to music schools in Rybnik, Katowice, and Kraków. His parents' dream was for their son to become a classical pianist.
However, as a 15-year-old he got fascinated with jazz. In communist Poland, jazz was a forbidden fruit, a product of the decadent West. That music, which Makowicz himself called the world of freedom and improvisaton, fascinated him to such an extent that at the age of 18, he abandoned his school and family and chose his own way, basically living on the street for two years. Cracow jazz club Helicon became his oasis.
Subsequently Makowicz and Tomasz Stańko formed Jazz Darings, considered the first European jazz combo. Later on he played with a number of leading Polish jazz musicians, including Andrzej Kurylewicz, Zbigniew Namysłowski, Michał Urbaniak, and Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski. He accompanied vocalist Urszula Dudziak and composed his own music. In the mid 70s he performed more frequently as a soloist, gaining increasing fame and respect.
In 1977, on the recommendation of Benny Goodman and jazz promoter Willis Conover (whose radio program Music USA-Jazz Hour first exposed the young Makowicz to jazz music, performed by the greatest stars from across the ocean), legendary producer John Hammond invited Makowicz on a 10-week tour of the US. During that trip Makowicz recorded his first solo album, Adam (CBS Columbia).
In 1978 he returned to the US, this time on a six-month contract, which was extended. He shortened his name to Makowicz and in 1978 Manhattan became his home.
All the legendary music venues opened their doors to him, including New York's Carnegie Hall (his first solo performance there was part of a concert dedicated to the memory of Erroll Garner, who had died six months before) and Greenwich Village Cookery Club. He was also invited to the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island.
Makowicz was in New York when martial law was declared in Poland in 1981. It was impossible to return to the country. Together with other Polish artists living in the US he participated in the TV program initiated by Ronald Reagan Let Poland be Poland, which was broadcast all over the world.
When communism fell in 1989, he could at last get a Polish passport and visit Poland. Since that time he has been visiting Poland frequently.
In the US he has played with the greatest musicians such as Benny Goodman, Herbie Hancock, Earl Hines, Freddie Hubbard, Sarah Vaughan, Teddy Wilson, and George Shearing.
He performs solo, as well as with orchestras, such as the National Symphony of Washington, the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Chester String Quartet, and the Amici String Quartet, with the best percussion sections (George Mraz, Al Foster, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden), and with string quartets.
His duet performance with Leszek Mozdzer at Carnegie Hall in September 2004 was very well received by the critics. This extraordinary duel between the piano veteran and rising Polish jazz star Leszek Możdżer, was released as a live album.
In addition to his jazz repertoire, Makowicz plays classical music, in particular Chopin, whom, as he says, he absorbed in his youth and whose music he interprets in his own unique jazz fashion. He recorded an album of jazz interpretations of Chopin's compositons, the only such album released in the United States. He also plays music by Gershwin, Berlin, Kern, and Porter.
His most recent, 37th album, From My Field, has just been released. It features his own pieces, Chopin's compositions, as well as jazz standards. It can be purchased online at www.west.net/~jazz.
Adam will make the history books.
Earl Fatha Hines
The most extraordinary piano talent in the last thirty years.
John Hammond, Columbia Records producer
Adam Makowicz is one of the three or four greatest living jazz pianists...
Alistair Cooke, PBS commentator
A rare artist who grips and holds attention, Makowicz handles the classics of the American songbook with an aplomb equal to the way he deals with the devastatingly complex structures of his own compositions. A gifted improviser with splendid technical prowess, the pianist can also offer warmth and affection in melodic lines, the balance of fine taste, pungent swing and a jubilant approach inevitably generating audience cheer.
Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star
Adam Makowicz is a magician of the keyboard.
W. Royal Stokes, Washington Post
Adam Makowicz has been praised by Benny Goodman, compared with Art Tatum, Erroll Garner and Teddy Wilson, honored by jazz publications and toasted all over Europe as a genius. Mr. Makowicz's fiery style, firm chording, and rapid, Tatumesque right hand phrasing make him more than deserving of the accolades he has received.
Jim Fuselli, Wall Street Journal
By any standard, Makowicz is brilliant. And while the legacy of Tatum resonates deeply, so too does Makowicz .... Makowicz is magical!
Chuck Berg, JazzTimes
Makowicz plays with beauty, compassion, and vision. He is one of the most phenomenally spectacular pianists in jazz.
Hugh Wyatt, New York Daily News
Adam plays with virtuosity, spontaneity and style that surely would have delighted Gershwin.
Makowicz is a jazz master, and like great practitioners of any style, he is all music, to the point where questions of influence, mechanics, and sub-genre (swing, bop, chamber, neoclassical) have become irrelevancies.
Twin Cities Reader
Adam Makowicz, a remarkable virtuoso with technique on the level of an Art Tatum, performed some miraculous unaccompanied solos... Although Tatum is an influence, Makowicz has a harmonically advanced style with a personality and strong wit of his own; his renditions of standards were often breathtaking.
Scott Yanow, Music Connection
Here is the most astonishingly gifted improviser to come along in a couple of decades. Adam is once in a lifetime.
... His albums and his playing in general can only be called astonishing. Gifted with a fertile imagination and an unlimited technique, he is not only an extraordinary pianist, he is also an unusual and fascinating composer.
Gene Lees, Jazzletter
... a pianist of awesome technical accomplishment, he played with delicacy and great affection. There seems no idea, no matter how complex, he cannot carry off with flair. Striding magnificently, swinging mightily, full of warmth and presence.
Richard Sudhalter, New York Post
Jackpot! Adam performed an utterly entrancing program, mostly standards, that purvey unerringly fine taste, crafty phrasing and prodigious technique. First-time listeners to Makowicz who fancy themselves would-be pianists are forewarned: so majestic is his technique that you may switch to another instrument. To his credit, Adam's wizardry on the keys is refined in, indeed balanced, by the emotions he seeks to convey. And, boy, does he swing! The legacies of Art Tatum and Erroll Garner converge in the 10 fingers as he sweeps across the keys one moment, then drops in a few well-chosen trills. Even at the fastest tempos, his approach is unhurried and seldom florid, full of springy jubilation, so much so that his right and left hands seem to operate autonomously.
Gene Kalbacher, Jazzline
Adam ranks with masters Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson…
Georgia Urban, Knickerbocker News
Makowicz's command of the piano is ultimate...He is the Liszt of jazz piano....Adam Makowicz is a phenomenal player whose musicianship is on the highest level. Stephen Pedersen, The Mail-Star, The Chronicle-Herald