Music has always brought people together regardless of the place where they live. High quality melodies don’t know any reasonable boundaries, and their potential can’t be restricted by anything. Compositions created by talented musicians can arouse a variety of unexpected emotions and sensations, which we would never suspect ourselves of, sometimes they make us reflect upon the sense of life and on the matters which are truly important for us.
I’m really happy that there are people characterized by an incredible sensitivity and musical intuition, who want to share things which inspire them, motivate them to work and move their souls in the world filled with hustle and bustle of busy streets and continuous phone talks. In the world, in which the quality has been replaced by the quantity. In the reality, in which valuable creations must fight for survival in the ocean of trivial matters which don’t bring in our lives anything else besides false images of surrounding us world.
Today, I’m truly pleased to introduce you to a young jazz musician, who comes from my beloved hometown. Wojciech Lichtański – is an aspiring figure in the world of music and I hope that he will encourage you to listen only to the highest quality music and only to the one which comes from the heart of its performer.
Passion Piece: Could you tell my readers a few words about yourself?
Wojtek: My name’s Wojciech Lichtański. I’m a musician – saxophonist and composer. I went through all the stages of music education, starting with first-degree State Music School in Jaworzno, continuing my learning at the second-degree State Music School in Chorzów. A few years ago I received a Master of Arts degree at the Academy of Music in Katowice. At the moment, I’m a student of graduate school at the same academy, so if everything goes well as planned, after my thesis defense, I’ll get my PhD.
On an everyday basis, I deal with music. I’ve been working on the development of my quartet Wojciech Lichtański Questions for the last two years. I co-create this band with incredible musicians: Mateusz Pałka (piano, accordion), Kuba Dworak (contrabass) and Patryk Dobosz (percussion). It’s a great time for our quartet, as a month ago we had a chance to release our first record titled ‘Iga’ – thanks to a Cracovian record company – Audio Cave. I also contribute to many other bands and projects. The most important includes Piotr Budniak Essential Group. The songwriting time is filled mainly with creating new pieces of music for my quartet, but also on order. You can currently listen to my arrangements prepared for the play titled Młynarski. Chory na muzykę., which can be found in the repertoire of the Silesian Theater.
Passion Piece: Despite your young age you’ve already had quite a few successes. How did your adventure with music start?
Wojtek: My adventure with music started quite early. My dad would always play good music in our home. It was mainly jazz. He has always loved to play keyboard non-professionally. Basically, he was my first teacher. My dad taught me the notes and he checked my homework in music theory. He was also listening to me when I was practicing to play the instrument. It helped me for sure at the beginning of my adventure with music. At the age of 7, my parents enrolled me in a music school, but I was too little for percussion, which I truly wanted to play and I ended up in the violin classes. Since, at that time, I really didn’t like that instrument, I didn’t attend even one class and I was moved to the piano lessons. After a year of learning my teacher proposed me to resign from music school, as she thought I was simply too weak, but my dad decided I should try some saxophone classes, which I liked a lot even then! The beginnings weren’t too optimistic, but what’s interesting, simultaneously with learning how to play the saxophone my dad signed me into some private piano lessons. In the last form of my first-degree Music School a woman, who was a director in charge of the piano section, asked my parents if I’d like to get two diplomas and to start playing the piano seriously, as I got the highest grade in the extra piano lessons and I turned out to be a promising pianist. Coming back to the saxophone, it was love at first sight. After a week of learning theory, I received my first school saxophone. It was an old instrument, but there were lots of positive emotions. When I just came back home, I violated my teacher’s order not to play the saxophone, I took it out and I ran to my neighbors’ windows to show off a little bit. I practiced quite a lot for a child. I started going to different music competitions quite fast. I won the first one. I remember it like it was yesterday. Polish Nationwide Contest of Wind Instruments in Oława. I was 9 years old and I went there just to see how it would be like to take part in a competition. That’s what my teacher Mr. Jerzy Sendecki told me. It might have been my key to success, besides my good preparation. Since then I started going to various types of contests regularly, through my second-degree Music School and Academy of Music. I finished taking part in such competitions a year after graduating from the Academy of Music. I received around 40 prizes in total – including mainly first places and Grand Prix.
Passion Piece: Why did you choose the saxophone?
Wojtek: It’s a story, which really makes me laugh today, as I got interested in the saxophone, when I saw a piece of video clip by Kenny G. during some music news on Teleexpress. Today, being a musician I would rather not pay much attention to that particular part of the video clip, but back then that beautiful, golden soprano saxophone made me think of this instrument for a long period of time.
Passion Piece: Jazz music doesn’t seem to be a kind of music for everyone. Where did your fascination with this difficult music genre come from?
Wojtek: In my opinion, the argument stated in this question is wrong even though many people think that jazz music isn’t for everyone. I believe that all music which is presented on a good level (and here it’s a good reason to reflect upon the subject of good music) is for everyone. I’m not only thinking about jazz, but also classical music, rock, pop, rap and so on. Nowadays, we’re having huge difficulties with distinguishing what’s good and what’s bad, as the music proposed by the most popular media is mostly of a very low quality. There’s also a problem when it comes to music education in Polish schools – compulsory to attend by everyone – which leaves much to be desired. Most people are not taught how to search for valuable things on their own, and I’m not talking only about music. I’ve recently been thinking of this problem, and I emphasize that these are only my thoughts, I came to a conclusion that this problem also exists among educated people. I’m thinking of a huge group of individuals having masters degree, who very often admit that the only music they like is disco polo, and that they don’t feel embarrassed about that. For me personally, it’s quite frightening.
When I was a child jazz seemed to be difficult for me as music, which I wanted to play. I didn’t know its theory, which is very comprehensive at the beginning. However, as a listener I was really fascinated by this genre. I was amazed with the fact that the musicians don’t have musical notes in many fragments of their songs and they can still play such incredible tunes, and what’s more they can always play the same pieces of music in a totally different way. To this day I’m most passionate about this aspect of jazz. I tried to feel it from the very beginning rather than to understand it at any cost. I think it’s a general principle while listening to good music. Musicians, no matter whether jazz, classical or else, don’t play for themselves and for the people who know what they play, but for the listeners who are interested in their works. The only difficulty may be the attempt to make a decision that one wants to devote one’s time to focus on listening and to think what it is about or how it influences him or her as a person.
Passion Piece: As you may have guessed I’m a total ignorant. 🙂 You specialize in jazz with major influence of classical music. What makes this combination so attractive for your listeners?
Wojtek: To be precise, jazz with strong influence of classical music can be found on the album ‘Ida’. I believe that it can be noticed in the compositions, which provoke playing the musical instruments in the manner reflecting music typical of Debussy or Ravel. In other bands I try to adjust the way I play to a given style which we are working on. Of course, I always try to show my soul while playing, however, just like in any kind of sports, our team is the most important. Compositions on ‘Iga’ have lots in common with classical music, and specifically with impressionism, because when I was in the process of creating them I was listening to this type of music quite a lot. It’s my favorite era in classical music. It’s so interesting for me, that the main theme of my doctoral thesis is related to this particular influence of impressionist music on jazz music as such. I also think that jazz with some impressionist touches reflects my character well. And answering the second part of your question, I believe that honesty in the message I try to convey attracts the audience to my concerts the most. When the music is authentic, listeners can feel the emotions at once and they repay with the same emotions to me. One can feel that during the concerts. That’s why, live performances have a lot of advantages over listening to music at home.
Passion Piece: You’ve had a chance to cooperate with a great number of musicians while working on different projects. Which of them do you find the most important and why?
Wojtek: For sure late Mr. Janusz Muniak had the biggest impact on me. His Jazz Club, which is situated on Florian’s Street in Cracow, has educated lots of musicians. In that venue jazz is played everyday. Mainly by the artists associated with Cracow. It’s a place visited by performers not only because they want to play there, but because they also want to spend their time with fellow artists. I don’t know of any other clubs like this one in Poland. When I started appearing in that place, I had a chance to listen to Mr. Janusz playing on his own many times. What’s more, I also had an opportunity to play together with him quite a few times (!), which has been the greatest honor in my musical life so far. Another important moment was also meeting Ed Partyka, who was in charge of leading Big Band at the Academy of Music in Katowice for 3 years. I had a chance to be a part of that Band for its last 2 years. I noticed then how important role is played by the bandleader and how a truly professional approach towards music looks like. I’m also thinking here of some issues outside the music, such as punctuality, outfit, diligence in preparation, leading the band, involvement in rehearsals and so on. I feel that these two figures allowed me to develop the most.
Passion Piece: The life of a musician means surely living out of a suitcase. How do you reconcile your private life with your career?
Wojtek: For the time being I don’t have bigger problems with that. Sometimes there are some one week long trips, but generally I’m not all the time on the road yet. Of course, I’m working hard to give more concerts involving a larger number of trips, which is simply written into this profession.
Passion Piece: While playing music and giving concerts you’ve had a chance to visit different European countries. Which audience has welcomed you most warmly so far?
Wojtek: In many places the audience has reacted really well to the music played by the bands, which I had a chance to accompany. However, I’ve recently enjoyed the concerts at Opus Jazz Club the most, which is situated in Budapest. I’ve had the opportunity to play there twice so far. The first time with Vehemence Quartet, and a year later with Piotr Budniak Essential Group. Each time the atmosphere there was really special. At the end of our concerts there were big loud applauds and encores. Everything was followed by friendly conversations with our listeners.
Passion Piece: Where do you enjoy playing best?
Wojtek: Rather with whom, not where. The most important are people. Of course, I do love performing in beautiful concert halls, where the facilities are at the highest level, the wardrobe is beautiful and spacious, but the most significant are the musicians with whom I can play and the audience. If a given venue has its ‘soul’, it can just be an extra inspiration.
Passion Piece: In February you released an album together with the quartet Wojciech Lichtański Questions, which you’re the leader of. Where did you come up with the idea of its name?
Wojtek: ‘Iga’ which is the album name, was inspired by my one-and-a-half years old daughter’s name. The name of the band was created rather naturally, because each composition was written under the influence of questions I asked myself. They were related to various issues. Not only music. As an example, eponymous Iga is a piece which I started writing when my wife and I got to know that we would have a daughter and we started thinking of the right name for our baby. My wife proposed Iga, but when it comes to me, I need to think such important matters over for a longer period of time. It happened that my emotions of awaiting for my daughter’s birth were conveyed into my composition, which I was writing at that time. That piece of music was originally titled Iga?, however, I came to a conclusion that the album name in which I want to use my daughter’s name, should no longer be a question.
Passion Piece: How did your work on the project look like? Where did you draw your inspirations from?
Wojtek: Working on the music was just the standard one. I was writing music for over a year. These were around 10 compositions, so quite a few for a jazz album. However, I always prefer to have some choice, so that at the end I can present only the best pieces to my listeners on the album. Next, we had a few rehearsals and we gave a few concerts. I already knew back then that I really wanted to record those compositions, but we had to collect enough money first, which is not insignificant, to make everything work professionally. It occurred that I received a doctoral scholarship, so I called my band mates at once to tell them that we could arrange the date of recording our songs, as I decided to use all the received money for actions related to recording our album. Now when we have already released the album, I’m working on concerts and promoting us in media. The first concerts will take place in May. We start with two performances in one of the best and prestigious Polish jazz clubs 12on14, which is located in Warsaw. This concert premiere will take place on the 17th of May. A day later we will be welcomed in Katowice, where we will play in Teatr Gry i Ludzie in the series of Jazz and People, and on the 19th of May we will give a concert in one of Cracovian clubs called Harris Piano Jazz Bar. Any day now I will confirm our next concerts, so I invite you to follow my brand new website , as well as my facebook fanpage, where I try to write about everything related to my music activities.
Passion Piece: What distinguishes ‘Iga’ from other Jazz albums? Why is it worth listening to it?
Wojtek: While writing the pieces, which we are going to present to our audience, I was mainly thinking of beautiful melodies, which would not be trivial at the same time. Of course, they are set on various harmonies and rhythms, which are also very important. All these features are supposed to make the listeners feel some specific emotions, although it’s obvious, that each individual may experience them in a slightly different way. I always pay much attention to detail, that’s why it’s important for me to make my album sound well and to make it one long story and not just a bunch of separate compositions. I hope that the listeners will notice that. I also try to make music sound interesting not only for a musician, who while listening to a given piece will recognize the value of what we play and what we have composed, but also appealing to an amateur, who will appreciate only the emotions conveyed in the music at first. I’d love to arouse the same feelings in the audience, which I experienced when I was a little child, and which I was talking about while answering one of the previous questions. I think it’s worth listening to ‘Iga’, as it can surprise its listeners positively, as well as it turns to be a good food for reflection for everyone.
Passion Piece: What are your plans for the nearest future? What will you surprise us with?
Wojtek: My plan is to work mainly on the development of Wojciech Lichtański Questions. I’d love to play lots of concerts regularly not only in Poland, but also abroad. I’m planning our next album. I’m also trying to get more proficient when it comes to media. These are my first steps, but I’ve already noticed how vital it is to appear on media and that nowadays it’s the same important as the quality of music itself.
I hope that music and performances given by Wojciech Lichtański Questions will continually surprise mostly with their high quality and new ideas. It’s a goal I’m trying to pursue on a daily basis, which is associated with continuous carving for improving myself as a musician and a composer.
Passion Piece: Have you got any other passions besides music?
Wojtek: I really like sport. I used to watch a lot of matches, races or other sporting events. Now I don’t have that much time, so I mainly check only the results of my favorite sportsmen and teams. Some time ago I used to play football quite regularly, but rather amateur-like. It always brings me lots of joy. Because of lack of time I stopped playing football, but I think that it’s only an excuse and that I should come back to it one day, as after games I always feel that sport equals health!
Passion Piece: Which motto would you like to share with my readers?
Wojtek: It’s always worth to have goals and to accomplish them step by step.
Passion Piece: Thank you very much for this inspiring conversation and I hope that we will hear about some of your new projects and of new successes not only in Poland, but also on the international music stage soon.
Music brings people together and it’s a truly unique bond. I hope that this interview and Wojtek have encouraged you to reach not only for the music genres which are well-known to you, but also for the ones which you don’t know at all. Life is a constant learning process and it’s worth drawing inspirations from the ones who have something valuable to offer.
See you around!
Photos by: Maria Jarzyna, Piotr Drapa, Maciej Margielski, Paweł Karnowski, Natalia Wakuła