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Mat Walerian

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Mat Walerian
GenresAvant-garde jazz
Free improvisation
Post bop
Oriental music
Occupation(s)Bandleader, Saxophonist, Bass clarinetist, Composer
Instrument(s)Alto saxophone, Bass clarinet, Soprano clarinet, Contrabass clarinet, Flute
Years active2005 - present
WebsiteOfficial Website

Mat Walerian is a jazz saxophonist and woodwind player (alto saxophone, bass clarinet, soprano clarinet, contrabass clarinet, flute), composer and bandleader who specializes in improvisation and avant-garde music.

Early life


Walerian began playing music at the age of six, starting with piano lessons. Hearing John Coltrane at the age of ten led him to jazz. From the very beginning he was interested in blues harmony, spending time playing blues and boogie miniatures.[1]

While in high school he picked up the saxophone at the age of sixteen and in less than a month was playing in the school’s orchestra. He started with alto and after a year also tried tenor. After transferring to a new high school a couple months later, he lost the right to use the instruments and as a result got about a two-year break in practice, since his new school didn’t run an orchestra. He managed to buy his own instrument at the age of nineteen and came back to practice. In 2008 Walerian started individual studies on classical Japanese music, picking up soprano clarinet and flute. One year later (2009) he added also bass clarinet to his repertoire.[1] Since 2023, he has also been working on an alternative use of the contrabass clarinet in improvised music, study also dictated by the specificity of the duo with double bassist William Parker and another performance at New York's Vision festival.[2]

At the age of nineteen he tried formal musical education and after passing his exams became a student at a public music school, but he quit two months later. He was strongly attracted to jazz, but also played in crossover groups, melding hardcore and heavy experimental guitar music with free improvisation while in high school. His first project was a saxophone/drums duo with a characteristic avant psychedelic / funk groove.



His studies were mostly focused on eastern philosophy and Japanese culture.[1] With the exception of a few lessons he is self – taught musician, occasionally taking lessons from pianist Matthew Shipp, lessons which he has cited as being crucial to his development.

In January 2015, Walerian signed with ESP-Disk' - legendary New York, Brooklyn based label, one of the most important independent record labels in the history of avant-garde jazz, founded in 1963, which catalogue includes some of the most important music recorded in America in the 1960s. For over 50 years of tradition ESP happened to be home for such notable artists, like Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Rashied Ali, Don Cherry, Marion Brown, Paul Bley, Burton Greene, Billie Holiday, Max Roach, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, Kenny Dorham, Steve Lacy, Sonny Simmons or Ronald Shannon Jackson among others.

Albums he released as a leader got rave reviews within definitive sources in the music business,[3][4] including The New York Times,[5] Downbeat Music Magazine, All About Jazz,[6][7][8][9] JAZZIZ Magazine,[10] JazzTimes,[11] AllMusic,[12][13][14] The New York City Jazz Record,[15][16][17] The Wire,[18] JazzWise Magazine London, Aftenposten Norway,[19] Jazz Magazine France, Los Angeles Jazz Scene,[20] or Something Else Reviews[21][22][23][24][25] among others. New York sources, like Culture Catch,[26] Gapplegate Music Review,[27][28][29] Jazz Right Now,[30][31] or Downtown Music Gallery, as well as Israel based The Soundtrack Of My Life,[32][33][34] being one of the most notable voices worldwide, praised his consecutive releases.

Walerian's trio was also recommended by highly acclaimed writer Doug Ramsey, Downbeat and Jazz Times magazines lifelong writer and recipient of two ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards and the lifetime achievement award of the US Jazz Journalists Association, who is the author of several jazz history books, including The Jazz Matters. In his recommendation the author says that "a piece called “One For” suggests intimate familiarity with the chance-taking of John Coltrane’s later groups."[35]

Reference work containing an encyclopedic directory of Polish jazz recordings, Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond, calls Walerian "one of the most talented young jazz musicians on the Polish scene, if not the most talented", emphasizing that "his understanding and synergy with the other members of the trio, his expression and dynamism, richness of sound, technique combined with sensitivity are unbelievable and out of this world."[36]

Released albums were repeatedly chosen as ’Editor's Pick’ after premiere, annually ending on 'Best of the Year' album list by varied sources.[37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46] Two biggest names in audiophile world, being The Absolute Sound,[47] and Stereophile New York, awarded the albums with highest notes.

Walerian's music made it to #1 position both on US[48][49] and Canada Jazz Charts,[50] with albums being presented by a large number of radio stations worldwide, including New York,[51][52] Los Angeles,[53] Washington D.C,[54][55] Chicago,[56] New Orleans,[49] St.Louis,[57][58] Santa Monica, Seattle, Denver,[59] or Nebraska[60] in the US ; Toronto, Montreal,[61] or Vancouver in Canada ; London UK,[62][63] and Polish National Public Radio.[64]

His style is firmly in the mainstream of modern jazz and improvised music, somewhere around hard free bop with a tribute to the atonal avant-garde heritage. Classical music, jazz classics and the classical music of Japan and India have all left a distinct impression on his creation. Walerian cooperates in diverse musical projects with musician who represent various musical streams; jazz, classical, contemporary, improvised avant-garde music and electronica.[1]

His musical projects include The Uppercut (duo with Matthew Shipp), Toxic (trio with Matthew Shipp and William Parker), Jungle (trio with Matthew Shipp and Hamid Drake), Okuden, Dark Matter (trio with Michael Bisio and Mat Maneri), Sainthunter, Mutant Definition, or Blackadmin. In his projects Walerian mixes classical chamber music, jazz classics and Asian scales along with the modern expression of improvised music.[1] As side person together with bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey he represents Matthew Shipp Sonic Fiction Quartet; also being a part of pianist's sextet - Matthew Shipp Acoustic Ensemble Inward Motion project.

From 2005 through 2008 he concentrated on projects characterized by heavy echoes of third stream and chamber music qualities melded along with Asian harmony and instruments. In this period he released many trio projects including various bowed string instruments (saxophone/harp/cello, saxophone/harp/viola, saxophone/harp/violin, saxophone/harp/double bass, saxophone/piano/violin, etc.) presenting minimal music stylistics.

His first classic jazz trio (saxophone with rhythm section) appeared in 2010. After that his work got wilder performance, characterized by compound structures and rhythm.

Walerian when asked for describing life in his own words said: "I love nature and experiencing wildlife phenomena"[65]



Walerian's most notable collaborators are pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and drummer/percussionist Hamid Drake, with whom he has released around ten different projects.

He first met Hamid Drake in 2008; since then they have collaborated on a number of projects, including the powerful trio Sainthunter[66] (with bassist Tim Dahl) and other projects implementing experiments with Asian and contemporary chamber music.

"The group continues strongly with "Just Drop It In New Orleans", with clear blues and traditional jazz inspirations. Walerian starts on Bb clarinet and evoking the tradition of the best genuine clarinetists - from Benny Goodman, through Jimmy Giuffre to Europeans : Louis Sclavis, Michel Portal. (...) The Force, Energy and Synergy are again there, and are just breathtaking."[67]

Pianist Matthew Shipp appeared as a special guest with Walerian's trio in September 2011.

"... Mat and Matt are simply outstanding ... Fantastic music, worth getting and listening to it for any price !"[36]

After a quartet collaboration as well, Shipp proposed the duo project M-theory[68], introduced during May 2012 concert tour.[69] The name of the project was changed to The Uppercut : Matthew Shipp Mat Walerian duo during December 2013 concert tour, and a concert recording of the duo, Live at Okuden, has been released by New York City, Brooklyn based record label ESP-Disk' in April 2015.

"Mat and Matt form an artistic unity of unprecedented intensity. This is evidently one of the best Polish jazz recordings of the last 20 years... To some the music reminds a little the late experiments of Jimmy Giuffre and Paul Bley - it is, however, clearly contemporary (…) whatever the associations are, however, the over 15 minutes long suite is clearly a masterpiece. (...) "Free Bob Statement 1 and 2", that illustrate amazing chemical bonds between the two musicians and their mutual understanding and unity... It is not only virtuoso piece in the technical sense - it is also explosion of emotions and feelings... As a whole, this set is a true masterpiece and super important recording not only for Polish jazz!!!"[36]

Later in 2012 Walerian and Matthew Shipp trio (Matthew Shipp - piano, Michael Bisio - double bass, Whit Dickey - drums) appeared as a quartet at the Okuden Music Concert Series Fall 2012.[70] Sonic Fiction, studio recording of the quartet has been released by New York City, Brooklyn based record label ESP-Disk' in February 2018.

"Matt and Mat are back in the fall of 2012 with the phenomenal American section of Bisio and Dickey, under the flag of Matt's Quartet ... In terms of alto playing, it is one of the most radical, contemporary and important Polish jazz recordings.[36]

A large number of lineups with both Shipp and Drake followed, including a trio which turned out to be the second most important point in Walerian's career after The uppercut. The world premiere of this Walerian-Shipp-Drake "supergroup" project, Jungle[71] took place in November 2012. Concert recording of the trio, Live at Okuden has been released by New York City, Brooklyn based record label ESP-Disk' in April 2016.

"One hour and forty minutes of pure delight... Jungle is incomparable to anything else... it is an artistic achievement of the highest possible standard... such a recording of one or one and a half hour long concert, that is a continuous and uniform flow of beauty, intensity and expression is not a frequent thing in the jazz history. (...) It is hard to talk about the culmination of this recordings - they provide an never ending culmination indeed.""[36]

"The examples that come to my mind, and this is not an exaggeration in any sense, are : John Coltrane's "The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings", or Miles Davis' "The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965". If we ignore the beauty aspect, and focus on the strength of expression only the appropriate association is to John Coltrane's "Live at Seattle" with John Coltrane on soprano and tenor, Pharoah Sanders on tenor McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, Elvin Jones on drums and Donald Garrett on bass clarinet and bass."[36]

"Jungle is obviously a joint project … it is a project whose name explains the meaning of the music : the joint point of view and the largest inspiration of the members of the trio, that is unconditional and absolute love of nature. The music is thought to show impression of wildlife, animals, fauna, flora, all of the natural phenomena. It is a very organic project, in the very biological meaning of this word. Mother Nature, Mother Earth. Already in this description one can feel the spirit of John Coltrane, and indeed the music belongs clearly to the post-Coltrane tradition."[36]



As leader/co-leader

Recorded Release year Title Label Catalog Band/Personnel
2012 May 2015 April Live at Okuden ESP-Disk' ESP 5007 THE UPPERCUT Matthew Shipp Mat Walerian - duo with Matthew Shipp (piano)
2012 November 2016 April Live at Okuden ESP-Disk' ESP 5009 JUNGLE Mat Walerian Matthew Shipp Hamid Drake - trio with Matthew Shipp (piano) and Hamid Drake (drums)
2015 December 2017 May This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People ESP-Disk' ESP 5011 TOXIC Mat Walerian Matthew Shipp William Parker - trio with Matthew Shipp (piano) and William Parker (bass)
2018 May 2020 July Every Dog Has Its Day But It Doesn't Matter Because Fat Cat Is Getting Fatter ESP-Disk' ESP 5037 OKUDEN Mat Walerian Matthew Shipp William Parker Hamid Drake - quartet with Matthew Shipp (piano), William Parker (bass) and Hamid Drake (drums)

As sideman

Recorded Release year Title Label Catalog Leader/Band Personnel
2015 December 2018 February Sonic Fiction ESP-Disk' ESP 5018 Matthew Shipp Quartet Matthew Shipp (piano) Mat Walerian (saxophone, clarinets) Michael Bisio (bass) Whit Dickey (drums)

Okuden Music Concert Series


In 2010 Mat Walerian started curating his own concert series, Okuden Music,[72] described as "sound to the deepest", presenting the mainstream of modern jazz and improvised avant-garde music heritage. Okuden Music Concert Series got extensive review in "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond" - reference work containing an encyclopedic directory of Polish jazz recordings, written by a world-renowned, prominent theoretical physicist Maciej Lewenstein.



  1. ^ a b c d e AVANT Volume II, Issue 1/2011 (July–September), ISSN 2082-6710
  2. ^ Arts for Art and Vision Festival
  3. ^ Mat Walerian official website
  4. ^ Mat Walerian official press releases
  5. ^ "The Playlist: Janelle Monáe Feels the Funk, and 13 More New Songs (Published 2018)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2023-04-15.
  6. ^ AllAboutJazz The Uppercut review by Mark Corroto
  7. ^ AllAboutJazz Jungle review by Mark Corroto
  8. ^ AllAboutJazz Toxic review by Matthew Aquiline
  9. ^ AllAboutJazz Sonic Fiction review by Karl Ackerman
  10. ^ Jazziz Magazine The Uppercut review by Michael Roberts
  11. ^ JazzTimes Jungle review by Steve Greenlee
  12. ^ AllMusic Jungle review
  13. ^ AllMusic Toxic review
  14. ^ AllMusic Sonic Fiction review
  15. ^ The New York City Jazz Record issue 5, 2015
  16. ^ The New York City Jazz Record issue 9, 2015
  17. ^ The New York City Jazz Record issue 6, 2016
  18. ^ The Wire issue 389
  19. ^ Aftenposten Norway
  20. ^ Los Angeles Scene The Uppercut review by Scott Yanow
  21. ^ Something Else The Uppercut review
  22. ^ Something Else Jungle review
  23. ^ Something Else Toxic review
  24. ^ Something Else Sonic Fiction review
  25. ^ Something Else Best Albums of 2017
  26. ^ Culture Catch The Uppercut review by Paul Semel
  27. ^ Gapplegate The Uppercut review
  28. ^ Gapplegate Jungle review
  29. ^ Gapplegate Toxic review
  30. ^ Jazz Right Now Jungle review by John Morrison
  31. ^ Jazz Right Now best albums of 2016
  32. ^ The Soundtrack Of My Life The uppercut review
  33. ^ The Soundtrack Of My Life Jungle review
  34. ^ The Soundtrack Of My Life Toxic review
  35. ^ Rifftides Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
  36. ^ a b c d e f g Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440.
  37. ^ Honorable Mention Best of the Year release 2015 by The New York City Jazz Record
  38. ^ Best of 2016 by Jazz Right Now
  39. ^ Best of 2017 by Sam Stephenson the Jazz Loft Project
  40. ^ Best of 2017 by Something Else!
  41. ^ Best od 2017 by Lawyers, Guns and Money
  42. ^ Best of 2018 by Jazz Portugal
  43. ^ Honorable Mention Best of the Year Release 2018 by CNN Gene Seymour
  44. ^ Best of 2018 by Paste Magazine
  45. ^ Best of 2018 by Jazz Journalists Association
  46. ^ Nr 1 in Top 5 albums of 2018 by AlbanyJazz, New York
  47. ^ The Absolute Sound The Uppercut Live at Okuden review by Derk Richardson
  48. ^ KDHX Charts-Jazz-2015-6-9
  49. ^ a b Top 30 New Albums From 03/26/18 - 04/01/18
  50. ^ CFUV 101.9 MHz - Victoria Jazz Tuesday, June 23, 2015
  51. ^ World of Echo Playlist from April 26, 2015
  52. ^ Knuckle Sandwich Playlist from May 1, 2015
  53. ^ Henry Rollins RADIO BROADCAST #317 04–26–15
  54. ^ Kaos Olympia 89.3 FM Monday July 20th 2015
  55. ^ Kaos Olympia 89.3 FM Monday August 31st 2015
  56. ^ WNUR Radio “Chicago’s Sound Experiment” Monday, April 27th, 2015
  57. ^ “All Soul No Borders” show Sunday, April 26th, 2015 hosted by Josh Weinstein
  58. ^ KDHX Charts-Jazz-2015-5-5
  59. ^ KGNU 88.5 After FM - “The Heavy Set” show hosted by Ray Wentz
  60. ^ KIOS Omaha Public Radio - “Last Call” show by Chris Cooke
  61. ^ CKUT 90.3 FM “Filthy Kick" The Free Kick Radio Show from McGill University
  62. ^ The Mystery Lesson 21 Apr 2015
  63. ^ The Mystery Lesson 15 Jul 2016
  64. ^ Polish National Public Radio
  65. ^ mat walerian official website
  66. ^ mat walerian official website
  67. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  68. ^ mat walerian official website
  69. ^ mat walerian official website
  70. ^ okuden music website Archived 2013-01-27 at the Wayback Machine
  71. ^ mat walerian official website
  72. ^ okuden music website