Mat Walerian

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Mat Walerian
Mat Walerian wikipedia.jpg
Background information
Genres Avant-garde jazz
Free improvisation
Post bop
Oriental music
Occupation(s) Bandleader, Saxophonist, Bass clarinetist, Flutist, Composer
Instruments Saxophone, Bass clarinet, Soprano clarinet, Flute
Years active 2005 - present
Labels ESP-Disk
Associated acts Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Hamid Drake, Val Jeanty
Website Official Website

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

Early life[edit]

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.[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.[3] With the exception of a few lessons he is self – taught musician, occasionally taking lessons from acknowledged masters Matthew Shipp and Hamid Drake, lessons which he has cited as being crucial to his development.

In January 2015 Walerian signed with ESP-Disk' - founded 1963 New York City, Brooklyn based record label which for over 50 years of tradition 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.

He is most active in Avant-garde / Free jazz / improvised music, but also exploring music that touches on contemporary classical, Asian scales, and electronica. 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.[4]

His musical projects include The Uppercut, M-theory project, Toxic, Jungle, Okuden, Liquid Demon, Sainthunter, White Lotus, Zen, Mutant Definition, Blackadmin or Predator Gone Wild. In his projects Walerian mixes classical chamber music, jazz classics and Asian scales along with the modern expression of improvised music.[5]

"Walerian is one of the most talented young jazz musicians on the Polish scene, if not THE most talented. He runs several different projects as a leader, and his musical interests range from the contemporary musica da camera to jazz classics and free jazz, employing oriental scales along with free improvised music. (...) 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. On top if you ask me who does he remind, my answer is he reminds the most Chicagoan sound of... Mat Walerian."[6]

"Walerian‘s playing is rooted in the early free-jazz, with heavy echoes of bluesy tone. His lines can be jazzy in the spirit of post-bop as well as angular and abstract, he goes for more direct approach on alto, while searching for more sonic shades on bass clarinet. He tends for modest and minimal, selecting carefully the means of his expression ... his playing (is) warm, very melodic, while not being afraid of some tone and timbre explorations. Fresh and inspiring is the contrast between the free-jazz boiling section behind him and his cool, thoughtful lines and very jazz phraseology, moving from blues, bebop, free-bop up to some not too extreme free improv."[7]

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"[8]


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 Hendrix-inspired powerful trio Sainthunter[9] (with bassist Tim Dahl) and White Lotus[10], which implements 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."[11]

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

"... Mat and Matt are simply outstanding ... Mateusz' solo without accompaniment is just genial, but the whole track is amazing. Fantastic music, worth getting and listening to it for any price !"[12]

After a quartet collaboration as well, Shipp proposed the duo project M-theory[13], introduced during May 2012 concert tour .[14] 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.

"Obviously, M-Theory project of Mat has little to do with quantum gravity. It is, however, indeed strongly based on the idea of total unification: 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."[15]

"In all the parts Walerian plays very clear tones, without overblows, yet full of expression and emotion. To some extend [sic] 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. (...) After the suite come two short improvisations for alto and piano, "Free Bob Statement 1 and 2", that illustrate amazing chemical bonds between the two musicians and their mutual understanding and unity."[16]

"Free Bop Statements" are followed by the 4 compositions of Walerian. "It’s Sick Out There" and "Love and Other Specie" are for piano and sax, and are perhaps the most expressive and sentimental of the set. On "Peace and Respect" and "Black Rain" Mateusz is back on bass clarinet. The latter, 16 minutes long, is breathtaking. It is not only virtuoso piece in the technical sense - it is also explosion of emotions and feelings. Walerian proves that he is one of the best bass clarinetist around, and he shows also his mastery on Bb clarinet and flute. As a whole, this set is a true masterpiece and super important recording not only for Polish jazz!!!"[17]

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.[18] Sonic Fiction, studio recording of the quartet is scheduled to be released by New York City, Brooklyn based record label ESP-Disk' in April 2017.

"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 ... Walerian plays here only alto, and does it incredibly well... In terms of alto playing, it is one of the most radical, contemporary and important Polish jazz recordings.[19]

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[20] 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.

"Wow. The Jungle Project has had its premiere on 19th November 2012. One hour and forty minutes of pure delight. Obviously, Shipp and Drake belong the best free jazz musicians in their categories in the world. I dare to say that Walerian too. (...) Jungle is incomparable to anything else. Similarly as "M-Theory", it is an artistic achievement of the highest possible standard. I practically never pray, but in this case I do pray that both of these concert sets will be released on records soon!"[21]

"What is so special about "Jungle"? Well, first of all 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."[22]

"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."[23]

"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."[24]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

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)

As sideman[edit]

Recorded Release year Title Label Catalog Leader/Band Personnel
2015 December 2018 April 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[edit]

In 2010 Mat Walerian started curating his own concert series, Okuden Music,[25] 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.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ AVANT Volume II, Issue 1/2011 (July–September), ISSN 2082-6710
  2. ^ AVANT Volume II, Issue 1/2011 (July–September), ISSN 2082-6710
  3. ^ AVANT Volume II, Issue 1/2011 (July–September), ISSN 2082-6710
  4. ^ AVANT Volume II, Issue 1/2011 (July–September), ISSN 2082-6710
  5. ^ AVANT Volume II, Issue 1/2011 (July–September), ISSN 2082-6710
  6. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  7. ^ (Free) Jazz Alchemist
  8. ^ mat walerian official website
  9. ^ mat walerian official website
  10. ^ mat walerian official website
  11. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  12. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  13. ^ mat walerian official website
  14. ^ mat walerian official website
  15. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  16. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  17. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  18. ^ okuden music website
  19. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  20. ^ mat walerian official website
  21. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  22. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  23. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  24. ^ Maciej Lewenstein "Polish Jazz Recordings and Beyond", ISBN 9788380117440
  25. ^ okuden music website