photo by Helena Majewska
Wacław Zimpel is one of the most original and unique talents to have emerged from Poland this side of the Millennium. A multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer of rare distinction, music has flowed through and from him since an early age. Inspired as much by jazz as he is by electronics, minimalism and roots music from across the world, Wacław Zimpel doesn’t so much blur boundaries as eradicate them altogether to create a whole new musical language.
Born and raised in Poznań, his earliest musical memories are of his father playing the piano. Taking up the violin at the age of six, Wacław Zimpel cast aside the frustrations of formal music lessons by finding salvation in jazz, the harmonica and a burning desire to improvise.
He is classically educated clarinetist mostly playing his beloved and very rare alto clarinet but his mastery of other woodwind instruments including khaen - a proto-harmonica from Laos - has also reached world-class levels. A naturally curious musician who refuses to be boxed in, Wacław Zimpel has also applied the endless possibilities of electronics and loops to his oeuvre.
His solo work includes the stunning and critically acclaimed album ‘Lines’. Described by The Quietus as “a spectacular statement”, the album found Wacław Zimpel joining an impressive lineage that comprises not only pioneers such as Terry Riley and LaMonte Young, but also jazz musicians such as John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman.
Wacław Zimpel has also made an indelible mark as a collaborator. His Saagara project has seen him successfully bring together the seemingly disparate disciplines of western jazz and Indian raga music across two stunning albums, the eponymous debut and its follow-up, ‘2’. A third album is now in the works.
Working with drummer Hubert Zemler and pianist Krzysztof Dys, Wacław Zimpel formed LAM, an improvisational trio whose eponymous debut album successfully bridges the gap between minimalism and trance music.
Wacław Zimpel has also worked closely with contemporary/free jazz players Ken Vandermark, Hamid Drake, Joe PcPhee, famed composer, clarinetist and Grammy award winner Evan Ziporyn, electronic music visionaries James Holden, Sam Shackelton and Rabih Beaini, drum legend Trilok Gurtu and the master of gnawa music Maallem Mokhtar Gania.
His most successful partnering has been with fellow Pole and musical explorer Kuba Ziołek. Their performance at the 2016 OFF Festival in Katowice, Poland, led to the recording of the stunning ‘Zimpel/Ziołek’, an album that has transcended borders to find the pair reaching an ever-growing audience. Using the touchstones of Popol Vuh, Roy Harper, Moondog and even early Pink Floyd as a launch pad, the pair are reaching for the stars and holding them.
Wacław Zimpel’s international profile has been steadily rising. Having won over domestic crowds at festivals such as OFF, Tauron, ENEA Spring Break and Unsound, he’s also thrilled international audiences at the Chicago Jazz Festival, Lincoln Center NY, Rewire in The Hague, Mutek Barcelona and the Suoni Per il Popolo festival in Montreal, as well as delivering one of the standout performances with Kuba Ziołek at the Rocket Recordings 20 festival in London.
He was also invited by BBC Radio 3’s prestigious Late Junction show to participate in an improvised session with producer Forest Swords and poet Belinda Zhawi. The stunning results are a testament as much to the partnership as they are to Zimpel’s contributions as musician and arranger.
His considerable talent has been recognised at home. Awarded the prestigious City of Poznań Artist Prize, and Paszport Polityki, the most important cultural award in Poland.
Ever restless, Wacław Zimpel is a musician who refuses to sit still. As soon as one project is done, he moves on to the next to expand his own musical vernacular.