On the freezing Fat Tuesday, March 5th, 2019, we heard an energizing Atom String Quartet (ASQ) performance. The group is based in Warsaw and performed in the Target Atrium in Minnesota Orchestra Hall as a part of their first US Tour. ASQ members Dawid Lubowicz and Mateusz Smoczynski, both on violin, Michal Zaborski on viola, and Krzysztof Lenczowski on cello, performed in Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Clark, New York City, and Washington, DC.
Atom String Quartet was created in 2010. Atom had its first rehearsal in 2009 but had its first concert in January 2010 after over six months of intense practice. Krzysztof Lenczowski describes the beginning of the group as follows:
At that time, we already had several concert invitations, so we wanted to be really well-prepared. We wanted a strong, Atomic hit from the very beginning. Our first concert was in a small club in Warsaw. We received good reviews and the buzz about us grew. Winning the 2011 Zadymka Jazz Contest in Bielsko was a turning point for ASQ. The prize was a live recording for Katowice Radio station. By coincidence, we were on the cover of the magazine Jazz Forum at the same time.
ASQ likes to call its music improvised European music. During ASQ concerts, you will not hear saxophones, drums, pianos, or other instruments typical in jazz performances. The acoustics play a big part in ASQ performances and how the music is heard. Since they improvise, they choose the music appropriate to the concert hall. Krzysztof Lenczowski observed:
"Even though we are a jazz ensemble, we are also a string quartet. In a sense, our music is a play on conventions, where we play a sound typical to a classical performance but in a complete jazz repertoire with improvisation. The music is 100 percent jazz."
ASQ draws inspiration from different parts of the world, different genres, and our surroundings and where they live. They get inspired by the space where they are, their Polish roots, and their mindset. As Dawid Lubowicz described the group's inspiration:
"We are jazzmen who are inspired by American jazz but, in our compositions, one can hear inspirations and sounds from our tours and the places we visit. We have started a small revolution and we feel good about it."
ASQ had a warm presence on the stage, a welcome contrast to the freezing temperatures of Minnesota's snowiest winter on record. We heard music by renowned composers such as Krzysztof Penderecki the third Miniatures from "Three miniatures for clarinet and piano," Krzysztof Komeda's "Lullaby" from the movie "Rosemary’s Baby” to "Two studies for piano" by Witold Lutosławski - all pieces arranged for the string jazz quartet by its members. ASQ members presented some of their compositions. Dawid Lubowicz’s folk-inspired “Ballad on the Death of Janosik” transported us to the Tatra Mountains (Polish Alps), likely snowy as Minneapolis this March. Michal Zaborski’s serene “Meadow” was a welcome reminder that Spring is just around the corner. Sparkly performance of Zbigniew Seifert’s “Quasimodo” that concluded the concert was very satisfying.
We later discovered that, during the tour, ASQ won the prestigious Polish music award “Fryderyk” in the 2018 Album of the Year - contemporary music category for “SUPERNOVA,” recorded together with NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra from Wrocław, Poland.
The group plans to return to the US for the concert tour in January 2020.
More information about the group: https://www.atomstringquartet.com/en/biography/