What surprised you the most about the U.S.?
Dawid Lubowicz: We were all astounded by the big contrasts we observed in the USA. While traveling, we talked a lot about life in America and how easy and difficult it can be at the same time. For example, it is not a problem to rent a car on the West Coast and return it to the East Coast. But it isn't easy to find good food on the road. The only exception was New York, where there are plenty of eateries to choose from with a great variety of food to enjoy at any time of the day or night!
Every time we visit, we are surprised by the custom of quoting only net prices of products in America. When buying various things, you do not know the total price. You have to add tax plus tips. These calculations change from state to state.
And the last thing we thought about: why is it that train travel is so poorly developed in such a vast and beautiful country? You can get everywhere by plane, and it's super convenient, but it would be great to be able to admire America from behind a train window. And there would certainly, be sights to admire...
What were your impressions of your U.S. tours? What do you remember most fondly?
Mateusz Smoczyński: We have fond memories of the people we met on the tours, especially all the organizers of our American concerts. Their extraordinary hospitality made us feel at home. For them, our stay never ended with the concert, and it usually lasted long hours, during which we talked and shared meals together. Thanks to the great determination and almost titanic work of such people as Grażyna Auguścik, Robert Friedman, Kasia Litak, Leszek Strzelecki, Suzanne, and Szymon Woźniczka, a band that was practically undiscovered on the American market before, could perform in the best clubs and concert halls in the USA!
We greatly enjoyed a basketball game in Philadelphia. It was an interesting experience, and this kind of sport how is yet to come to Poland. Something was going on constantly, without any breaks.
Where would you like to return to perform?
Michał Zaborski: It would be challenging to single out places we would like to return to. Regardless of the location, whether it was a club, a larger or smaller concert hall, freezing Minneapolis, or sunny Phoenix, our audience created a unique atmosphere that made performing for them really enjoyable. Big thanks to all the organizers who made every effort to create the most comfortable conditions for our concerts. Certainly, however, a performance at such a prestigious location as Lincoln Center was a unique experience for us due to the magic and history of this place, right in the heart of New York. The fact that jazz giants of the world have performed there would make it a great honor for the band to perform in Manhattan again.
Comparing the first tour in March 2019 and the second tour in January 2020:
Krzysztof Lenczowski: Both during the first and second U.S. tour, we had the opportunity to see how diverse the country is. Each place we visited brought a different experience, different history, places, and people. We have many friends here, and it was nice to see familiar faces when we came to the U.S. a second time.
We performed at the Minnesota Orchestra's Target Atrium during our first time in Minneapolis and at the Dakota Jazz Club the second time. These were two completely different experiences, despite being in the same city. After the Dakota Club concert, we spoke with an audience member who had recommended us to her son, who lives in New York. Indeed, a few days later, her son showed up at our concert. Such moments make things memorable because they prove that we managed to move someone with our music.
I also remember the woman who looked after us during the concert in Baltimore. The next day she got on a bus with a friend and came to our concert in New York at Lincoln Center. Interestingly, this was her first-ever visit to New York City! I will definitely remember our hosts' hospitality, Andrzej and Hubert Lubowicz, in particular, and their home full of warmth. We had a great time in Chicago, where we performed with Grażyna Auguścik. I have fond memories of seeing the musical.
“Hamilton” in Chicago and working on a joint project with double bass player Matt Ulery. I remember the hospitality of Kasia Litak, who promoted our concert in Minneapolis and put our photo on the cover of a local magazine, Suzanne and Szymon Woźniczka and their famous guacamole, or Małgosia Grudzień and her family. Comparing the two tours, it was definitely nice to perform at the Taube Atrium in San Francisco for the second time, but this time in a room filled to the brim. After a concert in a neighborhood club, there was a grand birthday celebration of Robert Friedman, our American agent. We had a long talk there with David Balakrishnan and Mark Summer from the American Turtle Island Quartet, where Mateusz played for several years. They are very nice people, very inspiring. On the second tour, we visited Los Angeles and Las Vegas, albeit only as tourists. We also visited Arizona for the first time. We performed at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.
Tell us about your plans for the future:
Our biggest dream right now is to perform for a live audience, not just empty seats. The pandemic has hit us hard, just like all artists, but in this tough time, we have had the opportunity to play a few online concerts (for which we are very grateful to all the organizers). The lack of interaction with the listener and the lack of energy flowing from the audience is tough for us as performing artists.
We translated the late Krzysztof Penderecki’s 2019 release, titled “Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)”, into the language of an improvising string quartet. We really hope to present this material to a wider audience as we feel that it has not yet received its full listening potential.
In February 2021, we hope to release a new album, “Karłowicz – Recomposed.” This album was spearheaded by Mrs. Dorota Serwa - the Director of the Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic in Szczecin. We have a special relationship with this institution that can best be described as a friendship. At the beginning of the pandemic, the director asked us to choose a few pieces from Karłowicz's music and decided to release an album with our material. Importantly, we decided to expand our lineup with a woodwind quartet - musicians from the Szczecin Philharmonic joined us: flutist Filippo Del Noce, oboist Mateusz Żurawski, clarinetist Piotr Wyselc, and bassoonist Edyta Moroz. We cannot wait for more joint concerts.
We are also slowly starting to think about recording another Atom album. We hope that we will be able to return to our pre-pandemic plans, which included concert tours in Canada and Russia.
We also very much hope to revisit the United States.
All photographs: Archive of the Atom String Quartet. With permission.
ASQ "The first American tour."
Atom String Quartet, concert in Minneapolis 2019