Michał Urbaniak (born Jan. 22, 1943) is a Polish violinist, saxophonist, and composer who first recorded with Warszawa post-bop quintet The Jazz Rockers during the early 1960s. He debuted as a bandleader with two albums on Spiegelei circa 1971/72. Emigrating to the United States in 1973, he recorded a string of jazz-funk albums over the next decade, many featuring the vocals of his then-wife Urszula Dudziak.
Urbaniak was born on January 22, 1943, in Warsaw, Poland. He started his musical education as a teenager in nearby Łódź. In 1961, he took violin lessons under Tadeusz Wroński. Meanwhile he taught himself saxophone and got his first professional gig with altoist Zbigniew Namysłowski in the Jazz Rockers, which issued the 1962 EP Holiday Moods on Polskie Nagrania Muza. That same year, Urbaniak toured the United States with post-bop quintet The Wreckers, led by pianist Andrzej Trzaskowski.
During the mid-1960s, Urbaniak toured Scandinavia behind pianist Krzysztof Komeda. In 1965, he played soprano and tenor saxophone on the AMIGA release Solarius by the Rolf Kühn Quintett, featuring pianist Joachim Kühn and drummer Czesław Bartkowski. That same year, Urbaniak played on the Columbia GEMA release Bochum 1965 by the Jazz Workshop Ost-West, featuring Rolf Kühn, Trzaskowski, American altoist Leo Wright, and Scottish baritone saxist Ronnie Ross.
In 1967, Urbaniak married Polish singer Urszula Dudziak. They assembled Urbaniak’s Orchestra with pianist Woyueck Karolak and drummer Andrew Dobrowsky, both ex-Wreckers. The band toured Scandinavia where, in Norway, they recorded a self-titled album for Atlas Records, released in 1968. The 11-track album spawned a single, “One Note Samba” (b/w “Russian Twist”) in a pink sleeve with Dudziak’s first name spelled “Ula.”
In 1970, Urbaniak played guitar on Torpedo, the third album by the Novi Singers, and Krzysztof Sadowski and His Hammond Organ, both released on Polskie. That same year, he played flute and tenor sax on Enigmatic, the fourth album by Czesław Niemen.
Urbaniak returned to the violin in 1971, when he appeared on the MPS release New Violin Summit along with Don ‘Sugar Cane’ Harris, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Nipso Brantner. That same year, he played sax and violin on Recital ’71 by singer Wojciech Młynarski. He also played bass, sax, and violin on five songs on Wołanie O Słońce Nad Światem, the singular album by jazz-rockers Dżamble.
He formed Michal Urbaniak’s Group with Bartkowski, pianist Adam Makowicz, and bassist Paweł Jarzębski. They cut their first album, Live Recording, at Warsaw Philharmonic in January 1971. The 21-minute “Suite – Jazz Jamboree 70” comprises all of side 1. During that year’s Montreux Jazz Festival, he won Grand Prix for best soloist and got a scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, which he never attended.
In 1972, Urbaniak played tenor sax on the Flying Dutchman release Swiss Suite by American altoist Oliver Nelson. Concurrently, he produced Newborn Light, a collaborative effort between Dudziak and Makowicz, released in Switzerland on Cameo Records. In 1973, the couple appeared on the MPS release We’ll Remember Komeda, which also features trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, guitarist Attila Zoller, and violinist Zbigniew Seifert.
(more to come)
- Paratyphus B (1971 • Michał Urbaniak Group)
- Inactin (1972 • Michał Urbaniak Group)
- Podróż na południe (Moving South) (1973 • Wojciech Karolak, Michał Urbaniak & Czesław Bartkowski)
- Super Constellation (1973)
- We’ll Remember Komeda (1973 • Michał Urbaniak, Tomasz Stańko, Attila Zoller & Urszula Dudziak)
- Atma (1974)
- Fusion (1974)
- Fusion III (1975)
- Body English (1976)
- Smiles Ahead (1977 • Michal Urbaniak’s Fusion)
- Urbaniak (1977)
- Ecstasy (1978)
- Heritage (1978)
- Serenade for the City (1980)
- Daybreak (1981)
- My One and Only Love (1981)
- The Duo (1982 • Larry Coryell & Michał Urbaniak)
- A Quiet Day in Spring (1983 • Larry Coryell & Michał Urbaniak)
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