Jan Kopinski is a tenor saxist and composer, fronting cross-genre music, ranging from Free-funk to contemporary European jazz.
A saxophonist for over thirty years in the UK, Jan specializes in improvisational music drawing on jazz and influences from Eastern Europe and contemporary music.
For 25 years he has led a successful contemporary jazz group, PINSKI ZOO, regularly touring the UK, Europe, New York and Poland, playing at major jazz festivals, concerts and jazz clubs to critical acclaim. He travels regularly to Poland, for both research and touring projects –including international trio, ZONE K.
With REFLEKTOR he composes and performs to silent films and to projected visuals, most recently MIRRORS, a dream journey with Polish imagery, commissioned by Opera North.
He has recorded several radio and TV broadcasts, 13 albums on various record labels, including live recordings from concerts in Poland, Austria, New York and UK. His numerous projects include PINSKI ZOO, MIRRORS REFLEKTOR LIVE SOUNDTRACKS to film, KOPINSKI & KONIKIEWICZ GHOSTMUSIC PINSKI ZOO 7, PZBASSCORP, JAN KOPINSKI QUARTET, MUSTARD PIE.
He has toured extensively in the UK as well as Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, France, Austria, Italy, Norway and New York; he has also recorded various sessions for radio, fillm and TV. His RECORDINGS, (13 albums and 2 singles) include, – MIRRORS PINSKI ZOO EARTH ZONE K GHOST MUSIC
Jan is a singular musician who has followed a personal path, in a search of an expressive sax sound earning him a reputation as a true original. He was studying Fine Art at Art College and came under the spell of John Coltrane’s “My Favourite Things” epic recording in the mid sixties and Jan took up saxophone seriously. First on a white Grafton acrylic alto then on soprano and tenor. . In 1980, with co-founder keyboard player Steve Iliffe, they formed the almost legendary PINSKI ZOO.
” …a compelling power unique in English Jazz” – The Wire
After catching the attention of, firstly the rock press (NME) they released their first album on Jan and Steve’s label, Dug-Out Records, in 1980 – “Introduce Me to the Doctor”. Recognition in the Indie Charts and a distribution deal with Rough Trade Records led them to further recordings , “The City Can’t Have it Back”, “The Dizzy Dance Record” (with famous dub producer Adrian Sherwood) and “Speak” and a couple of singles.
Jan set up several tours of Poland with friends in the strict but lively jazz scene of the mid eighties, winning Individual prizewinner at Jazz Nad Odra. All the while Jan was exploring his interest in not only Coltrane, Shepp and Ornette but the hovering energy of contemporary Polish composers like Penderecki and east European folk music. The band was uncategorizable. Sometimes a maelstrom of sound, other times a hypnotic theme over backbeats.T
hey were labelled Free Funk Jazz / Punk Jazz / Outfunk jazz, etc……now many see their influence upon the eclectic hybrid bands of today.
He felt an endorsement for his style whilst supporting Ornette Coleman and Prime Time and his harmolodic form of jazz, with its scattershot harmonic-rhythm-melody. Now managed and recording for Jazz Café Records they recorded 2 CDs – “Rare Breeds” and the highly acclaimed “East Rail East”.
PINSKI ZOO became a dominant force in the London jazz fused scene of the late 80’s & 90’s.
In 1991 at the Cannes Midem Festival PINSKI ZOO was voted “Best Band” at the British International Jazz Awards.
Further European tours followed, a stint at New York’s Knitting Factory and a British Council tour of Poland and a CD in 1994 on Slam Records, “De-Icer”, with live tracks from Europe and New York.
In 2007 PINSKI ZOO released a definitive live double album AFTER IMAGE (see PINSKI ZOO and PRESS for pics &reviews) and a new generation is finding a link between PZ’s power fusion and mashing up of style in favour of expression.
“Pinski Zoo are still out there and still on cracking form. Organic, no-surrender, spiritually uplifting music, After Image is probably the best album the band has released to date. After 25 years at the barricades, that’s an astonishing achievement”. Chris May.allaboutjazz.com
Jan was also following his interest in contemporary composition and folk music and in 1990 was rewarded with a commission from Nottingham New Arts Works – “Music In Missing Places”- setting PINSKI ZOO in a line up including viola, cello and additional sax.
Other projects included solo performance at the Bergen Contemporary Music Festival and various soundtracks for film broadcast on Channel 4 and BBC 2.
Offshoots of the original band were inevitable and Jan explored a texture of sampled and digital textures with Iliffe’s keys and a twin bass rhythm section PZ BASSCORP.
Having initially trained as a Fine Artist, Jan still has a strong interest in visual work and collaborated on a commission with film maker Frank Abbott on a 90 minute multi image thriller – DRIVE ME CRAZY – for which Jan wrote the music performing with Iliffe and vocalist Melanie Pappenheim at Shots In the Dark Festival 1996 and touring the UK.
Jan worked on a special project for his next CD, “Jan Kopinski GHOST MUSIC”. on ASC Records which brought together many of his works for visual imagery and gave expression to his research in Poland. GHOST MUSIC featured his son Stefan on bass, now a regular PINSKI ZOO member,as well as his daughter, Janina, a classical viola player.
“…at times it sounds like Headhunters meets free improvisation. Terrific.” – The Guardian.
Further works for visual images include the soundtrack for “Geometry and Gravity” with film maker Tony Hill for Year of the Artist 2000 a commission to write and perform the music for “Zemlya (Earth)”, a classic silent film from Ukrainian director Dovzhenko, with Jan on sax, Steve Iliffe on keys, Janina Kopinska on viola and narration by Yeva Paley/Oksana Tyminska. (resulting in the cd EARTH). They perform in cinemas and Arts Centres throughout the UK..
“Kopinski has a sensitivity to visuals as reflected in other scores he’s performed for silent movies. And by using his own family in the band Kopinski evokes the intimate, inexplicable binds/bonds of family life that are integral to Dovzhenko’s silent film…;
he evokes Slav folk music, melancholic and lost to an irrecoverable past…” JAZZWISE
Further research and touring in Poland led Jan to set up an anglo/Polish trio KOPINSKI & KONIKIEWICZ, with Polish composer pianist Wojciech Konikiewicz and former PZ drummer Steve Harris, recording a cd ZONE K.
“The trio’s sound is vast, dominated by Kopinski’s declamatory, occasionally banshee, saxophone” Jazz Journal
Current ZONE K includes drummer Pat Illingworth and Jan and Wojciech perform regularly in Poland in duo trio and quartet form.
MIRRORS is Jan’s recent music to visual project, collaborating with video artist Jim Boxall to utilize the visual footage that Jan has collected over 20 years of visiting Poland and commissioned by Opera North to compose new work for six piece and video projections. This is a major project featuring Jan’s original compositions, derived from his interest in Polish music and film. It is a culmination of Jan’s personal interests in musical forms and cultural influences. And it reveals the imagery that sometimes inspires his music. Jan performs MIRRORS with his flexible group of musicians and artists, REFLEKTOR – specialising in music to visual imagery.
“MIRRORS-JanKopinski’sReflektor” is a CD recording of the music – his latest album released on 33 Records in 2011.
“The idea of identity is central to the visuals and the music, which explores the mutualities between new thing-inspired, African-American jazz and traditional Polish music. At around 74 minutes, the Mirrors CD has to stand up without the lavish projected backdrop – and it succeeds, brilliantly”.allaboutjazz.com
Jan also plays in the duo form of REFLEKTOR with Steve Iliffe to silent film – from the movingly intense “Zemlya (EARTH)”, and classic horror NOSFERATU , to darevil comedy films by Harold LLoyd, SAFETY LAST.
Other projects include guest and solo appearances and MUSTARD PIE a group combining musicians from LED BIB and Polar Bear. a Polish quartet version of ZONE K. Guest appearances with Tribute To Miles Orchestra
Awards…..Pinski Zoo – Best Band (small group category), at the The British International Jazz Awards, Cannes 1991.Individual Prizewinner at the Jazz Nad Odra Festival , Poland 1985.
Various awards for research and development, recording and touring in the UK, Europe and Poland from the British Council, Arts Council of England, & Jazz Services. In between touring and work obligations Jan also is an educationalist, lecturing part-time in Universities, running workshops, masterclasses, private tuition, and has been Artist in Residence at Leeds College of Music and Research Fellow at University of Salford.
Jan is available for concerts with PINSKI ZOO ZONE K MIRRORS REFLEKTOR “Zemlya (Earth)” and solo gigs.