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PINSKI ZOO is one of the few truly original contemporary jazz outfits from the UK. Almost impossible to categorize they swing from virtuosic jazz to gritty funk with freedom and movement, veering into leftfield territory and returning with snappy anthem-like tunes. Unpredictable and exciting, they carved a unique style in the UK and won praise from critics at home and abroad.
Their eclectic fusion of style foreshadowed the move towards mixing influences in much of today’s modern music. With 9 albums and extensive touring in Europe, Poland and New York in the late 80’s and 90’s and a “Best British Band” at the British International Jazz Awards in ’91 they are back after several years of individual projects.
Formed by Jan Kopinski and Steve Iliffe from an earlier band, Last Call, they caught attention of the rock press (Melody Maker, NME) and new jazz fans (The Wire), 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 acclaimed dub producer Adrian Sherwood), “Speak” and a couple of singles. The drummer at that time was Tim Bullock and brothers, Tim Nolan on bass and Mick on percussion and guitar.
The remarkable bassist, Karl Bingham first appeared on “The City….” before adjourning to tour with US soul artists. Nick Doyne-Ditmas took up the role and appears on “Speak”, following `French tours. Jan set up 2 tours of Poland kicking off at the Jazz Nad Odra festival in 1985. Despite the recent residue of martial law in Poland (1981-1983) the jazz scene was alive and kicking along with a weird mixture of reggae and punk; a Polish form of dub-inspired agit-prop. Karl Bingham rejoined the band and Aniruddha Das – (later, the leader of Asian Dub Foundation) played percussion on their second Polish tour with an album, “Live in Warsaw” recorded at the famous Jazz Jamboree festival released on Poljazz , and a regular touring schedule of Europe followed .
Jan returned to Poland several times and set up a working relationship with Wojciech Konikiewicz, Polish pianist and composer, who toured UK with Jan and PZ in 1987.The band was uncategorizable. They were called Free Funk Jazz / Punk Jazz / Outfunk jazz ,etc……
Jan felt an endorsement for PINSKI ZOO’s 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 (the original influential London venue ) PINSKI ZOO became a dominant force in the jazz fused scene of the late 80’s & 90’s.T
hey recorded 2 more CDs “Rare Breeds” and the highly acclaimed “East Rail East”, now with Karl Bingham regularly on bass. Steve Harris joined on kit and brought a fluid free-wheeling feel to the band’s sound, with a driving heavy edge.
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” – live tracks from Europe and New York.
Pinski Zoo continued to play in the late 90’s and early 2000 but focused on a diversity of projects. Jan recorded and toured “Ghost Music” with Steve Iliffe, son Stefan on bass, and daughter Janina on viola brought into the mix, then later his music to silent film “Earth”, whilst Steve Harris became more involved with his own outfit free improvising outfit Za-um.
AFTER IMAGE is PINSKI ZOO’s 2cd album featuring tracks from UK tours between 2003 -2005. The sound is the closest to the live sets – turn it up loud to feel the band in full flight.
Pinski Zoo’s rhythm section now featuried the mighty twin basses of Karl Bingham and Stefan Kopinski, working with a new rhythmic line up featuring the beautifully fleet and groovesome playing of Patrick Illingworth on drums, first heard to great effect on their 2007-2013 UK tours and more recently also with Jan’s solo project, ‘MIRRORS’. 2015 saw more PZ gigs with special guest Wojtek Konikiewicz with whom they first played on their earlier Polish tours and subsequent album ‘Live in Warsaw’ and in 2017 PINSKI ZOO Lab explored different aspects of Jan’s projects within the PINSKI ZOO space – watch out for future recordings.