M is an independent artist, Warsaw-based singer-songwriter. After years of performing with other artists as a session guitarist, he started writing his own songs. Sad ones. Some say it’s a kind of dystopian blues, maybe good tunes to hit the end-of-the-world party playlist. Whatever.

M made his debut with Broken Songs, an album released in 2022. He was joined by some of the best improvising musicians on the planet: Steve Swell on trombone, Ben Stapp on tuba, Marco Colonna on saxophones and flutes and Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello.

Rumour says that in daylight M turns into another person and goes by the name Marcin Olak, an improviser, composer, educator and guitarist. Unsuspected of being M he played on the most important Polish jazz and avant-garde festivals and made numerous recordings as a session musician. Kind of dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde thing.

  • M (feat. Ben Stapp, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Marco Colonna, Steve Swell), Broken Songs (Fundacja Słuchaj, 2022)

It all has begun with love for music and stringed instruments. It’s about a need to search for one’s paths, and sounds, somewhere between old and present music, between written compositions and improvised sounds. And that little urge to confront the boundaries, frameworks, conventions. And own habits.

Both were classically educated, but neither of them stayed in the classical mainstream. Justyna, after gaining lots of experience with classical and contemporary chamber music, became interested in early and ethnic music. She plays the modern and baroque cello and early bass instruments: viola, violone, fidel and other cello-like ones. She plays carefully, focused, in the classical manner, kind of. Marcin, after completing his studies on classical guitar, started to improvise, played jazz and contemporary music, then naturally entered the path of composition, and finally took up open forms and free-improvised music. He believes in chaos, loves contingency and is faithful to the moment. Whatever it means.

They are both virtuosos, recording and touring musicians and educators. For some time they’ve been looking for their common musical ground. Something noble and rough at the same time, like Bach’s fugues or Purcell’s fantasies, played in a contemporary way, echoes of Coltrane and Coleman mixed with Rage Against The Machine in it. Baroque “Love Supreme”, Shakespeare and Bukowski at the same time. And lots of modern, dystopian counterpoints. For viola da gamba and prepared acoustic guitars. Can you hear?

This is a unique situation. The musician has at his disposal only his instrument, his sensitivity, ingenuity, his skills. There is no band to hide behind, you cannot have a bad day. This is the moment of truth.

Marcin Olak basically started with such a formula: a classical guitarist by profession, he played many solo concerts. However, the classical guitarist plays songs already composed, and Marcin was not interested in this kind of performances in the long run. Already as a student, he preferred pieces in which he could improvise: be it cadences in classical sonatas, or aleatoric parts or open forms in contemporary pieces. As a composer, Marcin combines chamber music and jazz in his works, and in improvisations he weaves elements that remain outside of idioms.

It was only a matter of time. Marcin just came back to the roots, he plays solo recitals again. But this time everything is improvised.

Music from non-existent Movies is a series of themes, concepts and assumptions, developed in improvised transformations. If they were music for a picture, it would probably be something in black and white, with little or no dialogues. The action would develop slowly, but consistently drag the viewer into the created world, until the boundaries between fiction and reality are blurred …

Music from non-existent Movies is available on Olak’s Bandcamp.

It is all about improvisation. Instant composition. Open, no limits.

We come from different backgrounds. We played at the jazz festivals and with symphony orchestras – actually we composed for them. We wrote and performed music for movies and theaters. We gave masterclasses on improvisation. We played ancient and contemporary music. We were leaders and session musicians. And now we play together, searching for new sounds. We mix chamber music with… well, with everything. We improvise.

Spontaneous Chamber Music are Patryk Zakrocki (viola, trumpetviolin, tuning forks, electronics) & Marcin Olak (guitars)

  • Zakrocki/Olak/Wielecki, Spontaneous Chamber Music, vol. 1 (Fundacja Słuchaj, 2016)
  • Zakrocki/Olak/Fernandez, Spontaneous Chamber Music, vol. 2 (Fundacja Słuchaj, 2018)
  • Gadt/Osborne/Zakrocki/Olak, Spontaneous Chamber Music, vol. 3 (Fundacja Słuchaj, 2020)

Jazz guitar trio, just a bit different. The music – mostly Marcin’s own compositions – can be placed somewhere between jazz and contemporary chamber music. It focuses on the sound of an acoustic and classical guitar, complemented by double-bass and prepared drums. Every sound is natural and the musicians become the only source of energy on stage.

Marcin Olak Trio

Marcin Olak Trio are:

Marcin Olak – guitars,
Maciej Szczyciński – bass,
Krzysztof Szmańda – drums.

The Trio played at some of the most important Polish jazz festivals, including FRE3 JAZZ DAYS, Warsaw Summer Jazz Days, Jazz Juniors and many more.

  • Marcin Olak Trio, Crossing Borders (Luna Music, 2012)
  • Marcin Olak Trio, Simple Joy (4Ever Music, 2008)
  • Marcin Olak Trio, Zealot (private edition, 2005)

Bessarabian Journey is a suite, based on traditional Jewish music from Bessarabia. Marcin Olak Quartet mixes ethnic, trans energy with jazz and intuitive music. The sound is pretty strong, intensive – but not aggressive. Sometimes musicians let the listener relax a bit – they play softly, quietly, using acoustic sounds… only to hit again in a moment.

We decided not to play those tunes in a traditional way. Instead, we asked ourselves a question: what could’ve happened if that tradition had lived, if that music still kept growing and developing itself? Bessarabian Journey is one of the possible answers.

Marcin Olak Quartet
fot. Magda “Bronka” Braniewska

Marcin Olak Quartet are:

Patryk Zakrocki – viola,
Maciek Szczyciński – bass,
Krzysztof Szmańda – drums
Marcin Olak – guitars.

  • Marcin Olak Quartet, Bessarabian Journey (Fundacja Słuchaj! 2016)