Tomasz Stanko, ruminative jazz trumpeter, dies at 76

NEW YORK — Tomasz Stanko, a renowned Polish trumpeter whose ruminative playing made him one of Europe’s most respected jazz musicians, died on July 29 in Warsaw. He was 76.

His daughter, Ania, said the cause was complications of lung cancer.

Starting in the early 1960s, Mr. Stanko’s even-toned, languorous trumpet playing endeared him to experimental musicians on both sides of the Atlantic. Over the years he played in ensembles led by Cecil Taylor, Gary Peacock, and the influential Polish pianist Krzysztof Komeda.


But it was not until the 1990s that he emerged as a bandleader of international renown. Starting in 1994, and continuing through last year, he released 10 albums with the distinguished German record label ECM, a run that constitutes a significant chapter in the history of modern-day jazz.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
A look at the news and events shaping the day ahead, delivered every weekday.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Mr. Stanko was one of the select few non-Americans whose music was included in “Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology,” released in 2011. His “Suspended Variation VIII,” from the 2004 disc “Night Variations,” was the final piece on that 111-track collection.

He recalled being initially exposed to jazz as a student through Voice of America radio. He first heard live jazz in 1956 — a concert by the Dave Brubeck Quartet in Kraków, where Mr. Stanko was studying.

“The message was freedom,” Mr. Stanko said in 2006. “Jazz was a synonym of Western culture, of freedom, of this different style of life.”

The musicians he originally fell in love with — the trumpeters Miles Davis and Chet Baker — were not boisterous players. Their version of freedom, he found, had an existential bent, a brooding autonomy, that resonated with him. He quit studying classical piano and violin and took up the jazz trumpet.