Mastering unreleased performances of the Tomasz Stanko Quintet

December 4, 2023

In the late 1960s, Polish jazz trumpeter, Tomasz Stanko started his own quintet to explore a new jazz improv genre they would coin “wooden music.” Characterized by the dominance of wood instruments, the genre was also defined by the unified nature of each musician's performance. After playing for five years, the quintet made up of Janusz Stefański (drums, flexatone), Bronisław Suchanek (double bass), Janusz Muniak (tenor saxophone, flute, percussion), and Zbigniew Seifert (alto saxophone, violin) would perform improvised sets that sounded fully composed. Suchanek would go on to speak about the closeness of their relationship and performances saying, “If there are any moments that seem orchestrated it is because we played together for several years, evening after evening, going from club to club. We knew each other better than our parents knew us, we had total trust in each other – that's what made this music exist in the way it did." 

After his death, Tomasz Stanko’s estate invited Polish indie label Astigmatic Records to look around the trumpeter’s archives from performances around the world. Found in these archives were two exceptional recordings from the quintet’s period of total improvisation, originally performed as a radio broadcast in Germany. One of which Suchanek characterized as his and Stanko’s favorite performance from their tour.

To commemorate Tomasz Stanko's 80th birthday, Astigmatic Records partnered with the Tomasz Stańko Foundation and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute to release these performances in two parts as “Wooden Music I” and “Wooden Music II.” In mastering the second album, sound engineer Marcin Cichy found that the archives of the Wooden Music II had a serious problem that prevented the production of the analog record. The recording was only available in stereo and the main microphone seemed to be out of phase with the rest of the microphone settings on stage. Therefore, each solo, especially the trumpet, was in complete anti-phase.

To properly mix the unreleased performance, Cichy needed access to the stems from this original performance–both to achieve the audio quality he desired, as well as to make individual improvements to the trumpet, which was arguably the most important instrument on this album. However, as you’d expect of a broadcast taped for radio over 50 years ago, the project files and multi-tracks were not available. Marcin and Łukasz Wojciechowski, Co-founder of Astigmatic Records, reached out to AudioShake. 

“The resulting stems enabled me to seamlessly re-mix the audio material. To preserve the original atmosphere of the recording, I could smoothly switch between new stems and the original stereo mix while working, thus eliminating problematic moments… We are at the beginning of the road where AI technology comes to help us and literally do the work for us which was previously impossible, the results are already extremely promising and of satisfactory quality.” – Marcin Cichy, sound engineer for  “Wooden Music I” and “Wooden Music II.”

With AudioShake, the stems from the archival broadcast tape were created in seconds, giving Cichy the opportunity to master the album at the proper caliber and elevate Stanko’s performance for listeners.