Michał Urbaniak (born January 22, 1943) is a New York Jazz musician and composer born in Warsaw, Poland, playing mainly the violin, lyricon and saxophone during concerts and recordings. He played a central role in the development of jazz fusion in the 1970s and 1980s, and has introduced elements of folk, R&B, hip hop, and symphonic music to jazz.
Urbaniak started his music education during high school in Łódź, Poland, and continued from 1961 in Warsaw in the violin class of Tadeusz Wroński. Learning to play on the saxophone alone, he first played in a Dixieland band, and later with Zbigniew Namysłowski and the Jazz Rockers, with whom he performed during the Jazz Jamboree festival in 1961. After this, he was invited to play with Andrzej Trzaskowski, and toured the USA in 1962 with his band The Wreckers, playing at festivals and clubs in Newport, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, and New York City.
After returning to Poland, he engaged on work with Krzysztof Komeda's quintet (1962–1964). Together, they left for Scandinavia, where, after finishing a couple of contracts, Urbaniak remained until 1969. There he created a band with Urszula Dudziak and Wojciech Karolak, which gained considerable success and was later to be the starting point for the famous Michał Urbaniak Fusion.
After Urbaniak returned to Poland and the violin (which he abandoned for the saxophone during the time in Scandinavia), he created the self-named "Michał Urbaniak Group", to which he invited, among others, Adam Makowicz (piano) and Urszula Dudziak (vocals). They recorded their first international album, Parathyphus B, and played on many festivals, including Jazz Jamboree in 1969–1972. During the Montreux'71 festival, Urbaniak was awarded "Grand Prix" for the best soloist and scholarship by the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. After many triumphant concerts in Europe and the USA, in May 1973 he played for the last time before a Polish audience and emigrated with Urszula Dudziak on September 11, 1973, to the United States, where he now lives as a US citizen.
In spite of getting an award from Berklee, he did not study there. Recommended by John H. Hammond, Urbaniak signed a contract with Columbia Records, who published the west-German album Super Constellation under the name Fusion. For the promotion tour, he invited Polish musicians, including Czesław Bartkowski, Paweł Jarzębski, and Wojciech Karolak. In 1974, Urbaniak formed the band Fusion, and introduced melodic and rhythmic elements of Polish folk music into his funky New York-based music. Urbaniak followed his musical journey with innovative projects such as Urbanator (the first band to fuse rap & hip-hop in jazz), "Urbanizer" (a project with his band and four-piece R&B vocal group - 1978) and UrbSymphony (where, on January 27, 1995, jazz group with rapper and Apple computer played concert and recorded CD & DVD with a 60-piece full symphony orchestra)
Since 1970 Urbaniak has been playing a custom-made, five-string violin furnished especially for him, violin synthesizer called "talkin'" violin, soprano, alto and tenor saxophones and on lyricon (electric sax-like horn). His fusion with a hint of folklore was becoming popular among the leaders of American jazz, and also provided opportunity for many new musicians (Harold Williams, Steve Jordan, Marcus Miller, Kenny Kirkland, Tony Bunn, Omar Hakim, and Victor Bailey). He started to play in well known clubs such as the Village Vanguard and Village Gate, in famous concert halls such as Carnegie Hall, Beacon Theatre, and Avery Fisher Hall. In this period he played with such stars as Weather Report, Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, George Benson, and Billy Cobham.
Urbaniak has invited and has been invited by many other well known jazz stars, including Lenny White, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Joe Zawinul, Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Buster Williams and Quincy Jones. In 1985, he was invited to play during the recording of Tutu with the father of fusion, Miles Davis. Davis is reported to have said on this occasion: "Get me this fucking Polish fiddler, he's got the sound!"
In 2012, he played in a Polish film "My father's bike".
- Paratyphus B (1970)
- Inactin (1971)
- New Violin Summit (with Don "Sugarcane" Harris, Jean-Luc Ponty, Nipso Brantner, Terje Rypdal, Wolfgang Dauner, Neville Whitehead, Robert Wyatt) (1972)
- Super Constellation (and Constellation In Concert) (1973)
- Polish Jazz (1973)
- Atma (1974)
- Fusion (1974)
- Funk Factory (1975)
- Fusion III (1975)
- Body English (1976)
- The Beginning (1976)
- Urbaniak (1977)
- Ecstasy (1978)
- Music For Violin And Jazz Quartet (1980)
- Serenade for The City (1980)
- New York Five at the Village Vanguard (1989)
- Songs For Poland (1989)
- Milky Way, Some Other Blues, Mardin (1990)
- Cinemode (1990)
- Songbird (1991)
- Burning Circuits, Urban Express, Manhattan Man (1992)
- Urbanator (1993)
- Code Blue (1996)
- Urbanator II (1996)
- Urbaniax (1998)
- Ask Me Now (1999)
- Fusion (1999)
- Sax, Love & Cinema (2001)
- I Jazz Love You (2004)
- Urbanator III (2005)
- Jazz Legends" No. 1 (2006
- Jazz Legends" No. 2 (2007)
- Jazz Legends" No. 3 (2008)
- Jazz Legends" Box (all 3 records-2008)
- Miles Of Blue" - 2CD (2009)