Jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stańko began his tenure as a major force in European free jazz in the early '60s with the formation of the quartet Jazz Darins in 1962 with Adam Makowicz. From 1963 to 1967 he played with Krzysztof Komeda in a group that revolutionized European jazz and made an impact across the Atlantic as well. Stańko also put in time with Andrzej Trzaskowski in the mid-'60s before leading his own quintet from 1968 to 1973. The Tomasz Stańko Quintet, which included Muniak and Zbigniew Seifert, garnered considerable critical acclaim, especially for their tribute to Komeda entitled Music for K. The early '70s brought collaborations with a number of avant-garde and creative jazz artists, including the Globe Unity Orchestra, Michal Urbaniak, Cecil Taylor, and Gary Peacock. From 1974 to 1978, Stańko played in a quartet with Edward Vesala, then returned to performing as a leader and soloist. The '80s brought Stańko collaborations with Chico Freeman in Freeman's group Heavy Life, as well as work with James Spaulding, Jack DeJohnette, and Rufus Reid. He was also briefly part of Cecil Taylor's big band in 1984. Shortly afterward, he formed another ensemble, Freelectronic.
The '90s brought an alliance with ECM, which issued some of Stańko's most acclaimed work, including another lush, gorgeous tribute to Komeda, 1997's Litania, which was heavy with that composer's film work. The follow-up on ECM, 2000's From the Green Hill, drew from many of the same emotional and historic sources as Komeda's work, but this time the compositions were Stańko's. In 2002, his contributions to European jazz were honored when he was issued the very first European Prize, which was intended to honor outstanding European jazz musicians. During the final round of voting from 21 critics from as many countries, Stańko won ten votes, narrowly topping the runner-up, Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg. That same year, Soul of Things was released on ECM, followed by Suspended Night in 2004, also on ECM. Too Pee appeared in 2006, as did Chameleon and Lontano.
In 2007, Stańko led a session that became the widely acclaimed From the Green Hill. His collaborators on the session were all bandleaders: violinist Michelle Makarski, saxophonist John Surman, bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi, drummer Jon Christensen, and bassist Anders Jormin. In 2009, Stańko led a brand-new band for Dark Eyes, which included Danish guitarist Jakob Bro and bassist Anders Christensen, along with Finnish pianist Alex Tuomarila and drummer Olavi Louhivuori. All were new names to ECM's roster. Stańko stayed busy touring and playing between different ensembles for the next three years. In 2013, Wisława, a double live album with his New York Quartet (pianist David Virelles, drummer Gerald Cleaver, and bassist Thomas Morgan), appeared. The following year Stańko delivered Polin, an album recorded for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and featuring his composition "Polish Suite." Joining the trumpeter on the album were saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, Virelles, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Kush Abadey. The trumpeter's New York Quartet then underwent a personnel change. Busy with other projects, Morgan left the group, replaced by Reuben Rogers, who had worked extensively with Charles Lloyd during the previous decade. After significant club and festival work, this incarnation of the ensemble made its debut with December Avenue for ECM in April 2017. Tomasz Stańko died in July of the following year in Warsaw at the age of 76.