While WM Project is a brand-new constellation, the musical masterminds behind it, pianist Andrzej Winnicki and tenor saxophonist Krzysztof Medyna, go back a long way. In the 90's, they have played together in the fusion group Electric Breakwater ("In the Bush" CD with Mark Egan on bass and Rodney Holmes on drums), and have furthered appreciation of Polish composer and pianist Krzysztof Komeda through their widely acclaimed Komeda Project. KP's "Requiem", featuring bassist Scott Colley, drummer Nasheet Waits and trumpeter Russ Johnson, made the list of Top New Albums in The Village Voice Critics Poll: 2009.
Now the time is ripe for another beginning. Their new album From a Familiar Place is a personal project for Winnicki and Medyna whose surnames are ingrained in the name: WM Project. The music sums up a long life lived with jazz, but also looks forward to the future. Winnicki’s own son, Michael Winnicki, is a highly talented drummer and brings youthful energy to original compositions and classics like Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” and Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”. In fact, rhythm is the essence of the group, as Medyna explains: "The only thing I care about is groove which we have in both re-worked tunes. We need to stay in tune with the African-American roots of jazz".
These roots of rhythm also include hip-hop that provided inspiration for the grooves used on the tunes. As Winnicki says: “Arrangements for both ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ and ‘Take Five’ started with a groove. Just a drum groove to be exact. I don't actively listen to hip-hop music at all, but it's hard not to be aware of its impact on the culture of today. So consciously or subconsciously I was drawn into the hip-hop beats when looking for the fresh sounding grooves I could use to build my arrangements upon.”
Another influence is the inclusion of five-time Downbeat & Jazz Journalists Association Rising Star Award winner trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and 2016 double Grammy nominated trombonist Marshall Gilkes. As Winnicki explains: “Krzysztof, Michael and I all played gigs with Jeremy and Marshall before so we were very comfortable with how they played and some of the arrangements I wrote were done with them in mind (because of their musical personalities). Jeremy is so deeply rooted in the tradition of this great American art form and plays in such a soulful way. Marshall's command of his instrument is just amazing (no wonder he was awarded a name of Rising Star in the latest DownBeat Magazine Poll). I knew no matter how hard the arrangement he would execute it flawlessly and play some great solos to boot.”