Born: May 7, 1958 Primary Instrument: Bass
Michael Formanek’s singular approach to the acoustic bass has led to an impressive range of musical associations. During his thirty-plus year career, he has played and/or recorded with Elvis Costello, Tim Berne, Uri Caine, Freddie Hubbard, Stan Getz, Marty Ehrlich, Chet Baker, Tony Williams, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Mintzer, Fred Hersch, Dave Liebman, Joe Henderson, Mark Isham, Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Big Band, Mingus Big Band, Terumasa Hino, Cedar Walton, Attila Zoller, George Coleman, Jane Ira Bloom, Bob Moses, Gunther Schuller, Peter Erskine, Joe and Matt Maneri, Gary Thomas, Harold Danko, Dave Burrell, and many others.
Composition also plays a significant role in Formanek’s overall musical profile, and four albums of his original music, Wide Open Spaces, Extended Animation, Low Profile and Nature Of The Beast have been released to critical acclaim on the Enja label. Am I Bothering You, a recording of solo bass performances made for Tim Berne’s Screwgun label, has firmly established itself as an important contribution to that genre. Formanek produced or co-produced all of these recordings and among the featured musicians are Greg Osby, Tim Berne, Mark Feldman, Dave Douglas, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Marty Ehrlich, Wayne Krantz, and Jim Black. Formanek received Chamber Music America's New Works: Creation and Presentation Grant for 2000-2001 to compose a new piece for the Tim Berne/Michael Formanek Duo, which was recently performed in Philadelphia as part of the Chamber Music America Encore program for 2007. Formanek was commissioned to compose an original piece for the 150th anniversary of the Peabody Conservatory. The piece, The Open Book for Jazz Soloists with Orchestra, was premiered at Peabody in February of 2007, and featured members of the Peabody Jazz Orchestra and the full Peabody Concert Orchestra under the direction of Hajime Teri Murai.
Current projects include Tim Berne’s bloodcount, together with saxophonists Tim Berne and Chris Speed, and drummer Jim Black, which has reunited after a ten-year hiatus, and 3081, a Baltimore based quartet featuring trumpeter Dave Ballou, saxophone and clarinetist, John Dierker, and percussionist Will Redman, and a new quartet with Tim Berne, pianist Craig Taborn, and Gerald Cleaver on drums.
“the formidable American bass-player Michael Formanek’s solo set ranks with the great solo bass performances.” --The Guardian
“…deep propulsion, big beefy tone, a strong sense of line, individuality expressed through avoiding the expected.” --Village Voice
“Mr. Formanek, on bass, has solid intonation, riffing hard and engaging horns and drums in genuinely melodic counterpoint.” --New York Times
“Formanek is a musician first: his wonderful technique is always subjugated to the higher goal of making interesting art…Formanek is riveting.” --Cadence
“… a sound player who articulates with precision, produces a big, solid tone, and boasts rock-steady time.” --Bass Player
On his 1997 solo recital Am I Bothering You? he compresses his conception, finding insinuating melodies and hypnotic timbres, developing them thematically, always with amiable gusto and impeccable technique. --Downbeat
“Formanek’s virtuosic command of his bass, which allowed him to simultaneously pluck walking lines and bow resonant accents, sometimes made him sound like two players at once .” --The Chicago Tribune
“...Formanek combines rhythmic muscle and lyrical fluidity - and endless creativity.“ --Chicago Sun Times
“Formanek's sound never failed to glow, and his rhythmic sense ensured a conversational flow.” --The Boston Globe