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Nominated for the 2023 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research

Tomasz Stańko is arguably the greatest jazz musician Poland has ever produced. His career spanned almost 60 years until his death in 2018. A visionary trumpeter and composer, a protégé of Krzysztof Komeda and a colleague of musicians from Poland, Sweden, Norway, Britain, Cuba and the USA, his impact on jazz internationally was profound, proving that jazz was not exclusively an American art form but truly world-wide. In 2014 he was awarded the Polytika Passport in Poland, the Prix du Musicien Européan in Paris and the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik.

The book is a no-holds-barred extended interview with broadcaster Rafał Księżyk originally published in Polish by Wydawnictwo Literackie.

Published: Aug 9, 2022


Section Chapter Authors
Front Matter
List of Illustrations Tomasz Stańko
Series Editor's Preface Alyn Shipton
Chapter 1
Born Twice Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 2
First Cigarette, First Bottle Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 3
Komeda Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 4
Poetry and Jazz Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 5
Stańkomania Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 6
A Proust-Reading Boxer Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 7
‘I was Marlene Dietrich’ Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 8
Ruhr Valley Jazz Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 9
‘The Full Catastrophe!’ Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 10
Green Face Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 11
Bending the Note Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 12
Whistling in the Temple Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 13
Mutant: A Hipster in Communist Poland Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 14
At Remont Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 15
Purple Liquor Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 16
Peyotl Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 17
Shortcut! Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 18
Empathy for the Devil Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 19
Peruvian and a Minor Sixth Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 20
The View from the Tightrope Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 21
The Feminist Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 22
A Bluish, Synthetic Man Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 23
'Maldoror’s War Song' Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 24
Thoughts on Simplicity Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 25
Theme for Trumpet Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 26
The Children and the Vampire Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 27
From Afar Tomasz Stańko
Chapter 28
A Certain Kind of Vitality Tomasz Stańko
End Matter
Tomasz Stańko’s Life and Works: A Chronology Tomasz Stańko
Discography Tomasz Stańko
Index of Names Tomasz Stańko


An important account of the work of a major musician.
The Wire

Brilliantly translated by Halina Maria Boniszewska—who did a similarly admirable job with Magdalena Grzebalkowska's Komeda: A Private Life in Jazz (Equinox Publishing, 2021)—Desperado... is an eye-opening portrait of Stańko the man and a revelatory insight into the drivers—emotional, intellectual and aesthetic—behind one of modern jazz's most enigmatic and influential figures.
All About Jazz

Reviews of the Polish Edition:

Until I picked up this autobiography my favourite thriller was the film Elevator to the Scaffold. Because that too has wild love, wild passion and a wonderful unpredictable screenwriter that we call fate. And towering above it all, we have the heavenly Miles. Now that I've plunged into the story of Tomasz Stańko's life, wherever I turn it's exactly the same.
Kuba Wojewódzki

Interviewing Tomasz Stańko, Rafał Księżyk is the right person in the right place – a competent, indeed equal partner for a discussion on music, since it is the subject-matter relating to creativity that is the most interesting aspect of this book. It is the passages where Stańko links evolutionism to improvisation, and also his discussions on place and meaning and the confines thereof in jazz (and beyond it) that are the most interesting passages in Desperado... there is also much to admire in his stories about celebrities which often end in the traditional jazz compliment: 'He was a great cat.
Bartek Chaciński in Polityka

Stańko speaks as he plays. His phrasing is a little dirty, but honest and poignant. The fascinating confessions of one of the greatest Polish artists.
Doroto Subbotko