Tracing a Journeyman Bassist’s Long Musical Journey: Michael Formanek

From his days as a Bay-area teenager playing gig with local saxophonist Bishop Norman Williams to his present high profile in bands with the likes of saxophonist Tim Berne and guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Michael Formanek, 63, has been constantly busy. In this Q + A with Point of Departure’s Troy Collins, the bassist, who also taught music at the conservatory level, points out that his adaptability playing sounds from big band to straight-ahead to Latin to so-called avant-garde has always allowed him to work. Formanek, who in 1983 made a decision not to take work on electric bass, admits  that the more ‘avant-garde’ the music I play is perceived, the smaller the touring world has become.” Still over the years he has worked in music as different as that played by saxophonist Dave Liebman and flutist Herbie Mann. There was even an extended European gig where a band he was with had both Cool Jazz’s Jon Eardly and sound explorer Markus Stockhausen on trumpets. Formanek, is a fan of physical media, sincepeople like taking something home with them after a concert they enjoy”, says that over the past 20 years most of his touring has been in Europe. Explaining that the political situation and the pandemic has recently altered the music scene, but he continues to follow his own ideas. “My goal was always to make the music the best version of what it could be, period”.