Hometown Hero: Nicholas Krolak

By A.D. Amorosi | Photo by Mikhail Bezruchko

Philadelphia’s Nicholas Krolak is so in tune with nature and outdoor sporting preoccupations such as climbing that you actually begin to forget that he’s one of this city’s premier jazz stand-up bassist-composers, and that’s he’s released two rivetingly dynamic and challengingly contemporary post-bebop albums—2018’s Chicory Root and 2020’s Voice = Power—to prove it.

Philadelphia’s Nicholas Krolak is so in tune with nature and outdoor sporting preoccupations such as climbing that you actually begin to forget that he’s one of this city’s premier jazz stand-up bassist-composers, and that’s he’s released two rivetingly dynamic and challengingly contemporary post-bebop albums—2018’s Chicory Root and 2020’s Voice = Power—to prove it.

That melding of nature, nurture, jazz, and vibe—the freedom of it all—is exactly the point where Krolak is concerned. “My inspiration is to combine it all as I see similarities between the jazz world and the outdoors community,” said Krolak. “They’re both trying to protect this thing that is sacred to them… protect it from the interests of consumerism, against the short-sightedness of cashing in.”

“My inspiration is to combine it all as I see similarities between the jazz world and the outdoors community. They’re both trying to protect this thing that is sacred to them… protect it from the interests of consumerism, against the short-sightedness of cashing in.”

Krolak hails from Woodbridge, NJ, and attended Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. Both nice—but neither are jazz jam session hubs. “There were many drives down to Philly at that point,” noted Krolak, who, after college, got a gig as a touring member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. “After that tour is when I moved to Philly.”

Obsessed with the upright bass, Krolak played in rockabilly bands in high school. “That was fun, but got boring fast,” he says. Through his facility on the instrument, he became equally obsessed with jazz. “The upright was my way in. The freedom of jazz kept me there.”

Once there, Krolak can be totally functional in regard to maintaining time and rhythm or more expressive in his search for melody and shadow. “You can ride that spectrum forever,” he said. “It never gets old.”

The freedom is there, a delicious option. But, a big part of that ride, the maintenance side, comes from the more nurturing part of Krolak’s personality. “When I’m playing music, I want everyone else to sound good, and be supportive. I never wish I could’ve taken a solo when I didn’t. I’m a laid back personality—a team player.”

Krolak was allowed to develop the more supportive side of his musical personality through one of his mentors, Temple University professor and bassist David Wong, who saw Nicholas through his Master’s Degree in Music. “Best lesson I learned from Wong was how to pick your right moment,” he said of feeling free to decline, then to shine brightly when necessary. Krolak also goes on to claim locals such as Paul Rostock, Mike Boone (“always giving knowledge”), Terrell Stafford, Ben Schaechter (“he helped me learn how to write.. all the songs from my first album came out of those studies”) and Gerald Veasley (“the man”) as friends and mentors. And, as for being a scene guy, a going-out guy, Krolak is mostly a stay at home kitten who only comes out to play. “For high-level jazz the likes of which Philly does, you have to be in the city and the scene, at events like (pianist) Tim Brey’s nights at TIME, or anywhere (trumpeter) Elliot Bild plays… if not, I’d live somewhere more rural.”

While that rural setting (or at least the back and forth between the bucolic outdoors and the clustered, crowded city-inspired “Chicory Root,” Krolak’s newer music from “Voice = Power”—just like his jazz interview podcast of the same name—deals with issues such as sustainability (“in an abstract way”),  touches on lyrics and spoken word poetry, and portrays the bassist-composer revealing the voice and pace of his own private “superhero” power.

“Some people hear whole things in their head and be done with it—I’m a whittler, picking at something over time until it’s right for me.”

Leave a Reply

X
%d bloggers like this: