Michael Formanek's singular approach to the acoustic bass has led to an impressive range of musical associations. During his thirty five-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, Joe Lovano, Evan Parker, Ellery Eskelin, Oliver Lake, Marilyn Crispell, 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. He received Individual Artist Awards for composition by the Maryland State Arts Council in 2009 and 2012, and was awarded Fellowships by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for a residency to compose new work in 2010 and 2011.
In 2010 Michael Formanek’s first CD as a leader and composer in more than a decade was released on the ECM label. The Rub and Spare Change features the amazing group of Tim Berne on saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano, and Gerald Cleaver on drums, and Formanek on bass, and has received numerous accolades including Five Stars in Down Beat Magazine, and a place on many best CD’s of 2010 lists. As a result the Michael Formanek Quartet toured Europe in April of 2011, and continues to perform whenever possible in the US and elsewhere. A new CD of his original compositions for the Michael Formanek Quartet was recorded for ECM at the end of 2011, and will be released in the second half of 2012. Michael Formanek lives in Baltimore where he actively participates in collaborations with a wide range of jazz and improvisational musicians, including John Dierker, Lafayette Gilchrist, Dave Ballou, Eric Kennedy, Marc Miller, and the great pedal steel guitarist and improviser, Susan Alcorn. Other current projects include performances with a new cooperative trio, Thumbscrew, with guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, Also, a performance of music for big band, “The Music of Michael Formanek”, was given by the Peabody Jazz Orchestra in mid-February, 2012. His newest CD, Small Places, also on ECM with be released on September 25th, 2012.