Mat Walerian is a jazz saxophonist and woodwind player, composer, and bandleader. He is best known for his work in avant-garde jazz and improvisational music. His most frequent collaborators are drummer Hamid Drake, pianist Matthew Shipp, and bassist William Parker. Born Mateusz Jan Walerian in 1984, he took his first piano lessons at age six. Deeply interested in blues and boogie-woogie, he discovered the music of John Coltrane at ten. He picked up the saxophone at 16, and started his journey as a self-taught player. He showed enough proficiency after a month to join his school's orchestra.
Fate dealt a blow that initially seemed insurmountable: he changed high schools, but his new one didn't have an orchestra. Unable to afford his own instrument and unable to borrow one from school, Walerian stopped playing until the age of 19, when he purchased his own alto. He took a few lessons but dropped formal musical education. He continued to practice on his own and to play in assorted groups that experimented with hardcore and improvisational guitar music. After high school, he studied Eastern philosophy and Japanese culture. Japanese and Indian classical music left as deep an impression on him as Western classical music and the jazz tradition. He continued to play with various groups intersecting improvised music, jazz, electronica, and more.
In 2008 he met Drake and took occasional lessons from the drummer. In 2010, Walerian founded Okuden Music, a concert series held in various locations in his hometown of Torun. He also served as its art director. These concerts were a means for Walerian to work independently and not rely on local promoters. He could — and did — perform in any setting he wished. He played with Drake in a duo as White Lotus, and the Jimi Hendrix-influenced power trio Sainthunter, which also included bassist Tim Dahl. Based on a recommendation from Drake, Walerian contacted Shipp via email, asking if he'd be interested in performing at Okuden. The pianist agreed, beginning a longtime association.