In 1962, Tomasz Stańko formed his first band, the Jazz Darings, with saxophonist Janusz Muniak, pianist Adam Makowicz, bassist Jacek Ostaszewski, drummer Wiktor Perelmuter. Inspired by early Ornette Coleman and the innovations of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and George Russell, the group is often cited by music historians as the first European group to play free jazz. In his later years he collaborated with pianist Krzysztof Komeda on Komeda’s album Astigmatic, recorded in late 1965. In 1968, Stańko formed a quintet whose members included Janusz Muniak – tenor and soprano saxes, flute, Zbigniew Seifert – alto sax and violin, Bronisław Suchanek – bass, Janusz Stefański – drums, percussion. In 1975, he formed the Tomasz Stańko-Adam Makowicz Unit.
Stańko established a reputation as a leading figure not only in Polish jazz, but on the world stage as well, working with many notable musicians, including Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Reggie Workman, Rufus Reid, Lester Bowie, David Murray, Manu Katché and Chico Freeman. From 1984 he was a member of Cecil Taylor‘s big band.