Eight Artists Keeping The Polish Jazz/Avant-Garde Tradition Moving Forward

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

It may be the 100th anniversary of Poland’s restoration as the Second Polish Republic this November 11, but this year also marked a culturally important round-number anniversary for the nation: 60 years ago, in 1958, Dave Brubeck became the first American jazz musician to perform behind the Iron Curtain, acting as a cultural ambassador who would ultimately have a profound effect on Poland’s musical culture. Shortly afterward, he wrote an open letter addressed to “my dear friends in Poland,” thanking them for their hospitality and predicting that, “I believe that the future for jazz in Poland is a bright one. Wherever you find such a group of young, eager, and talented musicians as I have heard in Warsaw and Krakow and other cities, you know there is a vital force which must be and will be expressed.”

He was right. Within a few years, pianists like Krzysztof Komeda and Andrzej Trzaskowski were breaking through as regionally distinct composers and improvisers who brought unique avant-garde flourishes to their own strain of jazz in the mid ’60s. Trumpeter Tomasz Stańko and violinist/saxophonist Michał Urbaniak progressed from Komeda’s sidemen to fearless bandleaders in the ’70s, developing their own distinctly forward-thinking answers to the fusion, free jazz, and jazz-rock offered by American and Western European groups. Finally—after years of institutional complacency had reduced state-sanctioned jazz music to a narrow canon of standards—the punk-inspired yass movement of the late 1980s, featuring bands like Miłość and Kury, rekindled an even stronger commitment to the abrasive and avant-garde.