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3. Jun. 2016

Don't Panic: It's Poland!

In the lead up to the 2016 edition of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Coastal Jazz asked various members of the jazz "family" to share their thoughts about artists who will perform at the festival. Today, Artistic Director Ken Pickering explores surprise jazz hotbed Poland, and it's contributions to the international jazz scene.

Jazztopad : Polish Jazz Connections

(Don’t Panic: It's a Polish Invasion!)

Over the past couple of years we’ve deepened our engagement with the Polish jazz scene through a new partnership with Piotr Turkiewicz – Artistic Director of the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw. Our festivals share a similar adventurous aesthetic that encompasses the international and the homegrown. Although a much younger festival than ours – Jazztopad has established a stellar reputation in recent years for often neglected or even unheard of programming initiatives including: commissioning new work, living room concerts, international exchanges and showcases. Poland has become (maybe always has been) one of the European hot spots for creative music. In any case Poland is one of Europe’s important destinations for jazz artists.

As a fledgling jazz fan back in the day (way back), my knowledge of Polish jazz was largely limited to the film composer / jazz pianist Krzysztof Komeda and the wonderful trumpeter Tomasz Stanko both major forces in free jazz from the late 60’s. I’ve followed Stanko since the early 70’s and he’s still one of my favourites – however his fiery sound has mellowed a great deal in his maturity as evidenced by a gorgeous string of ECM albums beginning in the late 90’s. He also recorded Balladyna a one off classic for ECM in 1976 with Edward Vesala the great Finnish drummer, Dave Holland and Tomasz Szukalski.  Another fave was Purple Sun (Calig) from 1973 – well worth searching out. Stanko’s last appearance at the festival was in 2010.




And that brings us to the brilliant pianist Marcin Wasilewski whose Simply Acoustic Trio was recruited and mentored by Mr. Stanko beginning in 1999 – resulting in three beautiful albums: Soul of Things, Suspended Night and Lontano (all ECM from 2002 - 2006). Those sides were the beginnings of Wasilewski’s rapid ascent to the forefront of the European jazz scene and sparked a run of great trio albums for ECM from 2005. He’s now one of the most popular acoustic jazz musicians in Poland and an in demand pianist at the best festivals in Europe, most recently completing a run of concerts with Swedish saxophonist Joakim Milder. His credits include work with international jazz stars Jan Garbarek, Dino Saluzzi, John Surman, Joe Lovano (at the festival 6/28) and Gianluigi Trovesi (at the festival 7/3). Having worked on this little festival tour with Marcin’s manager for a couple of years now, I’m personally really thrilled that the trio will finally perform for us! This concert’s not only for fans of great piano jazz, but shouldn’t be missed by fans of today’s top- drawer contemporary jazz.

At the Ironworks: June 26 

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Another story altogether (but still connected) is my discovery of the young trumpet firebrand Piotr Damasiewicz who came to my attention at the amazing project: Take 5 Europe (a week long education project for ten musicians from five countries) at the organic farm and conference centre, Bore Place, Kent in 2013.  Along with a few other music business folks, I was invited to speak to the assembled musicians about aspects of the music biz (festivals - social media etc) and hang with them for three days - from breakfast to nightcaps and for all of the music, seminars and sessions in between. Piotr was something special – a young musician in command of both traditional and extended trumpet techniques that he deployed with commitment, taste and passion in each of the pieces he participated in. His wide ranging approach combines ethereal modal jazz with an intense 60’s free jazz vibe that might incorporate free improvisation and third stream elements depending on the context. His credits include work with Paal Nilssen-Love, Phil Minton, Samuel Blaser, Per Zanussi and many more on today’s European jazz and improvised music scene. Piotr Damasiewicz is a very committed and convincing young musician. His concert in Vancouver will pay tribute to a Polish icon: Tomasz “Sakal” Szukalski who passed away in 2012 and performed with Tomasz Stanko and Edward Vesala (see above) for years (and a host of other greats). An evening with his band will be a barn- burner.

At the Ironworks: June 29.

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The Polish artist not coming from Poland is another talented young trumpeter; Jacques Kuba Seguin - in fact he’s a Montrealer (of Polish origins). While never straying far from his Polish roots and a healthy respect for the jazz tradition, his feet remain firmly planted in the modernist camp – (don’t miss his third stream collaboration with the Bozzini Quartet). At a fateful jam session in Rimouski back in 2012, he met and created a strong bond with his bassist Frederic Alarie that eventually resulted in the Litania project. The winner of the Révélation Jazz Radio-Canada prize in 2012, he’s performed often at the Montreal Jazz Festival and has toured in Poland, China and Germany and this tour signals his band’s first visit (seriously overdue) way out west. I must say I’m really looking forward to his set at Downtown Jazz!

At the Robson Stage (Free): June 26 at 1:30pm

Thanks to Canada Council for the Arts



Listen some more (with strings):

Learn More:!litania/m3voc

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Thanks to Jazztopad, Polish Cultural Institute New York, National Forum of Music, Poland and Canada Council for the Arts.

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