Krakow, Poland

Polish people pronounce it: “KRAH-koov.” I never would have guessed that. On the other hand, they don’t say Poland. They say “Polska.” In the middle of the concert, I exclaimed, “You know, I know your cousins and aunts and uncles who live in Milwaukee. I do. I really do. They call me Jarreau-ski!” They laughed.

We had some rest time here, and everybody on the tour bus is quite refreshed. On the day before our concert at the opera house, we met with the festival organizer Witold, and my friend Vladi, and some friends from Germany who are part of the NDR organization, the Norddeutscher Rundfunk Big Band. Vladistav Sendecki is highly ranked among the great pianists of the last 100 years, with Herbie and Chick and Duke and Jarrett.  At the afternoon gathering in the hotel, Vladi and I decide that he should make a really special guest appearance at the opera house during the

What a surprise, their all being here at the same time. We met in the lobby lounge, and had a wonderful afternoon party. What a surprise. Witold, a native to Krakow, is really someone special. He can tell you about the history of the country and its famous people. Chopin. Copernicus (Earth rotates around the sun). Roman Pulanski. Lech Wałęsa (Organizer of the Polish Worker’s Union, first behind the iron curtain, who later became Poland’s president from 1990-1995). And of course, all of the important historical sites in the city. I won’t try to describe the “Cellar Under The Rams” jazz club. It’s as significant as Birdland and The Vanguard.

A once-in-my-lifetime… Never before and probably not again: The lights dim in the opera house, and the festival producer Witold is speaking in Polish.  I hear my name and out I go. We hug in the middle of the stage, and I surprise him and myself, too, by forcing him to sing a little call-and-response.  I hold him close, and put the mic in front of his mouth, and don’t let him run away off stage. And he does a good job. He taught cello at the conservatory. As far as putting on a good show, you can’t go wrong with that kind of start. “We’re gonna have some fun tonight, you guys!” is what it says. And we did. The band played brilliantly. And I could go on and on about that. But the important thing in all of this is this, and I’ll try to be brief: Krakow, Poland; Warsaw, Poland; Wrocław, Poland; Leipzig, Germany; Moscow, itself… And Kiev! And Lithuania! And Latvia! And Estonia! were places where my music and other Western European music was banned! People searched it out through underground and bootleg resources. Jazz is huge in Poland, but it all happened quietly underground. So, this is a really big deal, my being able to come here and be part of a festival with a hundred other artists. It’s an amazing thing. We all bowed our heads and thanked God for all of this backstage, just moments before we went on.

At the end, they stood up and cheered, and Vladi and I closed the night with an extended version of Summertime. Vladi was brilliant. We hugged, and promised the audience there would be more of this.

And there will be.

Was I brief?

Off we go to St. Moritz!

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