THE LEGACY OF POLISH MUSIC ABROAD AT THREE GLANCES
October 9, 2019 | 9 PM
East China Normal University | Department of Music
2019年10月9日 | 21 點
华东师范大学 | 音乐学院
Kuba Stankiewicz Trio
Kuba Stankiewicz piano
Wojciech Pulcyn bass
Sebastian Frankiewicz drums
◼︎ Henryk Wars Na pierwszy znak | First Sign
◼︎ Victor Young Alone at Last
◼︎ Henryk Wars Miłość ci wszystko wybaczy | Love Will Forgive You Anything
◼︎ Victor Young Love Letters
◼︎ Bronisław Kaper Blue Lovebird
◼︎ Henryk Wars Over and Over and Over
◼︎ Henryk Wars Nic o tobie nie wiem | Knowing nothing about you
◼︎ Victor Young Beautiful Love
Kuba Stankiewicz has been one of Poland’s leading jazz pianists for many years. In the second half of the 1980s he played with the Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski band, and then with the Zbigniew Namysłowski quintet and a quartet, which resulted in the albums Open and Song of Innocence). In the years 1987-1990 he studied pianoforte at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he was awarded the Oscar Peterson Prize. He was also the semi-finalist of the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute Of Jazz International Piano Competition in Washington. From his time in America, it is also worth recalling Stankiewicz’s work with the orchestra of the legendary clarinettist and bandleader, Arti Shaw.
After returning to Poland, Stankiewicz established a quartet with Henryk Miśkiewicz, Adam Cegielski and Cezary Konrad, and in 1993 he recorded the Northern Song album (chosen as album of the year by the readers of Jazz Forum). Following this, he co-established the Traveling Birds formation with Darek Oleszkiewicz, Piotr Wojtasik, Piotr Baron, Cezary Konrad, which led to the recording of the almbums Traveling Birds Quintet in 1994 and Return To The Nest in 1995), albums which consolidated his strong position on the Polish music scene. Among other musicians with whom he has played, noteworthy of mention are: Scott Hamilton, Art Farmer (with whom Stankiwiecz collaborated on the album Art In Wroclaw), Sheila Jordan, Janusz Muniak, Tomasz Szukalski and Anna Maria Jopek.
At the end of the nineties, Kuba Stankiewicz composed the nostalgic album entitled Ulice wielkich miast [Streets of Great Cities] based on the lyrics of Agnieszka Osiecka, who had passed away in 1997. This was followed up a few years later by the unprecedented The Chopin Songbook (with jazz interpretations of the great composer’s songs in both Polish and English editions), which was performed at the Jazz Jamboree festival in 2003, and again in a series of performances in 2010 as part of the Chopin Year (including the Chopin and his Europe festival in Warsaw). In 2012, Kuba Stankiewicz recorded the original Spaces album, which was nominated in 2013 for the Wrocław Music Award, and a FRYDERYK award Album of the Year in the Jazz Music category; and in the same year he released a solo album with his own interpretations of the film scores of Wojciech Kilar.
In 2014, in a Los Angeles studio, together with Peter Erskine and Darek Oleszkiewicz, Stankiewicz recorded the musical pieces of Victor Young, and the album was subsequently released by Warner Classics. In 2015, Stankiweicz performed series of concerts promoting the album across the USA.
Although the piano style of Kuba Stanskiewicz is based on classical American models, it often opts for the Romantic lyric over dynamic extremes. It remains grounded however in pure jazz, embedded in convincing timing, and one that is open to partners. In recent years, Stankiewicz has been increasingly involved in pedagogical activities (in 2009 he defended his doctorate at the Academy of Music in Wrocław, and in January 2016 he received a postdoctoral degree in the field of Musical Arts and Instrumental Studies). He is also a highly respected creator of music computer programs.
A double bass player and session musician. Pulcyn has collaborated with some of Poland’s most renowned musicians, including Ewa Bem and Michał Urbaniak. He has also worked with the young stars of the Polish jazz scene, such as guitarist Rafał Sarnecki. and pianist Michał Tokaj. Pulcyn is a graduate of the Jazz Department at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music and the Police College Jazz School of Warsaw, where he studied under the tutelage of Professor Zbigniew Wegehaupt.
Wojciech has collaborated with ethnic music bands, such as The Warsaw Village Band, Ogrody Alamut and the Bartosz Niedźwiecki Quartet. Wojciech has recently performed to great acclaim at the New Radio Polish Folk Music Festival. Inspired by his interest in folk music and classical music, Wojciech conceived the project entitled the “Kurpie Etnophonies – a tribute to Karol Szymanowski and Władysław Skierokowski”. This recording was a reinterpretation of Szymanowski’s „Kurpie Songs” and a tribute to Władysław Skierkowski, a Polish scholar and a celebrated exponent of Polish folklore.
Wojciech Pulcyn also composes music for theatre. In 2000 he composed a piece for a play based on the novel Transatlantyk, by Witold Gombrowicz; a play directed by Waldemar
Śmigasiewicz, which was staged at the Montownia Theater in Warsaw. Currently Wojciech is a double bass player, with the National Theatre in Warsaw.
In 2013, together with the pianist Bogdan Hołownia Pulcyn, Pulcyn recorded the album Śpiewnik
Henryk Warsa [The Songbook of Henryk Wars] commemorating the legacy of the pioneer of Polish jazz. With this material, Pulcyn and fellow musicians went on tour. This year, Wojciech participated in the recording of three more albums, in association with Witold Janiak, Kazimierz Jonkisz and Mariusz Lubomski.
Current projects are:
– Energy, Kazimierz Jonkisz
– The Rafał Sarnecki Quartet
– The Piotr Bocian Cieślikowski Trio
– „Jazz and Friends” by Barbara Wrzesińska and Borys Janczarski
– Mariusz Lubomski, Weronika Grodzew and the Szymanowski combo
– The Kuba Stankiewicz Quartet, with Bogdan Hołownia on piano and Daniel Kramer.
– Performing with the National Theatre in Warsaw
– The Henryk Wars songbook, with Bogdan Hołownia
A drummer, graduate of the Faculty of Jazz and Popular Music in Katowice in the class of dr Adam Buczek. The winner of many national jazz competitions, including: Jazz Juniors, Jazz on the Odra; and The Jazz Standards Festival in Siedlce.
In the years 2000/01/02 he was a scholarship recipient of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. He has performed at festivals in Europe (London, Paris, Crest, Vienna, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Budapest, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Zagreb, Kiev, Minsk, Vilnius) and beyond (Beijing, Winnipeg, Algiers, Tangier, Irkutsk, Mexico City, Havana, Tel Aviv, Cairo).
Frankiewicz’s career achievements include working with artists of the Polish music scene; artists such as: Urszula Dudziak, Grażyna Auguścik, Lora Szafran, Dorota Miskiewicz, Aga Zaryan, Monika Borzym, Kayah, the Bisquit band, Michał Urbaniak, Jansz Muniak, Wlodzimerz Nahorny, Wojciech Młynarski, Grzegorz Karnas, Mariusz Bogdanowicz, Kuba Stankiewicz.
Frankiewicz has also work with foreign performers such as: Kevin Mahogany, Patricia Barber, Mark Thomas.
In 2013, the album Pathfinder by the band Nowicki / Święs / Frankiewicz was nominated for a Fryderyk award in the Best Album category.
Frankiwicz’s musical language can be described as ‘hybrid’, resulting from his fascination with music genres such as old and modern, improvised, pop, as well as Polish folk.
Young, Kaper and Vars: being given the jazz treatment.
You think you’ve heard all this before?
Nothing could be farther from the truth!
The film-jazz trilogy of Kuba Stankiewicz, whose concert „summation” will headline the program this evening, is an unprecedented exploration of the shared histories of Polish and American phonography.
A few years ago, in an interview which took place as part of the launch of the 3-CD album compilation „The Music of Victor Young”, Kuba Stankiewicz recalled an anecdote featuring the celebrated master of Polish jazz saxophonist Janusz Muniak: (…) He told me – Stankiewicz recalled – that his favorite tune was „Beautiful Love”. He joked: „Old friend, it sounds like a Russian folk melody; how could they write something like that in America?” When I first began listening to Young’s music, I looked to follow his path and in so doing I discovered the fascinating story of his life; so these Muniak jokes began to take on a deeper meaning. Young was from here – that’s why you can hear his Russian, Polish, Slavic melodies.
There is no doubt that the celebrated Hollywood composer, Victor Young, was an American by birth (Chicago born), choice and conviction. He chose to never speak about his Polish roots. He was born probably in 1899 (various sources give different dates) as Abe Jabłoń to a family of Polish Jews who had hailed from Mława. After the untimely death of his mother, his father, a traveling musician in an operatic orchestra, sent him to his grandparents in Warsaw, where he began studying at the Warsaw Conservatory (violin and composition), and later: going by the name of Wiktor Jung, he made his debut at the Warsaw Philharmonic. Soon after, he was giving concerts in St. Petersburg for Tsar Nicholas II. When the Bolshevik Revolution broke out, he returned to Warsaw, where he completed his studies, and also witnessed Poland’s regaining of independence. In 1920, he left for Paris, and from there he traveled to the United States, where he would remain for the rest of his life.
He had a strong work ethic, and would end up writing scores for over 300 films. He was nominated for an Oscar 22 times (though he won only once, and posthumously – for best original score for the „Around the World in 80 Days” (1956). A few of his melodies became chart hits and it was jazz artists who imbued these songs with the glitz of immortality. The most notable example was the song „Stella by Starlight” from the movie „The Uninvited” (1944), about which Kuba Stankiewicz has this to say: the [movie] was shot exactly at the same time when the Warsaw Uprising was in its throes. Who would have been thinking about such matters then? Miles Davis was 18 years’ old at the time. Probably one day he went to the cinema, saw the movie, liked the song and thought: „Nice tune, maybe I should learn to play it?”. And so he did, and „Stella by Starlight” would become his trademark tune.
Jazz artists playing cinematic and musical melodies has been a frequent and fruitful practice, and has contributed to the assembly of the Great American Songbook. That said, Kuba Stankiewicz, a contemporary artist with his own take on tradition, has striven to achieve something more. To this end, he has looked the music of Polish emigres in America so as to remind people just how complex and fascinating the history of Polish emigration in the 20th century was.
For most of Young’s adult life, Poland was a closed chapter. He did not visit Poland after World War II, and did not cultivate relationships with other Polish immigrants. Family members mentioned that one of the few people with whom he spoke Polish was the dazzling Bronisław Kaper, who was a few years his junior. But from his friendship with Kaper, we can imagine that he must have yearned for his homeland, especially when we see that Kaper was a staunch Polish patriot and a lover of Polish culture.
Bronisław Kaper was born in 1902 to a well-established Warsaw-Jewish family. He studied law at Warsaw University (which he completed at his parents’ insistence, yet never practiced), and composition and piano at Warsaw Conservatory. He committed his life to music around the time of his graduation, focusing in particular on cabaret songs. He left for Berlin to pursue an apprenticeship as a cabaret performer; as Berlin was where the cabaret scene was most vibrant (this performative art would not become popular across Europe until the 1930s). However, he was forced to flee Germany when Hitler came to power, the next destination being Paris. There he met the legendary film producer, Louis B. Mayer, who liked the radio-song „Ninon”, performed by Jan Kiepura – a hit that Kaper had written together with Walter Jurmann for the famous tenor. Mayer – at that time the undisputed King of the Dream Factory – took both young men with him to America.
Kaper spent the best part of 50 years in Hollywood, and wrote music for 150 films: in 1954 he won an Oscar for „Lili” in the category Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. He also became a one-man institution as an informal ambassador of Polish culture. His house was an open salon for Polish artists looking for support in their careers, and he spent a fortune on long-distance telephone calls to friends left behind the Iron Curtain. Kaper would only visit Poland in the 1960s. He died in 1983.
Kaper’s most famous melodies – „On Green Dolphin Street”, „Invitation” or the already mentioned „Ninon” – are considered as standards today. No day passes where somewhere in the world, in a concert hall or small club, jazz artists do not fail to include these pieces in their repertoire. Hardly anyone knows – also in Poland! – that these compositions have something in common with Poland, but… is it not true that the best music knows no borders?
The life story of Henryk Warszawski (born 1902) – in Poland better known as Henryk Wars, and in the USA as Henry Vars – is a story replete with Hollywood glamour. He remains Warsaw’s most famous composer, who enjoyed a stellar reputation even before the outbreak of World War II. His songs are the songbook of his homeland, and have become a part of popular culture.
Vars was one of the first leaders of a jazz band in Warsaw; he was the composer of musical hits, and was a well-known composer of film scores. He was also a soldier who fought gallantly against the Germans in the defence of Poland in September 1939, being subsequently captured and taken prisoner. He soon escaped from captivity and managed to get as far as Lviv in today’s Ukraine, where he founded the Big Band. He joined the Polish Army of Gen. Anders, with whom, as the head of the orchestra, Vars travelled half of the world; and in 1946 he settled in the USA.
Thanks to the reputation which Bronisław Kaper enjoyed in Hollywood, Vars, as a Polish composer and yet another Jewish exile, could count on an easy entry into show business; but this was a new beginning for a man who was well into his 40s. Wars arranged and composed film and TV music, and he also wrote songs for popular singers. He died in Los Angeles in 1977, not having gained wide-spread fame or amassed a fortune, but having achieved a modest prosperity and respect amongst artistic circles in the City of Angels. From our Polish perspective, it was his work that has survived best the passage of time. I think everyone in Warsaw knows the melodies of Wars: „Love Forgives Everything”, „Ah, How Nice”, „At the First Sign” … These evergreens, often played and sung on radio and television, and also in theaters and cabarets, have captured and enhanced the image of a pre-war idyll. Such is the power of music, to help picture a world that may have only ever existed in the imagination.
The idea of Kuba Stankiewicz showcasing the music of Young, Kaper and Vars is wonderful in its simplicity and – being in opposition to current trends in popular music and jazz – remains avant-garde on its own terms. Interpretations by the pianist are based on the beauty of the original melodies, and on the subtle sound and balanced expression of jazzy swing. If you looking for elements which distinguish Stankiewicz’s piano craftsmanship, they are undoubtedly the heavenly, lyrical introductions to ballads. No one can play jazz on the piano quite so tenderly. From the large group of outstanding Polish jazz pianists playing today, only Stankiewicz approaches each sound and note with such meticulousness, thoughtfulness and sensitivity.
Welcome to what will be an unforgettable evening, featuring unique interpretations of the music of Young, Kaper and Vars!