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The Real Jazz Ambassadors - Brubeck in Poland

The Dave Brubeck Quartet's 1958 State Department-sponsored tour in Poland was part of a Cold War project to use jazz as a weapon in America's Kulturkampf against Soviet Communism. Though the Quartet brought Brubeck's new, cool jazz from America, jazz itself was nothing new in Poland. Quite the contrary: jazz had already enjoyed a high profile in cosmopolitan Polish culture for decades.

The documentary THE REAL JAZZ AMBASSADORS: THE BRUBECKS IN POLAND tells the story of Dave Brubeck's Cold War Polish sojourn, and the momentous events that preceded and followed it: a fascinating narrative that runs from the birth of modern Poland to this year's centennial celebration of Polish national independence.

"An independent Polish state should be erected ... whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant," President Woodrow Wilson had declared in 1918. The United States became the first country to recognise Poland’s independence just as jazz was beginning to take America by storm in what would become the Roaring Twenties. At the same time, musicians in the freshly minted Polish republic were already playing con brio the latest Dixieland and Swing in the chic dancehalls of Warsaw and Kraków. Modern Poland, both politically and culturally, was a child of the Jazz Age.

After the carnage of World War II, Poland became a Soviet satellite in the vice grip of Josef Stalin's regime. Stalin hated American music, and in 1949, the Polish Composers Association, following the official Stalinist line, condemned jazz as a decadent, bourgeois creature of American imperialism. Jazz in Poland went underground, into "the Catacombs," as the Poles called them -- that subterranean world of clandestine cafés, bistros, and out-of the-way after-hours clubs so richly depicted in Pawe? Pawlikowski's film, Cold War.

In the political "Thaw" that immediately followed Stalin's death, all areas of Polish culture flourished with renewed vigor. Polish jazz reemerged from the Catacombs: in 1954 the first legal post-Stalinist jazz event was held in Kraków, and in 1956, the State-sponsored Sopot Festival marked the official recognition of jazz by Poland's Communist regime. In the 1950s and 1960s, State-sponsored festivals in Sopot and Warsaw featured jazz performers from all over the world, and home-grown Polish jazz musicians recorded their own groundbreaking music. Seen as the music of freedom, jazz became the soundtrack of Poland's remarkable Cold-War cultural florescence.

It was in this vibrant ambient of cultural florescence that the Dave Brubeck Quartet toured Poland in March of 1958, on the fortieth anniversary of Polish independence.

Darius Brubeck, son of Dave Brubeck, was ten years old when he accompanied his father on the 1958 tour; that experience was the beginning of a lifelong career as a musician, educator, and cultural ambassador. This November, coinciding with the sixtieth anniversary ot the 1958 Dave Brubeck Quartet tour and the centennial celebration of Polish independence, Darius Brubeck returns to Poland with his own jazz quartet to retrace his father's footsteps. THE REAL JAZZ AMBASSADORS: THE BRUBECKS IN POLAND captures this historic moment celebrating both a century of Polish independence and jazz, that peculiar invention of American genius, as the musical idiom of independence.