The Dave Brubeck Quartet's 1958 State Department-sponsored tour in Poland was part of a Cold War project called the Jazz Ambassadors Program. It was initiated to win the hearts and minds of European countries against the ever expanding Soviet Communism. Their strategy, a true American art form and regarded as the music of freedom: Jazz. During this era, musicians like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington and the Dave Brubeck Quartet took part in these tours, but whilst being received as royalty in Europe and Asia, in the USA, segregation by so called Jim Crow laws were still a fundamental problem. The Jazz Ambassadors program raised questions on how America was portraying itself to the world, and among others, Dave Brubeck, together with his wife Iola and Louis Armstrong recorded a musical called The Real Ambassadors, in which they criticized this governmental endeavor.
This documentary tells the history of this Jazz Ambassadors program, what it meant for the United States and what it did to musical Europe. It also focuses on the story when Dave Brubeck, accompanied by his family, went on this important, historic Polish tour and the momentous events that preceded and followed it. A narrative that centers on one person who witnessed it all; Dave's son, Darius Brubeck. Who became in a sense a Jazz Ambassador on his own when his career led him to South-Africa during the last years of the Apartheid.
Modern Poland, both politically and culturally, was a child of the Jazz Age. After World War II, Poland became a Soviet satellite of Josef Stalin's regime. Stalin hated American music, and condemned jazz as a creature of American imperialism. Jazz in Poland went underground, into "the Catacombs" as they called it. However, the political landscape changed immediately after Stalin's death in 1953. Polish culture started to flourish again. Polish jazz reemerged from the Catacombs. State-sponsored Jazz festivals featured domestic performers as well as international, among who Dave Brubeck. Just as in the USA, jazz was seen as the music of freedom and became the soundtrack of Poland's remarkable Cold-War cultural florescence.
Darius Brubeck was eleven years old when he accompanied his father on the 1958 tour; that experience was the beginning of a lifelong career as a musician and educator. In 1983, during the Apartheid, Darius moved to South-Africa to pursue his vision of bringing Jazz to that country, resulting in offering a Jazz Studies course at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban and was later appointed Director of the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music. Darius joined bands like the Afro Cool Concept and The Jazzanians, a mixed-race band from a South-African university. Just like his father and all other musicians before him, he showcased that jazz - next to the USA and Poland - is indeed the musical idiom of freedom.
Among other places, Darius returns to Poland with his Darius Brubeck Quartet to retrace his father's footsteps that was left in '58 and in the meantime whilst capturing this historic moment celebrating a century of Polish independence. Darius and his wife Cathy are writing a book about their life in South Africa and through this documentary we will discover that Darius is a cultural bridge builder like his father before him.
This is a documentary in the making. For any inquiries, feel free to get in touch.