Thursday, June 14, 2012

Polish Jazz Archive Series vol. 1 – Post-War Dance Bands

   In after war East Europe jazz music blossomed for a while and then it was roughly repressed. In the beginnings of Cold War era, jazz as any other form of American culture was just banned. And as many other forms of independent culture, jazz artists were trying to survive in underground. In the background it was political issue. Every kind of information showing USA as a land of freedom and civil rights was considered to be politically dangerous. Of course not for communistic establishment, as Stalin was spending many nights watching American movies, the same were doing many of his brothers in arms in East European capitals.
   While modern jazz was absolutely absent in official music of early fifties, some more traditional jazz themes were playing by musicians in dancing clubs. Many musicians continued their pre-war activity; some had to work for money in orchestras and smaller groups, where jazz was not loudly promoted but still existing – especially after the hours. De-Stalinization meant the end of banishment for many genres of concert and popular music as well as for huge portions of literature, art and movies. In late fifties jazz began the process of slow developing the position of artistic music.

Polish Jazz vol. 1 – Post-War Dance Bands (1975)

   It’s interesting the first few years after the war communistic regime was not enough strong and in many areas people were continuing their pre-war activities. In the years 1946 to 1948 many recordings of dance orchestras were published and some of them were in the swing style. To bring listeners back this forgotten chapter of the underground jazz, Polish label Polskie Nagrania started in 1975 publishing Polish Jazz Archive Series. In 1975 and 1976 appeared only four volumes. Maybe it’s not great number considering dozens of records in similar series in West European countries, but it’s still impressive how wide in war-devastated and regime-frozen Poland jazz stream was. Every volume of this series has its features and qualities. First has very special meaning because it preserves the sound of first after war swing bands.
   These oldest sound samples come from Jerzy Harald Band recorded 1946 in Cracow and Charles Bovery Jazz Orchestra recorded next year in Poznań. With Jerzy Harald Band Organ Grinder’s Swing sings Kazimiera Kaliszewska – very rare and early jazz vocal recording in Poland. Main parts of the selection are seven different tunes from 1948. This was the moment of great expectations and increasing activity in different areas. Jazz has the moment of short rising. For this album redactors choose well known vocal ensemble Czejand’s Choir, almost forgotten Kazimierz Obrębski Jazz Orchestra, Mieczysław Janicz Jazz Ensemble, Skowroński and Górkiewicz Jazz Ensemble and probably the best band Łopatowscy Bros. Jazz Orchestra with three standards in well sounding swing arrangement – In the Mood, Caravan and Chattanooga Choo Choo – fancy arrangements in Glenn Miller’s style, rhythmic discipline and rich sound are the qualities no communist mass culture was able to resist.
   Last three pieces come from the period 1954-1956 when Polish jazz bands returned to concert halls – Jan Cajmer Orchestra a famous big-band of Polish Radio recorded life in sporting hall concert and two recordings from Warsaw National Philharmonic Hall – Charles Bovery Jazz Orchestra playing Creole Love Call and The Blue Jazz National Music Ensemble with Józef Grabarski playing Trumpet Rhapsody. This was historical moment anyway. Jazz in National Philharmonic, played as professional music was quite a satisfaction for musicians and the audience.

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