You have to improvise in jazz and in life

You have to improvise in jazz and in life

You have to improvise in jazz and in life “Improvisation is the key,” said Artur Dutkiewicz with a smile as he sat down for our interview at Izmir’s Adnan Saygun Concert Hall. “If you are intelligent, if you can understand what is going on and take necessary action and be adaptable, everything will be fine.”

The musician, who is known as the ambassador of Polish jazz, and his trio have just arrived and a lot needs to be done before his concert at the Izmir European Jazz Festival. The rain, security measures, and the visit of the prime minister to the city delayed their arrival, and the electrician and the sound engineer to prepare the hall are nowhere to be found. Dutkiewicz, who has travelled all round the world from China to New Zealand, is unmoved, as if he already knows that everything will be solved and the concert, already completely booked, would be very successful. It is indeed successful, with a full house and with Turkey’s Poland Ambassador Maciej Lang and Istanbul Consul-General Andrzej Papierz travelling to Izmir to watch the concert with the organizer of the festival, İzmir Foundation for Culture, Arts and Education chair Filiz Eczacıbaşı Sarper. 

“I choose Jazz because I like to improvise,” Dutkiewicz said in an interview with Hürriyet Daily News. “I started playing the piano at the age of 11, not too early, but I had talent and my family was musical, so I made up for the lost time. While playing classical piano, I discovered that when my elderly professor starting dozing, I could improvise as I pleased, without waking her up. So I ended up playing jazz, which comes from the heart.”

Born in 1958, the same year that Dave Brubeck, the American pianist who is the symbolic figure of cool jazz, visited Poland, Dutkiewicz stressed that jazz had been very popular in Poland, even when the communist regime banned it for being decadent music. “The reason that the jazz movement in that period was called ‘Catacomb’ was precisely because that is where we played it – underground and in the secrecy of private houses,” he said.

The political thaw after 1955 also witnessed the development of an authentic jazz movement in Poland. Jazz festivals in Sopot, organized in 1956 and 1957, became the origin of the tradition of the Warsaw Jazz Jamboree Festival of the later years. “This is the oldest and biggest jazz festival in eastern Europe. We have more than 110 jazz festivals in the country now, where young players come and play,” said Dutkiewicz.

What will be the place of Jazz in the 21st century? “Jazz is eternal,” he said. “People like things that touch their heart – that is why big theaters, the music of Chopin and jazz will continue to move them.”

He also believes that internet has revitalized jazz. “In the past, people around the world who played in different styles were not connected – and an opportunity to learn from each other was lost. Now thanks to the internet, we are aware of what others are doing. Internet has helped us to find a platform. Music is universal and can be shared, just like a common language,” he said. He also referred to the Turco-Polish jazz link. “While I am here in Turkey, Turkish jazz singer Sibel Köse is in Poland, giving a concert. Of course, I also have a link to Janusz Szprot,” he said, referring to the Polish jazz player and composer who established Bilkent University’s jazz department. 

Why is he called the ambassador of Polish music? “I suppose it is because I travel a lot abroad,” he said modestly, but it is only partially true. Building on his classical education, Dutkiewicz has used the elements of the traditional Polish music into Jazz. “I use mazurkas and polish cords, the language I have learned in Poland. I try to reflect the mood of Poland, the romance that you can hear in Chopin, the admiration of beauty, the sense of missing because they have been deprived of their independence for 150 years,” he said.

İzmir Jazz Festival 

Poland is one of the main participants of the İzmir European Jazz Festival, which has been bringing international jazz players to the Aegean province for almost half a century. The İzmir European Jazz Festival, held in the first half of every March, is organized by the İzmir Foundation for Culture, Arts and Education (IKSEV) and co-sponsored by the consulates and cultural centers of some European countries in İzmir and Istanbul. The İzmir Jazz Festival is a member of the Union of European Festivals. Besides concerts, the festival also hosts a number of workshops for local young musicians, some of whom are given scholarships to study music in Europe.