Founder and artistic director of the Summer Jazz Festival in Piwnica Pod Baranami.

Witold Wnuk i Al Jarreau

Witold Wnuk i Al Jarreau

Tell, please, about the relationships between jazz and about the origins of the festival.

WITOLD WNUK: Jazz was present in Piwnica since its inception in 1956. At the beginning it played well to dance, but the music quickly became more elite and existed together with the cabaret. Krakow was then the cradle of jazz. In Piwnicat and later in Helikon and Jaszczury Clubs leading Polish jazz musicians Jerzy Duduś Matuszkiewicz, Andrzej Trzaskowski, Kurylewicz, Ptaszyn Jan Wroblewski, Wojciech Karolak, Adam Makowicz, Tomasz Stańko. started their careers. In the 60s and 70s concerts in Piwnica were not held regularly, and for some time a jazz club worked there led by Jan Jarczyk. In the 80s Piwnica was organizing summer concerts under the name of "Bossa Nova from the scratch" where I played the piano with my band and Cracow’s artists including Janusz Muniak, Marian Pawlik, Jan Budziaszek Halina Jarczyk, Rysiek Styła, Benek Radecki. These meetings have become the nucleus of the Summer Festival, although the idea of ​​setting up this event came from Piotr Skrzynecki. It was he who persuaded me in 1996 to organize jazz concerts in July, which were part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Piwnica

Your adventure with Piwnica began in the early 70s.

It is true. Already in 1973, I had "an artistic episode " when together with my sister Joanna Wnuk, I accompanied the singer Ola Maurer during the premiere of the famous cabaret at Niepołomice castle. In the years 1980-1982 I was a member of the team of Ewa Demarczyk, also worked with Zygmunt Konieczny in Teatr Stary, and in 1986 during the ball in Pałac pod Baranami, which took place on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the cabaret, I played drums with members of the legendary group Melomani - with Matuszkiewicz and Andrzej Trzaskowski.

Piano, drums ... And you're a graduate of cello at the Academy of Music in Krakow. 

I played the cello professionally, while I used to have fleeting flirt with the drums and the piano I speak in the past tense, because for over 20 years I have been mainly organizing festivals and concerts in Poland and abroad, so rarely I play.

What made this local event has evolved into one of the biggest jazz festivals in Europe, with over a hundred concerts and the participation of international stars?

Undoubtedly it was the same Krakow, with its unique atmosphere, sights, nightlife café, tourists. Also, large, thriving jazz community. In our city there are about two hundred 200 artists playing the music, and it was on them first the burden of organizing the festival. In time, I began to invite musicians from outside of Krakow, and later also from abroad. This became possible also because it has changed the infrastructure of the city. The result were new concert halls (Krakow Opera, Congress Centre ICE), which can accommodate a large, even two thousand audience. In short, we have place to play and where to listen to, so we can fearlessly invite jazz stars of the world's highest level. But probably the main driving force behind the development of the festival was our faithful audience, who for twenty years, motivated us to undertake new challenges.

During the festival you can hear almost all genres of jazz.

Creating a program of any festival I consider two criteria: the level of artistic and communicative music presented. They always care about preserving jazz nature of the event - I want to avoid the situation we observe in many other festivals abroad, where the main attractions are performances by rock or pop stars. My aim is to promote the varied music, but affordable for the customer and retains the jazz idiom. The fact that these principles work in practice proved by attendance at our concerts. During the main events of the festival, Sunday, and the New Orleans Jazz Night, they play with thousands of listeners - dance, singing, marching in parades around the Market Square, massively visited clubs. On my little festival it is avant-garde, because they do not see the need to duplicate other events of Krakow, which successfully represent this variety of jazz. Each festival has its own profile, its image and its listeners. occurred

During your festival many outstanding artists , like Chick Corea, Branford Marsalis and Maria Schneider - this year there will be Herbie Hancock. Who else would you like to invite?

My list is long. At the top are the giants of jazz such as Sonny Rollins and Keith Jarrett, who are still active, and never played in Krakow. I also remember the stars of his generation, eg. By Diana Krall.

Do you think that Krakow has a chance to become the center of world jazz?

Definitely! This process has already begun. Our city has a huge potential there is here an incredible aura, which attracts millions of tourists. These hundreds of cafes in the city center, clubs, where the game is live music, produce specific and very favorable climate for jazz. Here is teeming with life 24 hours a day. It makes Krakow attracts increasing numbers of fans from abroad who do not just want to discover the beauty of this city, but also to commune with high art. Summer Festival gives them that opportunity. I'm sure that soon Krakow will be associated not only with monuments, but also with jazz at the highest level.

The organization of this festival requires much work and great colleagues.

Fortunately, I have a great team, with Antoni Dębski and Aleksandra March at the forefront. They are not only professionals but also passionate about this work and fans of jazz. It is also thanks to the festival can grow in such a dynamic way.

Interviewed by Bogdan Chmura

Witold Wnuk - international music impresario. Graduate of the Music Academy in Krakow on cello (1982) In seventies and eighties he was cooperating with among others with the Stary Theater, Ewa Demarczyk, Janusz Muniaki etc., playing in the most of European countries.

Professor of cello at The Higher Institute of Musical Arts in Kuwait 1989-1995. Co-funder ( with Cezary Owerkowicz) and director of Kuwait Chamber Philharmonia from 1992. Director of Gulf Jazz Festival at Kuwait/Bahrain/Qatar/Dubai from 1997.

Promoter of world stars concerts of among others.: Ivo Pogorelic, Art Farmer, Atsuko Temma,Vadim Brodski, Bobo Stenson, John Abecrombie, Larry Coryell, The Rosenberg Trio, Randy Brecker, Bobbz McFerrin etc, and leading Polish artists: Konstanty A.Kulka, Janusz Olejniczak, Waldemar Malicki, Adam Makowicz, Michał Urbaniak, Urszula Dudziak, Tomasz Stańko, Ewa Bem, Jarek Śmietana.

Director of the Cracovia Music Agency - a company organizing festivals and concerts of classical and jazz music in Poland and elsewhere and publishing CD records (very special production of unique 3 CD set "The best of Cracow Jazz").

Witold Wnuk got a medal for Polish culture merits, and in year 2000 was a laureate of " the Silver Star of Helikon" special prize of Krakow's jazz community. In 2011 Witold Wnuk was awarded Gloria Artis Medal by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland Bogdan Zdrojewski as a person for distinguished contributions to, or protection of Polish culture and the people's heritage.