Some sad but not unexpected news from Poland tonight. As reported by RMF24, one of the major figures in Polish jazz, guitarist/bandleader Jarosław (Jarek) Śmietana, died today at the age of 62. He had had surgery on a brain tumour in January. The operation left him with hemiparesis. There have been benefit concerts, including one in Milwaukee just a week before he died.
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Krakow-born, he was a fine melodic player and completely engaging performer, who could hold audiences, particularly of Polish-speakers when telling stories, in the palm of his hand. He was a very popular figure in an art from which in Poland has represented a refuge in dark times since the Krushchev thaw of the late 50s/early 1960s. He received a major honour from the City of Krakow in 1998. I remember the visit he made to the Jazz Cafe Posk to help the club celebrate its second anniversary – reviewed here.
Śmietana worked with Art Farmer, Joe Zawinul, made a lovely guitar duo record with John Abercrombie, led the band Extraball, and in recent years toured extensively with Nigel Kennedy, His discography is HERE. In sadness.
UPDATE A mass in memory of Jarek Smietana will be held at the Polish Church Windsor Road Ealing on Fri 13th at 10am
I met Jarek just the once, in Vienna last October, but I have several of his CDs, both with and without Nigel Kennedy. I feel as though I've lost a friend. We have certainly lost a fine musician.