There’s an unusual evening at Cafe Posk in Ravenscourt Park when Polish pianist Kuba Stankiewicz plays the music of the Polish/Jewish composer Henryk Wars. Lesley Christiane will be producing the concert and also singing. She explained the background to Sebastian:
LondonJazz News: How did this project get started?
Lesley Christiane: In 2017 on an open air stage on Sopot Molo I heard the great Polish pianist Kuba Stankiewicz play the music of the Polish/Jewish composer Henryk Wars. I found it so deeply moving that I made a quiet determination to bring Kuba to London. I am completely thrilled that very shortly this is happening”
LJN: The May 12 concert is a London debut for Kuba Stankiewicz. What generation of musicians is he from? Tell us more about him?
LC: Kuba Stankiewicz was born in Wroclaw Poland in December 1963. He studied at the Berkley School of music in Boston and he has had a significant international concert career since and made many notable recordings. He is a sublime artist and a wonderful human being. In the outstanding circle of musicians with which Kuba has played, we find such names as Artie Shaw, Scott Hamilton, Art Farmer (Art in Wrocław), Peter Erskine, Sheila Jordan, Harvie Swartz, Janusz Muniak, Tomasz Szukalski, Anna Maria Jopek and many more.
Kuba is also a great pedagogue and Director of Jazz studies at the highly acclaimed Karol Lipinski Academy of Music in Wroclaw.
LJN: Henryk Wars – what’s the background there?
LC: Henryk Wars [Warszawski] was born in Warsaw in 1902. He won a scholarship to the Polish conservatoire in Warsaw and graduated in 1925. Recognized as a significant talent he wrote for many musical comedies, films and shows and is often called the Irving Berlin of Poland. His music defines the interwar era of Polish history and of the 150 films produced in Poland before the war, including films by the great Roman Polanski. Henryk wrote a third of them. With the onset of the Second World War he was drafted into the army and was taken as a prisoner-of-war in 1939. He somehow managed to escape from a stopped train and after being demobbed and in1947 he emigrated to the United States of America.
Life was very tough for Henryk and his wife Elizabeth but his prolific talent won through and he returned to scoring films and writing hit songs, many sung by Doris Day. Bing Crosby and Brenda Lee. He was sponsored by Ira Gershwin, was friends and worked with John Wayne, and became a popular figure amongst the Hollywood elite. He also wrote many orchestral works and arrangements, which over the last ten years have been given their first world premieres in Poland.
LJN: What to you is the appeal of the music of Henryk Wars?
LC: The music has a unique timeless quality that manages to express and touch the deepest parts of my soul… It is often very ethereal and perceptive and Kuba plays it with a flawless sensitivity that makes me tingle inside.
LJN: And you’ve been learning the songs ?
LC: Yes, for past year I have been learning some of the most beautiful and entertaining pieces, they have kept me warm through the winter and I am very much looking forward to performing them at this special venue.
LJN: What will be your involvement in the concert?
LC: I will be presenting the evening and sharing some of the life and fascinating history of this very prolific and relatively unknown composer who is responsible for many of the film scores and melodies that we all know and love. Toes will be tapping… I am sure.
LJN: And who else is playing ?
LC: Kuba Stankeivicz: piano; Kelvin Christiane: saxophone & flute; Manuel Alvarez: double bass; Asaf Sirkis: drums