Piec Art, a basement jazz club just off the main square in Kraków recently celebrated its 20th birthday. Owner Władysław Dadak spoke to Mary James about its history and his plans for the future.
London Jazz News: Can you tell us how you got interested in jazz and why you started the club?
Władysław Dadak: In my student years I often went to the famous (at that time student club) Pod Jaszczurami. On Saturday it was a disco, but on Tuesdays we went for jazz evenings during which the late great Jarek Śmietana reigned. Word spread on the scene that on Thursdays there was another place in Kraków, Piwnica pod Baranami, where interesting jazz concerts were taking place. Tomasz Stańko’s Quintet played, whose members (Zbigniew Seifert, Janusz Muniak, Bronislaw Suchanek, Janusz Stefanski) later became giants of Polish modern jazz. I did not quite understand this music, but I was fascinated by the power underlying it – that’s how I became a jazz fan forever. When I opened Piec Art in 1999 I did not hesitate about its genre – it was obvious and natural that I would open a jazz club.
LJN: Which people and concerts have stood out in your memory?
WD: Undoubtedly Andrzej Cudzich – one of the most outstanding Polish double bassists who took part in our inaugural concert in May 1999. Andrzej was very fond of us and performed often at the club. While preparing for concerts and tours with outstanding musicians from around the world, he used to organize rehearsals and the first concerts in Piec. An unexpected and ruthless disease took him from this world in November 2003. His last stage performance took place earlier that year in Piec. In May 2003, with the initiative of the outstanding Polish saxophonist Adam Pieronczyk, a charity concert “For Andrzej” took place at Piec, which was attended by the entire Polish jazz scene, including Tomasz Stanko. This concert has stuck in my memory the most. In later years, Nigel Kennedy settled in Kraków. After his performances at the Kraków Philharmonic, he often organised jam sessions at Piec. The sight of people dressed in tuxedos desperately asking for admission, offering to pay any price to get in, whom we had to refuse entry because of lack of space, this is not a very common sight in jazz clubs! And the memory of 23 musicians who at any one point accompanied Nigel on our stage, also cannot be forgotten!
LJN: There are several basement jazz clubs in central Kraków, what makes yours different?
WD: We have a very good piano!
LJN: What atmosphere do you want to create for the musicians and the audience?
WD: We are trying to focus on the quality of the music rather than its popularity. We try to create more of a concert atmosphere than a restaurant. Last year we hosted the auditions for the Jazz Juniors Competition and the space was highly valued by the musicians for its ambience and good sound.
LJN: Describe a typical audience in the jazz club – is it young?
WD: Young and old, locals and tourists, acquaintances from the scene who cheer on good jazz and totally accidental audience members – just like in real life. Much depends on the musicians and their type of work.
LJN: What kind of music is most popular?
WD: Traditional jazz would be the most popular, but we play it rather rarely.
LJN: So you recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the club. What are your plans for the future?
WD: I knew that Maciek Pysz had recently moved to Kraków. I invited him to become the Artistic Director of the club and have given him free rein in programming because, having lived so many years abroad, he has met many musicians, especially in London and Paris. He wants to make it possible for musicians who would normally not play together to meet. Since he moved to Kraków he has met many new musicians here as well. That inspired the idea of a monthly series where Maciek can invite a musician from abroad and connect them with local musicians.
Maciek Pysz writes: I was delighted when Władysław invited me to programme for the club. The idea behind Kraków Sessions is for musicians to meet and have a short rehearsal but mostly focus on the interaction while playing new material as well as adapting to playing with someone we have never played with. The first concerts of this new series took place in January over two evenings where a London based drummer Pharoah Russell played with a local bass player Alan Wykpisz and me. We played some of my music, which neither of them had played before, as well as some standards played in our own new way. There weren’t any completely spontaneous and improvised pieces but often during the songs there was an impromptu improvisation that took place, that was the special thing I had hoped for during these sessions. We will soon announce the Vol. 2 dates and I very much encourage musicians from the UK to contact me via email@example.com about future sessions.
Mary James was Maciek Pysz’s manager from 2014-2017.