The Darius Brubeck Quartet Tour of Poland - Nov 2018 / by Elaine Crouch

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Darius Brubeck - piano
Dave O’Higgins- tenor sax
Matt Ridley Music- bass
Wesley Gibbens - drums

The idea behind this tour was to commemorate the Dave Brubeck Jazz Ambassadors tour of 1958 by playing the same cities 60 years after the event, and to celebrate 100 years of Polish independence.

We were to play mainly radio station venues and may decide to make a live CD from the best takes.

On November 5th we arrived at Berlin, where we were greeted by our driver for the tour, Rafael, an ex-Polish Special Forces guy who made us feel very safe!

When we arrived in Szczecin we met up with Sylwek, our host and promoter, at one of the many fantastic Polish restaurants we were treated to. All of his band members, with whom we were sharing the bill on this tour, were also there and it was a nice social evening to kick things off. The hospitality and accommodation were excellent throughout. 8 gigs in 13 days with travelling mainly on days off made this one of the most civilised tours I’ve been on!

The format for the first 7 concerts was Sylwester Ostrowski SO Jazz’s band, Jazz Brigade (Freddie Hendrix, Miki Hayama, Essiet Okon Essiet, Eric Allen and Dorota Miśkiewicz, playing the first set and The Darius Brubeck Quartet playing the second set. DBQ were also being filmed by a two man Dutch crew, Michiel ten Kleij and Jorne Tielemans for a future documentary, who quite literally followed us everywhere (I was very conscious of all the potential Spinal Tap moments!)

Darius’ wife and manager, Cathy, was accompanying us and there was another bus for Jazz Brigade driven by Remy, and two assistant tour managers / translators, Ania Giniewska and Izabela Rydzewska. So that made an entourage of 18 people including Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner from Jazz Sister Cities. It was a tribute to the great organisation that everything ran smoothly throughout.

A Polish friend of mine in London warned me not to drink vodka with Polish people! I should have listened.....

Matt, Wes and I spurred each other on to work out the excess by running or gym-ing most days. There were some amazingly good meals eaten (Polish food rocks!) especially duck, goose, steak, lamb.... (Matt’s vegan days are behind him), and some notable red wines, too - especially good was a Polish Rondo Regent in Krakow.

The itinerary

5 Nov arrival

6 Nov Radio Szczecin:

Beautiful run next to a lake and through a leafy park in warm sunshine

Wes lost his passport walking this route again later and had to spend all his time off in Warsaw negotiating a temporary replacement. Ironically a kind lady had found it and Facebooked him shortly after, but he’d not looked at FB until it was already cancelled.

The concert was a very exclusive radio function with a reception afterwards. Sylvek’s band also backed some local pop star singers so it was a bit of a gala variety show.

8 Nov US Ambassador Residence, Warsaw:

This was a kind of posh function. There were a couple of amusing faux pas - the Ambassador introducing Darius when he wasn’t in the room, and Darius thanking her for the invitation to play at the residence when, as a country and western fan, she’d sneaked out the building before the concert began!

On our day off we went to a fantastic concert by the @AAtom String Quartet feat. Vladyslav Sendecki.

10 Nov Radio Warsaw:

I was proud of myself for finding a local laundrette that did a service wash for a tenth of the cost of the same service at the Radisson Blu Sobieski. The downside is I now have some very tight T-shirts

The concert was in a tightly security controlled radio station and we didn’t get a chance to eat until midnight. This made us very grumpy and gave the gig a certain edge!

12 Nov Radio Kraków:

A magnificent ancient castle at the top of a hill, beautiful old town and a fire breathing dragon statue. The downside was it was teeming with tourists (including us).

13 Nov Radio Lublin:

Darius was not amused by the sampled piano, which looked like a miniature Lego take on a grand - especially with a giant like Darius sitting behind it! The engineer said it was much better than Steinway. But then again he said an SM58 was better than a Neumann…..

14 Nov Rzeszow Philharmonic Hall:

The restaurant we went to was a brewery. The drivers ate the most enormous rack of ribs and a large beer was a litre. We liked it so much we went back after with the film crew.

17 Nov Blue Note Club, Poznan:

Sub zero temperatures here for the first time this trip. An impressive old town. The National Museum was free entry on Saturdays. It housed a mesmerising collection of breathtaking art. I had time to check out Polish Art from the First Half of the Twentieth Century, Contempory Art, and loads of European Art from 1500 onwards. There were rooms for each country and the building so labyrinthine that it took us about 15min to find our way out.

The concerts seemed to get better and better as the time went on. The last night in Poznan was just DBQ so it was fun to play a lot more material. The audience made us go back for 2 encores, which was a real honour.

Thanks Sylwek, Cathy et al for organising a great tour!

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