Thursday, September 5, 2013

RIP Jarosław (Jarek) Śmietana - 1951-2013

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.

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.