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Made in Chicago, Played in Poland: Free Jazz and Boogie-Woogie Piano in Poznan

Harrison Bankhead and Dee Alexander

Freedom was ringing throughout Poland in the 1980s, and for a young student named Wojciech Juszczak, the resonance helped spark a lifelong musical love affair. “It was at about the time of the end of martial law,” he remembers. “Solidarity Summer. The Warsaw [JVC] Jazz Jamboree festival-and the Art Ensemble of Chicago onstage! It was like [a] revolt for me. And AACM music stole my heart forever.”

Chicago’s AACM-the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians-was formed in the mid-’60s and has since built an international reputation for its pioneering role in the development of the music now known variously as “free” or “avant-garde” jazz. The Art Ensemble is only one of the many influential projects the AACM has cultivated and nurtured over the years. Juszczak says that after that initial spark of inspiration, he began to dream of putting together a program in Poland that might showcase some of the rich living history of Chicago jazz, with an emphasis on the AACM and how it has both honored and extended-some might even say rewritten-that history.

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