Artists from Gentelmen’s Jazz Duo admirably promoted Wroclaw on their tour around Europe

They performed in the luxury district of Munich and in a small street leading to the Vatican, near the city office in Prague, in a Croatian port and the Hungarian city of Veszprem, which will soon become the European Capital of Culture. Two artists from Wroclaw toured a large part of Europe, playing concerts and promoting their home city.

Gentelmen’s Jazz Duo consists of Tomasz Krajewski (actor, singer, musician) and Bartek Ziętara (multi-instrumentalist). They are attached to Wroclaw on an everyday basis and form a larger ensemble – Gentelmen’s Jazz – with their friends. The permanent seat of the duo is Vertigo Jazz, a popular club at ul. Oławska (outside Wroclaw – the Platinum Mountain hotel in Szklarska Poręba).

‘I have always planned a tour around Europe that would end in my Khania, a city located on Crete. I would travel and play in the streets on the way – this is something I enjoy,’ tells Tomek Krajewski, the originator of the escapade. ‘The pandemic forced me to adjust my plans and, finally, I chose Rome as the city of destination.

Because of the coronavirus, they decided to perform only as a duo. Their repertoire consists of jazz standards and popular hits, but mainly of their own works.

One of the benefactors (the owner of the ChronPESEL.pl website) lent them a richly equipped car: Nissan Navara. It could serve both as a shelter for the musical equipment and as comfortable accommodation for travellers.

Breakfast in the Italian Alps

The City and Tourism Promotion Office of the Wroclaw City Office provided musicians with guides, small figures of various dwarves and a big figure of Well-wisher, whose role was to partner musicians during concerts.

Before embarking on the tour, they also took a letter from the director of the Office Radosław Michalski, with a statement confirmed by an official stamp reading: ‘Gentelmen’s Jazz Duo are official ambassadors of Wroclaw. Receive them well and help if necessary.’

Krajewski: ‘Without organisational and financial support from our patrons, institutions and private persons, this tour would not have been possible. I am very grateful for their help.

For a cup of coffee to Sting’s house

The first stop: Prague. Police officers and employees of the Polish Institute warn that performing in the street is not allowed, obviously, due to the coronavirus. However, sitting in a bar garden, Krajewski and Ziętara hear a mini-concert of a quintet whose members are sitting on the pavement. People are standing and listening, with no reaction from the police. ‘Well, since they can, why can’t we?’ says Krajewski. ‘We set up our equipment near the city office and gave a 30-minute performance. People reacted enthusiastically and asked us where we came from. Wroclaw? We know, of course, we do.

The second stop: Munich, or rather its luxury district – Starnberg. When Bartek’s cousins learned where Gentlemen’s would play, they did not believe: ‘The people living there are very well-to-do. Do you know any of them?’ laughs Tomek.

Another stop – a olive grove close to Sting’s mansion, Il Palagio. One day earlier, during a walk in Figline Valdarno in Tuscany, Tomek met a man working for Sting. ‘He's at home, he has arrived for a few days,’ admitted the man.

On the following day, the car with Wroclaw registration plates arrived at the barrier on the driveway to the house of the leader of The Police. ‘Good morning, my name is Tomasz Krajewski, I am a musician from Wroclaw, Poland. Is there a chance to drink morning coffee with Mr. Sumner?’ Krajewski asked the security guard via intercom. Because Sting is a stage name, and the artist’s real name is Gordon Sumner. The guard sincerely laughed. ‘Sorry, but you have no appointment.’ The meeting did not take place, but souvenirs from Wroclaw were delivered to Sting’s postbox.

In empty Venice, the local policemen advised the musicians not to perform in the street due to epidemic restrictions. Thus, the duo performed in the nearby town of Chioggia.

But later, in Rome, Gentelmen’s Jazz Duo played at Biorgio Pio – a small climatic street right next to the Vatican. People stopped, listened or even danced. Then they had a fantastic reception in the nearby city of Anzio. A coverage of this concert was even done by the Polish-Italian television. ‘They were particularly interested in Well-wisher, who accompanied us,’ says Tomek Krajewski.

Concert on a street of Rome

Then, after the night on a ferry from Ancona to Split, they played in the Croatian port of Senji. ‘Our blouses with the emblem of Wroclaw finally came in useful – the wind blew like hell,’ tells the musician.

From there, Gentelmen’s Jazz Duo rode to Veszprem, Hungary.

Tomek Krajewski: ‘It is a small climatic city with interesting architecture and a friendly atmosphere, which it owes also to its international student community. In this respect, it reminds me of Wroclaw. Veszprem will soon hold the status of the European Capital of Culture.

The Wroclaw duo was received enthusiastically. At this concert, which was held thanks to support from Krzysztof Maj, the head of the Wroclaw Culture Zone, Krajewski and Ziętara were joined by other musicians of Gentelmen’s Jazz.

Krajewski: ‘In all places on the way, we were received warmly, but with some reserve: it’s a Covid time, we’ve been travelling around Europe and who knows what people we came across. However, in Veszprem we experienced unconditional friendship and love, without reserve.

The last chord was the concert in Bratislava. “And a great deal of good energy again. A woman comes up and says: ‘We have a jazz club not far from here. Will you play there for us?’ An old man comes up: ‘I’m from the local TV. Will you tell me about Wroclaw?’

Meeting place on an Alpine mountain

Within 14 days, Wroclaw inhabitants travelled 4,500 km. ‘We came back very happy, because we received plenty of good energy on the way and met lots of friendly people. These meetings will pay off in the future,’ confesses Tomek Krajewski.

The escapade has already brought new surprising results. The Wroclaw musicians originally wanted to play in Dresden, too. The local authorities advised them not to perform due to the coronavirus, but the duo has been invited to the concert being organised by the Ministry of Culture on 1st September. They also received an invitation to the Polish Days in Prague or to a jazz club in Bratislava.

Bratislava beers

After the concert in Munich, Janko Rašeta – a Croatian-born guitarist and composer who grew up in Wroclaw and is popular in Germany today – took the musicians to his studio. ‘We recorded a completely new song with him in one day,’ tells Tomek Krajewski.

On their way to Venice, they decided to have breakfast on a small, merely 2,500 metres high mountain. When they set up a table, a dog came running from the only cottage in the neighbourhood, and its owner soon followed. He invited them for coffee to his house, and they talked for two hours: about their concert tour, about Wroclaw, about the difficult life of a musician in times of pandemic.

‘Whenever we turned up, people asked us about Wroclaw. We had a slogan “meeting place – miejsce spotkań" on our car. The effect was brilliant. Obviously, Wroclaw sounded familiar to some people – in Germany as Breslau and in Italy as Breslavia. Those who did not know asked us how to get there and what is worth seeing in Wroclaw,’ says Krajewski. ‘Even in times of pandemic, the borders are open, and people need to meet, to make new friends and to have fun. And you can find a way to make your dreams come true.’

 

Tomasz Wysocki