Title

The Impact of American Jazz Diplomacy in Poland During the Cold War Era

Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Jazz Perspectives

ISSN

1749-4060

Volume

4

Issue

3

DOI

10.1080/17494060.2010.561088

First Page

253

Last Page

300

Publication Date

Fall 9-1-2010

Abstract

While there is an increasing body of scholarship on the role of America’s jazz ambassadors during the Cold War era, less has been written about how these tours were perceived in the host nations. This article focuses on the 1958 U.S. State Department‐sponsored tour of the Dave Brubeck Quartet and its impact on both Polish culture and this country’s emerging jazz genre, at a time when jazz was clearly contested territory between East and West. This investigation and analysis is based on new research gleaned from personal interviews with Dave and Iola Brubeck, excerpts from Brubeck’s unpublished autobiography, materials in the Brubeck Collection, and interviews with a number of leading Polish jazz musicians. The author argues that American jazz—and Brubeck in particular—played a key role in raising the expectations for artistic and political freedoms during this era in Poland.

Both the 1958 Polish concert program, as well as the published reviews, are analyzed in terms of the perceptions about jazz by the various stakeholders. Such considerations help to articulate how jazz represented much more than music to the era’s two superpowers. New light is also shed upon a little‐known aspect of Cold War cultural diplomacy: the “Jazz‐Lift.” This initiative sent gifts of jazz recordings and magazines donated by American citizens to Poles as a direct outpouring of sympathy at a time when jazz recordings could not be imported to or sold in Poland.