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Ryszard Horowitz Photographs 'All That Jazz'

  • Eric Felten

In 1958, at the height of Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, American pianist Dave Brubeck and his band toured Poland, then a communist state under Soviet control. The trip was an early effort at "jazz diplomacy," and was met with tremendous enthusiasm by the Polish people, including a student with a camera, Ryszard Horowitz.

"Although I had no idea I'd become a professional photographer in the future, I loved taking photographs," said Horowitz.

Horowitz said it wasn't easy being a budding photographer in post-war Poland. Film was hard to get.

"Some better film I managed to gather from some of my friends who were studying film, and they had film in bulk, used for motion picture cameras," he said. "So I would cut it into pieces."

Horowitz used that film to take pictures of the underground jazz scene in Krakow.

"Most of the subjects of my photographs were my friends, jazz musicians," he said. "We were following music, and waiting and praying that one of those days a true American jazz artist would come and visit us. So when we found out in 1958 that the Dave Brubeck Quartet was arriving in Krakow, we were just so elated."

Brubeck was traveling, not only with his band, but with his wife and two sons, and Horowitz says the pianist was anxious during his first trip behind the iron curtain.

"But once he met all of us, all of us jazz-aficionados, he knew that he was in the right place," Horowitz said.

Eventually Horowitz went to New York City to study art. In the U.S. he again had the chance to photograph the young Polish jazz musicians who were his friends back in Krakow.

"The Newport Jazz Festival invited a group of Polish musicians – a quintet – that was all my friends, all five of them," he said. "And so when they arrived in New York we spent lots time together and so I decided to follow them to Newport."

At the Newport Jazz Festival, Horowitz photographed not only his friends, but many of the greatest musicians in jazz: trumpeter Louis Armstrong, pianist and bandleader Count Basie, saxophonist Sonny Rollins, and composer Duke Ellington and his orchestra.

"I was at one of the Ellington concerts," he said, "and they were obviously very tired, and during the break, most of them fell asleep on the stage."

Ryszard Horowitz's photos of jazz musicians have been collected into the book, "All That Jazz." Fifty years after traveling to Poland, Dave Brubeck saw the photos Horowitz had taken. Brubeck, who died in 2012, wrote the photos "capture the enthusiasm and warmth" they felt from audiences all over Poland. It was an enthusiasm that would have consequences.

"Partially because of the influx of jazz, and later on Rock ‘n' Roll and pop, it brought young people together and initiated this notion of tearing down the wall," said Horowitz.
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