Krzysztof Komeda

12 Sep 2023
Born in Poznań in 1931, Krzysztof Komeda stands out as one of Poland’s finest music talents, and remains, even in death, a source of inspiration. He studied piano from an early age, and was inducted into Poznań’s conservatory in 1939. Though the Second World War disrupted his studies it is also credited with landing him his name. Born Krzysztof Trzciński he found himself nicknamed Komeda after scrawling the word on a wall – he had meant to write ‘komenda’ (as in command post) – while playing with his mates. The local partisans had a good laugh over it and from there the name stuck. With the war over he resumed his musical aspirations and started playing in the subterranean jazz dens of Kraków. He juggled his burgeoning musical career with a job at a health clinic, and it was here his pseudonym took root; keen to hide his nocturnal life from his employees he started performing under the name Krzysztof Komeda. His band scored success at the 1956 Sopot Music Festival, and he re-christened his charges the Krzysztof Komeda quartet. They became the first Polish band to play modern jazz, and his spoken poetry won fans far and wide. He started collaborating with film directors and wrote scores for Roman Polanski’s classics Knife in the Water and Rosemary’s Baby, among numerous others. Like all the greats, his death is shrouded in mystery. He died in Warsaw from brain injuries with claims of an earlier car accident in LA being the cause, while Roman Polański wrote that a grappling bout with writer Marek Hłasko could have been to blame. The truth will never be known. Credited with influencing a whole generation he stands out as one of the immortals of Polish music, and his memory is honoured by the annual Komeda Jazz Festival in Słupsk (www.en.komedajazz.com) and a memorial located in front of one of the buildings of his alma mater, the Poznań Medical University.


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