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Canadian Heritage

Jan Jarczyk


JAN JARCZYK (pianist, trombonist, composer, arranger) Born in Krakow, Poland in 1947, Jarczyk later became a naturalized American and Canadian citizen, while retaining his Polish nationality. He became a recognized as distinguished pianist, composer and arranger, and an eminent pedagogue to generations of jazz musicians in North America.

Jarczyk first received classical training at the Music Academy in Krakow before becoming a prominent member of the Polish jazz scene in the 1960s and 1970s. He relocated to North America in 1977, first moving to Boston, where he was invited to join the faculty at the Berklee College of Music, becoming the first non-American to teach harmony and composition. After meeting his wife, he settled in Montreal in 1985 where he was an associate professor in the jazz department at the Schulich School of Music of McGill for almost thirty years.

Despite living abroad, he remained a respected jazz figure in Poland, performing annually at the Krakow Jazz Festival and acting as artistic director of the International Jazz workshop in Chodzież for a number of years.

A prolific composer, Jan Jarczyk wrote over 150 original compositions for various ensembles including jazz trio, big band, and symphony orchestra. He composed and arranged music for the Polish Jazz Studio Orchestra, Polish television and radio, as well as theater, and for movies in Canada and the United States. Throughout the years, Jan performed and recorded all over Europe and Scandinavia, North America, Mexico, Japan, and Kuwait.

As a composer, pianist, and leader, Jarczyk recorded numerous albums. His debut album To and Fro, was recorded in Sweden and released in 1981. Things to Look For, released in 1996, was nominated at ADISQ as album of the year. His 1998 album Cliffs / Les Falaises featured trumpeter Tim Hagans. His solo albums included Piano Music, Live at Pollack Hall (1999), and Fall Songs (2001).

In 2007, he recorded Smoked Pianos, a duo album with pianist John Stetch. In 2013, he released two albums, Full Circle, which featured bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Jim Doxas, and Round, Round & Round, which featured Jarczyk’s trio with a string quartet.

Jarczyk released released Goin' Places with trumpeter Denny Christianson in 2010. Jarczyk recorded with Matt Haimovitz on the Grammy-nominated recording, Meeting of the Spirits, in 2010.

Over the years, Jan collaborated with Tomasz Stanko, Zbiggy Seifert,  Darek Oles, Phil Wilson, Greg Hopkins, Donny McCaslin, George Garzone, Aaron Scott, Dick Oatts, Pat LaBarbera, Jan de Haas, the International Polish Jazz Group, Michel Donato, Jean-Pierre Zanella, Remi Bolduc, Oliver Jones, Neil Swainson, André White, Kevin Dean, and Dave Laing.

Jan Jarczyk passed away on August 3, 2014.


1969 - Polish Composers Society Award
1970- Polish Composers Society Award
1971 - Polish Composers Society Award
1974 - Grand Prix du Concours d'Improvisation Jazz de Lyon, France
1999 - SOCAN Award for Best Jazz Composition - Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
2011 - Polish Silver Cross of Merit