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Jazz Frenzy

Mark Burman investigates when his father, Dave Burman, played hot jazz in Poland in 1956, and entered history. From 2010.

Poland, August 1956. Rioters had been shot dead in Poznan weeks before. The invasion of Hungary is just weeks away.

The Cold War rages, but for eight young Londoners, newly formed as The Dave Burman Jazz Group, their unlikely journey behind the Iron Curtain is an overwhelming surprise. Jazz in Poland had been banned by first the Nazis and then the Communists, but had been played secretly by a faithful few.

Until the death of Stalin in 1953, playing and listening to jazz was illegal. This 'decadent Imperialist music' could lead to expulsion from music college, blacklisting or worse. But in the 'thaw' that followed Stalin's death, the restrictions on jazz began to lift. Now, at the seaside resort of Sopot, tens of thousands of young people journeyed miles by hitching rides or cramming into trains to hear jazz and that rarest of attractions - a British band.

The Dave Burman Jazz Group had been assembled in just a few weeks - it would never play together again. But for a few days, the Cold War blew hot as they thumped out Tiger Rag, Bucket's Got a Hole in It, Sugar and other standards to crowds of thousands all over the country. Their contact with Polish jazz lovers was minimal, frequently ushered by Communist officials during their hectic tour. For those Polish musicians taking part in Sopot '56, this was the beginning of their Jazz Frenzy, of freedom.

Dave Burman and the rest of the musicians returned to England never to experience such adulation and success again. Now, more than 50 years later, Dave is reunited with former band members Alan Teulon and Laurie Chescoe, before returning to Poland with his son and producer of the programme to meet some of those whose lives were changed forever by the events of Sopot '56.

Producer and Presenter: Mark Burman

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2010.

23 days left to listen

30 minutes

Last on

Last Friday 01:30


Role Contributor
Producer Mark Burman
Visual Editor Phillip Sellars