A bohemian Krakow club: jazz in Kazimierz
Alchemia is an unpretentious Krakow club where jazz & blues musicians, artists, writers & arts-loving bohemians gather in summer on wooden chairs facing Plac Nowy’s antique vendors & pigeon traders to listen to concerts on the market rooftop or catch theatrical performances in the square. Alchemia’s fireplace is a cozy winter place for mulling ideas and partying heartily while the basement resonates with bluesy jazz & soulful afrobeats. Amongst the club’s list of friends are New York jazz master Steve Swell, American free-jazz star William Parker, Swedish bassist Patric Thorman & German saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann. Alchemia only conjures drinkable potions like bear, wine & vodka but it summons poignant rhythms to make it one of the best Krakow jazz clubs in Kazimierz.
type: jazz club
address: Estery 5
Authentic bohemian Kraków nightlife in Kazimierz
Alchemia Club is the place for international musicians and local Krakow jazz bands to jam, and the setting where genre bending groups like Senor Soul & Doktór Plama, aka DiscoMule, serve up performances of kinky beats, jazzdance & afrobeats - music that blends soul and disco for dancing. But Alchemia isn’t just one of the funkiest Krakow jazz clubs (and a popular meeting place for musicians and writers), but also a promoter and host of the renowned European / International Krakow Jazz Festival, which in 2012 celebrated its seventh year. The Autumn 2012 Krakow Jazz Festival - a feast of musical improvisation; of sounds, words and images - pays homage to the abilities of those who create music on the fly. Some of the participants include German reeds expert Peter Brötzmann, Swiss electronic trombonist Sebastian Smolyn, German saxophonist Martin Küchen, Norwegian trombonist Mats Áleklint, Australian drummer Will Guthrie & French alto saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet. Other guests are UK’s Trevor Watts & Evan Parker as well as local Mikolaj Trzaska and jazz newcomers Waclaw Zimpel, with the Hera band, and special appearances by Hamid Drake.
Alchemia Club & Krakow jazz film screenings
Aside from Krakow jazz concerts by international stars, Alchemia Club hosts and promotes film screenings that feature hard to find jazz movies. Amongst such events that set Alchemia apart from other clubs Krakow has in the Kazimierz district is “Wild Style”, a series of events dedicated to hip-hip culture (named after the film of the same name) featuring the rise of DJ pioneers like Grandmaster Flash and Dj Kool Herc – originators of New York Bronx hip hop music (which began with James Brown funk records and scratching the beat to create mixes). At “Wild Side” the event, Alchemia Club has created one of the most untamed forms of live music Krakow has to offer DJs by providing two decks, a mixer and no restrictions or rules, allowing disc-jockeys the freedom to create sounds with hip-hop, funk, soul, house or anything else so long as it’s improvised and delivers an excellent beat. The featured guests include Krakow turntableist Cold Feet Mr. Lapsky and DJ Kfjatek who’s brought a mix of Jamaican rhythms and rap to Poland.
More reasons why Alchemia is one of the best bars in Krakow
Alchemia isn’t one of the best bars in Krakow due to the drinks or specialty cocktails on the menu, but because it serves up a flavorsome mix of music that doesn’t only include the top live music Krakow has to offer or the best jazz improvisations, but fusion rhythms that include Latin & Balkan breakbeats, African disco, mambo, bugalu, tropical funk, moombahtonu and other unpronounceable conjurations from Estropical with DJ Funklore.
Speaking of live music Krakow offers through Alchemia Club, it’s impossible to overlook an event where the club sponsors a two week trip throughout southern Europe, as a musical exchange, which culminates in a concert at Alchemia, where an album is recorded live. The participants include drummer Ærø Morten, tuba / vocalist Jakob Munck Mortensen, clarinetist Elith "null" Nykjær (Elith Nykjær Jørgensen) & trombonist Ole "Fessor" Lindgreen.
Amongst other brilliant live musical events hosted by Alchemia is one called Soul Blow – a series of collective productions by local producer Paul Good & Kixnare. Soul Blow blends a variety of genres including nu-soul, hip hop, house, garage, nu-jazz and Latin, with each piece chosen for its soulful qualities, then mixed to form an emotional blend of sounds.
Krakow Old Town versus Kazimierz
Kraków nightlife venues are dispersed throughout the city, but it’s important not to confuse Krakow Old Town with the old Jewish quarter: Kazimierz. The Old Town is where many Krakow visitors start their journey since it’s where many of the most famous landmarks are located inside what remains of the old wall. It’s the area where the extensive grounds of Planty Gardens are situated and where Rynek Główny – Market Square – captivates everyone with its old-world charm. Rynek Główny (built in the 13th century) is the largest town square in Europe and a delightful place to sit and have a street-side coffee in better-than-medieval comfort while watching horse drawn carriages pass in front of Sukiennice – a massive hall where fabric, beads, and exotic goods are treaded – the Town Hall Tower and the Gothic towers of St. Mary’s Basilica.
On the other hand, Kazimierz used to be a town all its own and for centuries home to a large Jewish community, founded in the 1300’s by King Kazimierz the Great, but encountering a tragic demise in World War II. Afterward, despite having some exceptional renaissance buildings, most of the area remained little more than rubble; an area unfit even for squalor, until a resurgence of interest in the region began in the late 1980’s, and by mid 1990’s the labyrinthine alleys and crumbling dwellings began taking on some new life. After the filming of Schindler’s List (1993) in Kazimierz, the district saw yet another boom, especially in bohemian bars, funky nightclubs and Jewish restaurants particularly along the streets around Plac Nowy (New Square). Today, while Krakow Old Town enjoys a privileged position as a tourist hub, Kazimierz prides itself in being arty; a hangout for local musicians, performers, writers, photographers and spirited freethinkers. Kazimierz retains its gritty edge, with winding labyrinthine streets, an eclectic mix of people & lifestyles, and the square in front of Alchemia Club. It’s there, around the unique circular market building, that dozens of bars, restaurants and small clubs thrive, facing the lively space used for open-air theatre, concerts, a weekend antique bazaar as well as a funky flee market with lots of noisy haggling. Kazimierz has become one of the most interesting places for glimpsing everyday Polish life in action and for experiencing authentic Kraków nightlife the bohemian way.