Harris Piano Bar is located just inside one of the main buildings of the Old Town Square in Krakow. It is a basement-level jazz joint, a hideout kind of a place if there ever was, but it’s cleaned up enough—you can tell the paint is relatively fresh. You had some difficulty trying to find it this place, though in the end, it was pretty obvious. It’s a Wednesday night, which happens to be a no-cover, jazz and blues improv night, and you slink with some trepidation down the steps, scout out a seat amongst a dark room packed with strangers. But who knew that the narrow, shallow stone stairs descended into heaven?
Because that was what it felt like to listen to the voice on that man there in the center stage. He starts to sing an a capella blues song—you know, an old, old, old blues song—in unaccented English, with so much emotion you’d feel your insides aching. He has one of those voices that, when you hear it, forces you to immediately stop whatever you were doing and listen. Whatever life you were living up until you heard this man sing is not important. Whatever conversation you were having, you are suddenly thankful for leaving. It’s like someone has just thrown an ice-cold bucket of water on you, and you are gasping for air as you listen, because this—this can’t possibly be his actual voice, can it? No one sings like this anymore. You’ve never heard this music live. Your bones feel tired and so alive at the same time, and you are grateful for everything. The musicians join in, at first delicate guitar strings and featherlight piano notes, and then more, and louder, and there are harmonies, and it seems like even the chinking of glasses and the rowdy laughter wafting over from the bar are in time with the song. You could be in any bar in any town in any country in the world, and somehow you are here, at this bar, in this town, and you cannot believe how impossibly lucky you are.
When the song is over, the man who was singing laughs—a giant, big, booming laugh, the same infectious properties of his vocals—and he speaks to the crowd in Polish, says something to his band mates in Polish. Everyone laughs, and you do too, though you don’t understand what’s happening. Another song starts, and you recognize this one—a cover of “Georgia On My Mind”—and you sink back into your seat, nestled, and suddenly, you are far, far away, farther away than you have ever been before.