The Polish-born trumpeter lived in the shadow of the spectre of the Soviet Union. His music confronted the domineering culture, confronted its presence, and did so by being defiantly seasoned with dramatic sensibilities of liberty and freedom.

Early influences came from jazz broadcasts of Voice of America and greats like Chet Baker and Miles Davis. In the late 1950s, Stańko was able to see Dave Brubeck in performance as part of a U.S. State Department-sponsored tour. It was the music of freedom to Stańko, an underlying theme of the tour.

But it was the freeform and experimental jazz of artists like Ornette Coleman that brightened and expanded the paths and avenues for Stańko as his career evolved. This passion never faltered, and he developed his own sound based on the expansion of players like Don Cherry, a dynamic trumpeter whose lineage included Sun Rah and The New York Contemporary Five.

The message of freedom could be a rallying cry for the artistry of the Polish trumpeter. An active composer throughout his career, one of his last contributions to the world of music was his Polin Suite which was performed in October of 2014 at the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Beauty and defiance; beauty in defiance. Liberty and freedom.