TOMASZ STANKO, WISLAWA


photo by Nick Bewsey
The music on the two-disc Wislawa, inspired by the female poet Wislawa Symborska, a Polish essayist and Nobel Laureate who died in 2012, has a modern veneer that’s frequently beguiling due to its improvisational daring, yet it’s a highly listenable experience as guided by the accomplished hand of its composer, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, one of the most accomplished jazz musicians to come out of Poland. After many albums on ECM with various bands, Stanko leads a definitive group he calls his NY Quartet – the dynamic 30-year-old pianist David Virelles, bassist Thomas Morgan and veteran drummer Gerald Cleaver. As a group, they can be precise and probing. The title track, which is reprised at the end of the second disc with an entirely refreshed architecture, begins with a cinematic introduction by Virelles, whose phrasing is gently emotive and stirring. Stanko fades into focus and plays at a deliberate pace with a nearly conversational playing style that’s streaked with a melancholy hue. Brushes slide over cymbals and the bass notes are stout and supportive, the band plays as an organic whole without a wasted note.

Stanko’s style incorporates a heady mix of free jazz, post bop and a kind of outsider swing. At their March appearance at Birdland in NYC, the trumpeter, now 70, sounded inspired and revitalized with his new band. Playing many of this album’s tunes to a standing room only crowd, you could see audience members leaning in towards the trumpeter to hang on every phrase during his arresting solos.

Wislawa has a mesmerizing program of tunes with audacious dialogue between bassist and drummer, and astoundingly beautiful solos by the Cuban-born Virelles, highlighted by the elegiac “Dernier Cri,” a tune that comes closest to a genuine standard. On disc two, “Oni” is steeped with a Bill Evans-like lyricism, while “Tutaj – Here” is a triumph of shifting tempos and feelings, ending with a flurry of notes as if Stanko is chortling through his horn.  If you’ve not had the reward of hearing Tomasz Stanko’s work, the recording is a sumptuous starting point. Wislawa is a deeply expressed recording with consummate interplay and superb improvisation, and it cogently fulfills Stanko’s celebration of Symborski’s work and life with honorific grace. (2 discs; 12 tracks; 48 minutes/50 minutes)

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JAZZ IN SPACE: TOMASZ STANKO, WISLAWA

Thursday, May 2, 2013

TOMASZ STANKO, WISLAWA


photo by Nick Bewsey
The music on the two-disc Wislawa, inspired by the female poet Wislawa Symborska, a Polish essayist and Nobel Laureate who died in 2012, has a modern veneer that’s frequently beguiling due to its improvisational daring, yet it’s a highly listenable experience as guided by the accomplished hand of its composer, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, one of the most accomplished jazz musicians to come out of Poland. After many albums on ECM with various bands, Stanko leads a definitive group he calls his NY Quartet – the dynamic 30-year-old pianist David Virelles, bassist Thomas Morgan and veteran drummer Gerald Cleaver. As a group, they can be precise and probing. The title track, which is reprised at the end of the second disc with an entirely refreshed architecture, begins with a cinematic introduction by Virelles, whose phrasing is gently emotive and stirring. Stanko fades into focus and plays at a deliberate pace with a nearly conversational playing style that’s streaked with a melancholy hue. Brushes slide over cymbals and the bass notes are stout and supportive, the band plays as an organic whole without a wasted note.

Stanko’s style incorporates a heady mix of free jazz, post bop and a kind of outsider swing. At their March appearance at Birdland in NYC, the trumpeter, now 70, sounded inspired and revitalized with his new band. Playing many of this album’s tunes to a standing room only crowd, you could see audience members leaning in towards the trumpeter to hang on every phrase during his arresting solos.

Wislawa has a mesmerizing program of tunes with audacious dialogue between bassist and drummer, and astoundingly beautiful solos by the Cuban-born Virelles, highlighted by the elegiac “Dernier Cri,” a tune that comes closest to a genuine standard. On disc two, “Oni” is steeped with a Bill Evans-like lyricism, while “Tutaj – Here” is a triumph of shifting tempos and feelings, ending with a flurry of notes as if Stanko is chortling through his horn.  If you’ve not had the reward of hearing Tomasz Stanko’s work, the recording is a sumptuous starting point. Wislawa is a deeply expressed recording with consummate interplay and superb improvisation, and it cogently fulfills Stanko’s celebration of Symborski’s work and life with honorific grace. (2 discs; 12 tracks; 48 minutes/50 minutes)

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