Review: ‘Tomasz Stanko Quartet’

The last two albums from Polish jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko have separated him from his past lives working in free-jazz and atmospherics; "Soul of Things" and "Suspended Night" are among the most revelatory albums ECM has released in the last five years, if not in its 35-year history. Aiding Stanko's cause is a fabulous trio that has just released its debut, "Trio" (ECM).

The last two albums from Polish jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko have separated him from his past lives working in free-jazz and atmospherics; “Soul of Things” and “Suspended Night” are among the most revelatory albums ECM has released in the last five years, if not in its 35-year history. Aiding Stanko’s cause is a fabulous trio that has just released its debut, “Trio” (ECM). To promote their fine disc, the entire ensemble has come to the States for the month.

To open their third tour of the U.S., Stanko emphasized melody and compelling warmth. The bracingly original music is often haunting when it isn’t swinging. It consistently inspires the musicians to push further in shadings or complexity, and they never confuse squawking for exploration, dissonance for harshness. Stanko and the trio played rounded, swinging lines, allowing the music to separate in four equally linear directions and come back again, swirling around a melody as convincingly as John Coltrane’s classic quartet did in the early 1960s.

The Stanko Quartet is unlike any other act in jazz today. He is among the Polish musicians that were classically trained during the Communist regime but were attracted to free jazz and Miles Davis bootlegs. The music he plays suggests that isolation, the glow of discovery tempering the coldness of a winter Warsaw night. His young band, mentored since 1994 as they neared the age of 20, follow his lead impeccably with no attempt to be anything but disciples capable of speaking his private language.

Stanko and band were originally slated as part of the ECM Festival at UCLA this month. They are now booked to perform Monday at the Jazz Bakery.

Tomasz Stanko Quartet

Blue Note, New York; 250 capacity; $35

Production

Presented inhouse. Opened and reviewed March 9, 2005; closed March 12.

Cast

Band: Tomasz Stanko, Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, Michal Miskiewicz.
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