Review: ‘Tomasz Stanko Quartet’

A sign that the fearlessness of Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko hasn't dissipated as he has slowly gained recognition from the jazz mainstream: The first solo on Thursday's opening song came from the drummer. Stanko has been giving jazz little kicks in the pants like that for decades, separating him from the pack of bandleaders and composers.

A sign that the fearlessness of Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko hasn’t dissipated as he has slowly gained recognition from the jazz mainstream: The first solo on Thursday’s opening song came from the drummer. A minor point somewhat, but Stanko, 64, who has been creating profound music for ECM Records for a dozen years, has been giving jazz little kicks in the pants like that for decades that have helped separate him from the pack of bandleaders and composers.

Stanko, who came of age in the European avant garde in the 1960s and settled there for a few decades before turning toward jazz with a more cinematic scope, is on the lengthiest U.S. tour of his career. His hourlong set Thursday was not as expansive as on his other recent tours, but it deftly exhibited the communicative powers of his bandmates.

Working with four pastoral themes, Stanko and his trio — which has been with him for more than a decade — ventured deep into placid territory explored on his latest album, “Lontano.”

That disc opens with a gripping 12-minute sonic exploration that borders on free-form, while most of its other pieces are serene and ponderous.

On one ballad, Stanko allowed his breath to surround his notes with a crackling sound that evoke an old record playing on a Victrola. He cut short that sound with a vibrant and majestic blast that skyrocketed the music forward about 100 years. Piano and bass, waltzing in the background, toyed with each other and the melody.

As the band does so often, rarely is one instrument left by its lonesome — solos are generally dialogues in which the pianist, bassist or drummer dominates the conversation, making for fascinating listening and delivering a clearly drawn point of view. Stanko’s vision of jazz should be heralded and followed closely.

Band has a string of one-nighters in the Midwest and East before playing Oct. 25-28 at Birdland in Gotham.

Tomasz Stanko Quartet

Jazz Bakery, Los Angeles; 135 seats; $30

Production

Presented inhouse. Opened Oct. 4, 2006; reviewed Oct. 5, closes Oct. 8.

Cast

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