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Marcin Wasilewski Trio: Faithful

Dan McClenaghan By

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In a parallel universe, it would be interesting to hear the music of a Marcin Wasilewski Trio that hadn't come under the influence of its mentor, Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko. Without him, they surely would have become an accomplished and synergistic group. But in this universe, Wasilewski's trio began recording with their countryman on Soul of Things (ECM, 2002), going on to join him on Suspended Night (ECM, 2004), and the stunningly gorgeous Lotano (ECM, 2006). The experience with Stanko most assuredly has shaped the trio's patience of approach—the Polish melancholy, the slow unfolding of subtle, shimmering, often abstract beauty—in an art that has made an evolutionary jump with Faithful.

The group's last ECM set, 2007's January, was much-lauded critically, but Faithful brings its sounds into a realm of sharper clarity, and its always lovely abstractions into crisper and more engaging melodic resolutions; there are also more moments of sweet surprise—from all three band members—always in the most cohesive way.

The disc opens with Hanns Eisler's haunting "An den kleinen Radioapparat," a song filled with a feeling of mystery and melancholy and—as it is with many of the group's down-tempo tunes—a drifting, dreamlike quality that shapes a world of inward beauty, where sounds creep into the landscape that don't seem to make sense in the scheme of things, but at the same time add to the music's beauty and allure. Wasilewski's up-tempo "Night Train to You" churns ahead on a rhythm bustle, with the pianist a using a ringing, percussive approach inside the rumbling group dynamic.

The title tune, from Ornette Coleman's Empty Foxhole (Blue Note Records, 1966), sounds enigmatic and surreal—much like the pianist's "Woke Up in the Desert"—while the sparely rendered jazz standard, "Ballad of the Sad Young Men," is patiently elegant, with a feeling of pensive and resigned melancholy.

Faithful lifts the Marcin Wasilewski Trio's artistry into the highest echelon of piano trio endeavors, with a sound that is fresh, spontaneous, mature and distinctively its own—a set that is a sure contender for best of the year lists.

Track Listing: An den kleinen Radioapparat; Night Train To You; Faithful; Mosaic; Ballad Of The Sad Young Man; Oz Guizos; Song for Świrek; Woke Up In The Desert; Big Foot; Lugano Lake.

Personnel: Marcin Wasilewski: piano; Slawomir Kurkiewicz: double-bass; Michal Miskiewicz: drums.

Title: Faithful | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: ECM Records

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CD/LP/Track Review
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