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Marcin Wasilewski Trio: Faithful

Greg Simmons By

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The Marcin Wasilewski Trio's Faithful makes its entry as one of the better albums of 2011 to date, with a selection of original titles that are melodic, highly sophisticated and thoroughly enjoyable.

The piano trio—piano, bass and drums—is one of jazz's cornerstone ensembles. As such—and with perhaps thousands of albums recorded in this instrumental combination—the standards of excellence are very high. There is no reason to ever listen to a mediocre piano trio record, because surely there is a truly outstanding one close at hand. To the extent that an entry into this category needs to excel to stand out and be heard, Faithful will surely find an audience.

Pianist m: Marcin Wasilewski piano with a delicate hand and an almost vocal melodic quality. He eschews pyrotechnic arpeggios in favor of a balanced, chord-driven aesthetic. When he does solo, he works with a sleek fluidity that is integrated with the music, rather than floating over it. His performance is very satisfying to hear.

Bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz provide a firm rhythmic foundation for the music, adding interest with imaginative playing throughout. They are not on this date to simply provide a beat. "Big Foot" opens with the piano and bass doubling the intro, before the piano recedes to allow the bass to make a statement. Even so, the instruments are blended, with the piano close at hand. It's a device that lets the complete arrangement make forward progress while allowing the individuals a bit of spotlight. The track also features some truly inventive drumming, notably incorporating consistent use of toms, snare, cymbals and kick drum, but with a strikingly well-built, light-touch articulation that compliments the song to a tee.

The slower titles, including the title track, are lush without being florid, demonstrating gracefully lean compositions that still incorporate the full range and force of the instruments at hand. On "Ballad Of The Sad Young Men," Wasilewski sticks with a two-handed delivery, using the bass weight of the left hand to comp the melody of the right. Meanwhile, the drums, played with brushes, continue to develop a range of sounds and effects. Not satisfied to simply swirl his brushes on the heads, Miskiewicz taps the sides of his cymbals and thwacks the rims to ensure an engaging performance on what could easily have been a drummer's dead end.

Of course, being on the ECM label, a high level of sonic excellence is to be expected. Every album should capture instruments this well, and with this level of spaciousness.

This trio has been playing together in various iterations for over two decades and it shows, with the kind of sympathetic, telepathic interplay between the musicians that can only be mastered over time. With Faithful, Marcin Wasilewsi Trio present a well-crafted, engaging, and simply beautiful album.

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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