Wojciech Lichtański is a young Polish saxophonist who works in several contexts as a leader and sideman. His music, on this CD with his band Questions, draws on the contemplative melodicism heard from many European musicians associated with the ECM label, as well as carrying its own frisky energy.
Some of Lichtanski's compositions, like "Iga?" and "Mr. Muniak, What's Now?," have a stately classical vibe as the leader's alto quietly hovers over the slow, deliberate progressions of the other members of the quartet. Bassist Kuba Dworak and drummer Patryk Dobosz set down a lightly-sketched foundation while pianist Mateusz Palka dances gently underneath the wispy sax lines and also adds a forlorn layer of accordion to "Mr. Muniak." "Blue Monday?" brings this style into a darker light as Lichtanski's high-pitched alto snakes its way over quietly dramatic piano with a Middle Eastern tinge, a blend that becomes more ominous and mysterious as the piece unfolds.
On other tracks the group proves it is no stranger to aggression. The quicker-paced "Auto, Auto?" has Dworak setting down a clipped, funky beat over which Lichtanski and Palka drop little twists and curls of sound while Dobosz maintains a taut tempo. "First Question" has much the same format but also carries a tipsy, revolving melody for the alto and piano to bear down on. The contrast of Lichtanski's icy fluidity and Palka's hard stabs here makes a forceful and heady combination, conjuring up the impression of a meeting between Herbie Hancock and Paul Desmond.
The freest and most volatile playing of the set comes on the one standard, "On Green Dolphin Street." Here, random blowing leads into a bumpy attack on the melody by the entire band with the bruising energy of Miles Davis' sixties quintet. Lichtanski's alto flies and swoops about with startling power over adventurous rhythm bashing that often leaves the theme somewhere in the dust. Palka then goes to the other extreme with an eerily quiet solo before jumping into a tense, romping dialogue with the bass and drums. Dobosz' energetic drumming really stands out on this track.
The music of Wojciech Lichtanski Questions has both melancholy and lively aspects. They can rain down fire or be quietly romantic, with Lichtanski's affecting sax sound leading the way. These four musicians work very well together and their stimulating, atmospheric style of jazz shows great promise.
Iga; Grandpa, Where You Ramble Now (Improvisation One); Auto, Auto; Are You Ready; Mr. Muniak, What's
Now; On Green Dolphin Street; Improvisation Two: First Question; Blue Monday.