Playing solo is a challenge that takes a lot of discipline. Whereas jazz often relies on the exchange of ideas in a group, there is only one person to carry out what pianist Bill Evans called his "conversations with himself." The consequence is that a soliloquy has the risk of going stale, but it can also be a unique opportunity for the artist to communicate directly with his or her surroundings.
The reason why Polish trumpeter Tomasz Dabrowski's solo record is so successful is that his music is shaped by the room in which he plays. In this case, it is the Danish church Mariendal in Copenhagen. Its acoustics give his instrument a spacious sound, as if it floats out in the universe among the stars.
The album is titled S-O-L-O and consists of ten tracks with numbers instead of titles. It does not make sense to highlight a track. The album should be heard as a sequence; a journey in sound. As it turns out, making the album was an odyssey in itself. Before the recording in Mariendal, Dabrowski played 30 concerts in 30 cities to celebrate his 3oth birthday. The project was filmed by Danish director Kristoffer Juel and his short documentary is available on YouTube.
During the album, Dabrowski explores all aspects of his instrument. He plays beautiful, lyrical lines, but also transcends the limitations of the trumpet, exploring micro-tonality, percussive click sounds and silence. The thing that saves the record from being too cerebral is the melancholy beauty that is part of Dabrowski's Polish heritage from masters like pianist Krzysztof Komeda and trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, with whom Dabrowksi has played.
Other references would include the solo trumpet work by Bill Dixon and Rob Mazurek, but S-O-L-O really shows that Dabrowski is his own man in search of his own sound and this record is an important step in his musical development and a fine example of the art of the solo instrumental album.
Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII; Part VIII; Part IX; Part X.
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