If you’re reading this review, there’s little doubt that you consider yourself a jazz fan. And as such, you’ve probably heard a person say to you with all conviction: “I don’t like jazz.” Miles in the ‘50s? Coltrane on Atlantic? What’s not to like? But when I hear this, I usually just let it go, frustrated by past attempts at persuasion, overwhelmed by my own disbelief. Now when this situation arises, however, I can hand them Suspended Night
, jazz of delicacy, classical European beauty, sadness and hope.
Ten years ago Stanko, the 50 year old Polish veteran, began playing with a teenage rhythm section, scoring films and performing live fairly close to home. For this, the quartet’s second release for ECM, his band proves to be an ensemble of tight musicianship and sympathetic interaction. The opening piece, “Song for Sarah,” begins with pianist Marcin Wasilewski’s profound lyricism in deft, colorful strokes. Even if you’ve never heard Stanko play a note, you’re immediately drawn in by the cautious tempo and undercurrent of longing. When he does enter, the piano is in perfect complement to Stanko’s slightly roughened tone, honed by years of work and experience. Over and over on this recording the connection between trumpeter and pianist is palpable.
The rest of the CD is made up of ten “Suspended Variations” that integrate bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz, who offers resonant pizzicato playing, and drummer Michal Miskiewicz, who contributes subtle percussive accents and shimmers. As one comes to expect, Wasilewski carries the tunes forward with modal vamps and poetic improvisation, Stanko gliding above with tense restraint.
Listening to the Tomasz Stanko Quartet puts you in another place, where the overcoats are heavy and the wine is homemade. Where people do most of their living indoors, informed by a past when life had to be directed inward, away from disapproving eyes. It’s this existential intimacy that has formed Stanko’s melodic grace and soulful tranquility. In the end, Stanko endures, and his band play with the fire of those participating in an ongoing discovery, using the vocabulary of jazz. How can you not be a fan of that?
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Song for Sarah; Suspended Variations: I-X.
Tomasz Stanko: trumpet; Marcin Wasilewski: piano; Slawomir Kurkiewicz: double-bass;
Michal Miszkiewicz: drums.