Tomasz Stanko: Lontano and Levitation

Elliott Simon By

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Tomasz Stańko Quartet
ECM Records

Mark O'Leary/Tomasz Stańko/Billy Hart
Leo Records

For more than four decades, Tomasz Stanko's trumpet has been a voice of freedom within Polish jazz, combining a supple improvisational landscape with both European and American influences. Stanko's symbiotic relationship with his current quartet of younger musicians has synergistically evolved and the latest installment is a commodious devolution for a free-meets-cool soundscape while his collaboration with guitarist Mark O'Leary and drummer Billy Hart investigates the intricacies of group Levitation.

The musical term 'lontano' signifies from a distance as in space or time. The archetypal lontano is the orchestral work by the recently deceased György Ligeti, featured in Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining. Stanko's "Lontano , presented here in three parts, boasts a brilliant use of color and timbre which allow its leader to look back on his beginnings. Pianist Marcin Wasilewski, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz create these improvs with changes in rhythm that signal various stops on the journey. Both "Tale (featuring the chordal nuances of Wasilewski) and "Kattorna (recast as a smoothly executed exercise of trumpet thrust and piano parry) continue the loose theme of Lontano. The former was on Stanko's first ECM release and the latter dates from his time with Krzysztof Komeda. The beautiful balladry makes this a stellar offering.

While Lontano is an all Polish project, Levitation is a particularly global product of a crisp clean trio. Hart is an amazing drummer who is able to use his kick bass to substitute for any missing bottom and then color, explore and even impressively duet with either of his bandmates. That said, it is O'Leary's duets and give and take with Stanko, as on the opening to "Astrakhan , that make this session a stand out. O'Leary's guitar style can vary between graceful and raw. He is able to spin out intricate webs of sound through both staccato notes, as on the decidedly angular "Oblique , and interesting chordal voicings. He can also get a bit heavy with some searing lead work that he displays on the title cut and closer "Phase . While each of these players are capable of leaving the other two in the dust, those moments don't last long and somehow each is able to match the other.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Lontano I; Cyrhla; Song for Ania; Kattorna; Lontano II; Sweet Thing; Trista; Lontano III; Tale.

Personnel: Tomasz Stańko: trumpet; Marcin Wasilewski: piano; Slawomir Kurkiewicz: bass; Michal Miskiewicz: drums.


Tracks: Red Sand; Oblique; Mystic; Levitation; P.M.; A Theme I Used to Play; Giya; Astrakhan; Amnesiak; A Walk in the Park With; Rite; Warm; Getting There; Phase.

Personnel: Player Name: Mark O'Leary: guitar; Tomasz Stanko: trumpet; Billy Hart: drums.


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