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Tomasz Stanko Quintet at Birdland, April 18, 2010

Ernest Barteldes By

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Tomasz Stanko Quintet
Birdland
New York, New York
April 18, 2010

The legendary Polish trumpeter took to the stage at New York's Birdland backed by his new band comprising Olavi Louhivuori (drums), Jakob Bro (guitar), Alexi Tuomarila (piano) and Anders Christensen (bass). The set, which featured music mostly from Stanko's recent Dark Eyes (ECM, 2009), proved to be a departure from the kind of material from his previous discs. Gone were the acoustic sensibilities of his previous band, the Marcin Wasilewski trio, replaced by the urgency of Toumarila's piano and Bro's electric guitar.

The set opened with a heavily syncopated piece that seemed very demanding for the rhythm section. They followed up with a Brazilian-inspired piece that allowed all band members to showcase their individual talents and also to demonstrate great chemistry as a unit. Without as much as a word to the audience, Stanko pushed through with a more straight-ahead number that featured Bro's fine guitar work. During his solo, he sounded more like a bassist as he played mostly with the instrument's lower strings.

In one of the evening's most touching moments, Stanko, Bro and Toumarila played in unison as Christensen held on to a single note while Louhivuori played in a constant, almost unchanging beat. Another memorable moment came with "So Nice," a gentle ballad (no relation to the bossa nova tune of the same name) reminiscent of his earlier work with the late Krzysztof Komeda, a Polish composer best known Stateside for writing the soundtrack to Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby.

The set closed with a number that began with a Latin-esque feel, which suddenly switched to a more swinging mode, allowing the trumpeter to channel his Miles Davis influence. It was noteworthy that during the concert's quieter moments, one could hear a pin drop in the room. Listening to Stanko's quartet live in the light of recent events in his native Poland was a transfixing and highly enjoyable experience.

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