Tomasz Stanko Quintet: Dark Eyes

David McLean By

Sign in to view read count
Tomasz Stanko Quintet
Dark Eyes
ECM Records

It has been a regular event at the ECM label for artists to change line-ups after three albums. After a trio of releases with the prodigiously talented pianist Marcin Wasilewski—(Soul of Things (ECM, 2002), Suspended Night (ECM, 2003) and Lontano (ECM, 2006)—Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko debuts a new and exciting quintet. Dark Eyes is a collection of smoky compositions that evidence Stanko's continuing interest in the tension between composed and improvised music, as well as venturing into territories new. Mining a similar sonic palette to Leosisa (ECM, 1997) and Matka Joanna (ECM, 1994), the album has a seductive throb and rhythmic propulsion not previously heard. It smoulders with mystery, elegance and mournful beauty with the occasional flare of hard-bop fire.

Featuring a mix of Finnish and Danish musicians, the quintet's up-tempo approach is enhanced by it inclusion of electricity. The line-up features guitarist Jakob Bro and electric bassist Anders Christensen, who have both worked with drummer Paul Motian. The use of these two players isn't out of step with Stanko's previous efforts, though they provide a markedly denser foundation for the trumpeter's lyrical, gauze-like, tone poetry. Bro in particular adds a new coloration. With a tone that suggests dew drenched cobwebs shimmering in the wind, and owing a debt to Bill Frisell, Bro's filigreed solos and swathes of opiate-like chords are suitably restrained and economical. Christensen often shadows pianist Alexi Tuomarila while adding vigor to the more forceful material.

Drummer Olavi Louhivuori is a sensational addition and is the back-bone of the quintet. Driving the noir-ish bop of "Grand Central" and the dark undulations of "Terminal 7" with brilliantly inventive rhythms, Louhivuori's rolls and fills at times recall Tony Oxley's work with Stanko, albeit voiced with a more vaporous texture. Subtlety is a strength of this young Finn, who enriches Stanko's lyricism and resonates strikingly on the soaring melody of the opening track, "So Nice."

In Alexi Tuomarila, Stanko has a perfect replacement for pianist Marcin Wasilewski. Tuomarila's playing, like Bro's, is spacious and full of the sensitivity the made Wasilewski's pairing with the trumpeter so great. Tuomarila paints with a varying approach dependent on the material, employing warm chords juxtaposed with droplets of high register scales on "Amsterdam Avenue," and strong low-end drive on "Grand Central."

Dark Eyes' central piece, "The Dark Eyes of Martha Hirsch," based on Stanko's encounter with the Oskar Kokoschka painting of that name, runs the gamut of styles presented on the new record. Beginning with a slow burning arch, thick with ambience and bristling with delicate brush work, Stanko's sombre melody rises and falls with icicle-like accompaniment from Turmarila. The band goes into full swing with a knotty bop melody after a deliberate bass statement from Christensen. Here Stanko returns to the fire of his early career with a ferocious scree and flurry of notes. Sparse chords from Bro and Turmalia provide the space for Louhivourhi's shuffle, before eventually exchanging solo flights. The melody then decreases in intensity, a process punctuated by a few dramatic swells, signalling the track's conclusion in typically fractured Stanko style. The ending provides the perfect introduction to "Grand Central," whose tempo is faster and more pulsating, sounding like a direct continuation of the previous suite.

It is Dark Eyes' variety of moods that makes it such a compelling entry into Stanko's impressive canon. The variety is enhanced by atmospheric vignettes like "Dirge for Europe" and "Samba Nova" which contain Stanko's trademark rubato compositional approach. The album is a consolidation of his previous experiments, even harkening back to his work with composer Krzysztof Komeda with "Eituda Baletowa No.3" and a reading of "Last Song" from the trumpeter's defining Balladyna (ECM, 1975) album with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Edward Vesala. The music is allowed to breath, giving ample room for each musician, and is drenched with cinematic atmosphere. Stanko's performance is as brilliant as those familiar with his work would expect, and the edgier sound palette heard on tracks like "Grand Central" in no way sacrifices listenability.

The prospect of where Stanko's quintet might go with this music is an exciting one. Dark Eyes could be the start of something utterly bewitching, entrancing and marvelous.

Tracks: So Nice; Terminal 7; The Dark Eyes of Martha Hirsch; Grand Central; Amesterdam Avenue; Samba Nova; Dirge for Europe; May Sun; Last Song; Etiuda Baletowa No. 3.

Personnel: Tomasz Stanko: trumpet; Jakob Bro: guitar; Anders Christensen: electric bass; Alexi Tuomarila: piano; Olavi Louhivuori: drums.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Modern Jazz

Related Video


More Articles

Read Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis: The Stone House Extended Analysis Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis: The Stone House
by John Kelman
Published: March 4, 2017
Read Jazz Is Phsh: He Never Spoke A Word Extended Analysis Jazz Is Phsh: He Never Spoke A Word
by Doug Collette
Published: March 3, 2017
Read Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix) Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Marcus King: The Marcus King Band" Extended Analysis Marcus King: The Marcus King Band
by Doug Collette
Published: October 8, 2016
Read "Jack Bruce: Things We Like" Extended Analysis Jack Bruce: Things We Like
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: September 17, 2016
Read "Akinola Sennon: Cousoumeh" Extended Analysis Akinola Sennon: Cousoumeh
by Nigel Campbell
Published: September 26, 2016
Read "Steve Reich: The ECM Recordings" Extended Analysis Steve Reich: The ECM Recordings
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: October 29, 2016
Read "Peter Case: Peter Case" Extended Analysis Peter Case: Peter Case
by Doug Collette
Published: October 1, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus


Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!