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Maciej Obara Quartet: Dominik Wania/Ole Morten Vågan/Gard Nilssen: Unloved

Karl Ackermann By

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A distinct vernacular, unabashedly quixotic lyricism and an authoritative style of playing are among the notable characteristics that define Maciej Obara. The Polish saxophonist and composer had performed with Tomasz Stanko in the trumpeter's "New Balladyna Quartet" project and he has recorded with John Lindberg, Ralph Alessi, Mark Helias and Nasheet Waits. Obara was also on board for the Fonda/Stevens Group Trio + 2: Live in Katowice (Not Two, 2009). Unloved is Obara's ninth album and his ECM debut.

This quartet recording includes pianist Dominik Wania who had met and played alongside Obara as part of the aforementioned Stanko quartet. Wania has been part of Obara groups since 2012, most recently recording Live at Manggha and Komeda, both on the For Tune label in 2013. Ole Morten Vågan has appeared on nearly forty recordings including eight with the group Motif, featuring trumpeter Mathias Eick. The Norwegian bassist has composed for Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and was a member of keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft's New Conceptions of Jazz project. The prolific drummer Gard Nilssen has appeared on more than thirty recordings and has worked with the likes of Tore Brunborg, Mathias Eick, Arild Andersen and Helge Lien. Like Wania, he was part of the two Obara live recordings.

"Ula"is a thoughtful ballad as is "Joli Bord," highlighted by subtle interplay between Obara and Wania and the saxophonist's occasionally soaring breakouts. "One For" has a lighter feel, emphasized by Wania's bright and nimble piano. An omnipresent contributor to so many Polish jazz albums, the late Krzysztof Komeda wrote the title track. "Sleepwalker" and "Echoes" are more open improvisations and provide the opportunity for Morten Vågan and Nilssen to stand out. The latter of the two features a blistering Obara solo. The soulful "Storyteller" closes the album with Obara's long searching lines, Wania delicate phrasing against a wash of cymbals.

Manfred Eicher's vision of the ECM style of improvised music has always been as defined as is possible, though the label carries less of a distinct "sound," relative to its overall output. That said, the music of Unloved speaks to a familiar aesthetic sensibility leaving no doubt that Obara's work is perfectly at home here. The Polish/Norwegian quartet plays with one mind but the individual synapses fire in many direction. The players anticipate each other's movements and set their courses with a mixture of refinement and flair.

Track Listing: Ula; One For; Joli Bord; Unloved; Sleepwalker; Echoes; Storyteller.

Personnel: Maciej Obara: alto saxophone; Dominik Wania: piano; Ole Morten Vågan double bass; Gard Nilssen drums.

Title: Unloved | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ECM Records

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