Stanko’s distinctive trumpet tone, complete with cries and squalls is a constant source of delight, and one in turn feeds into the playing of the rhythm section.

ECM 2650 / 651 9143

Tomasz Stanko (trumpet); Marcin Wasilewski (piano); Slawomir Kurkiewicz (double bass); Michal Miskiewicz (drums)

Recorded September 9, 2004

This live concert recording captures Stanko and his group and a fascinating point in their development. Having been together as a unit for more than a decade, and the rhythm section as a standalone trio even longer it would be expected that a bond would have formed. Just how deep was the question, and this superb concert while it doesn’t deliver up all the answers gives a pretty good indication.

Expecting anything definitive from a musician of Stanko’s stature, who was himself still growing artistically, and a young dynamic trio who cherished every opportunity to perform together is wishful thinking. However, with recordings such as this we can witness their journey that seemingly ran its course some five years later.

With the trumpeter spending the last years of his life with new groups in Europe and in the United States, it is all the sweeter to be reminded just how special that the Polish quartet. The level of interplay is exceptional born not just of longevity but a mutual respect, and if the younger musicians regarded Stanko as their mentor then they learned their lessons well.

The music catches a moment in time between the structured song forms of Suspended Night and the more freely improvised music of Lontano and one can sense this shift in emphasis that the quartet are able to explore in a life setting. The balance between exuberance and reflection is handled with a delicious tension and release throughout, from the joyous ‘Hermento’s Mood’ to the lively tempo of ‘Eurofila’ in which Stanko steadfastly refuses to be hurried. Flurries of notes spill from the bell of his horn at a pace dictated by the trumpeter followed by a tumbling and effusive solo from Wasilewski.

‘Theatrical’ is a gently evolving piece that develops through Stanko’s elegant trumpet phrases while the preceding ‘Celina’ is one of those compositions that appears to glide along effortlessly, buoyed up by Miskiewicz’s splendid cymbal work that clearly inspires the pianist in his long and flowing solo.

If the ballad playing of the quartet is your thing, then there is a tremendous ‘Song for Sarah’ that has an excellent solo from Wasilewski again and a lyrical and spacious solo from Stanko and the delicate intro to ‘Elegant Piece’ with the trumpeter quietly dominating proceedings. As the composition moves up a gear it is again Stanko who conjures up the most absorbing solo.

Indications of change are hinted at on ‘Kaetano’ that is credited to all four musicians and while it appears to have little in the way of preconceived structure in the opening minutes it gradually eases into a dynamic piece that generates considerable heat.

A collective performance this maybe, but the Stanko’s leadership and guidance is undoubtably at the heart of the music. His distinctive trumpet tone, complete with cries and squalls is a constant source of delight, and one in turn feeds into the playing of the rhythm section. Along with the studio albums recorded by this quartet it captures a pivotal period in the trumpeters career.