Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tomasz Stanko – A i J (Polonia Records, 1997)

Tomasz Stańko - trumpet

Sławomir Kulpowicz - piano
Vitold Rek - bass
Czeslaw "Maly" Bartkowski - drums 

A i J (Polonia Records, 1997)

This magnificent album by Polish trumpeter / composer Tomasz Stanko includes the rest of the music recorded at the same session, which produced the superb "Music 81" album. As with all great and prophetic Jazz Masters, Stanko's music was evolving constantly and by the time this session was recorded in 1982, he was ready to leave behind the avant-garde / Free Jazz / experimental music, which dominated his first period (late 1960s to late 1970s) and gradually move forward towards new things, which would include mostly Jazz-Rock Fusion and Jazz-Electronic experiments, which of course were all as advanced and adventurous as anything else he made earlier. That second period, which lasted roughly the whole decade of the 1980s, is well documented by the albums released during that time, each and every one of them indisputably a masterpiece in retrospect. 

This interim session between Stanko's first and second period is especially interesting, as in many respects it both summarizes the first period and clearly leads the way towards the next. The music is surprisingly "straight-forward" (if such description is at all possible in connection with Stanko's music) and conventional. Performed by a classic quartet with pianist Slawomir Kulpowicz, bassist Witold Rek and the fabulous drummer Czeslaw Bartkowski, it moves stylistically somewhere between John Coltrane's early 1960's quartet and Miles Davis second quintet, mixing clear melody lines with complex improvisations. The performances are absolutely stellar, with Stanko's trumpet shredding the air, beautiful and extremely sensitive piano work a la McCoy Tyner, strong and steady bass and virtuosic drumming, which not only drives the music forward but also adds endless flamboyant ornamentations. Of course in retrospect we know now that Stanko was to return to a similar format a decade and so later with his superb quartet, but at the time this music was completely unprecedented on the Polish scene. There are very few Jazz albums worldwide, which come close to the perfection and vision of the music herein, therefore this is definitely an absolute must for any serious Jazz connoisseur, Polish Jazz collector and anybody with a pair of open ears. Beyond essential!

Author: Adam Baruch

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