Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, Michal Miskiewicz - Trio (ECM, 2005)

Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, Michal Miskiewicz

Marcin Wasilewski piano
Slawomir Kurkiewicz double-bass
Michal Miskiewicz drums

Trio (ECM, 2005)

Out of left field. Check. Three Poles, who form the backup group to trumpet genius, Thomasz Stanko. But who would've predicted that they'd move the music beyond their boss and master? (Well, setting modesty aside, I did say, in my review of Stanko's Suspended Night, "As impressive as Stanko is here . . . the real heroes are his Polish [backup group].")

Weird intersection of ravishing beauty and hardcore rigor. Check. These guys, although they can and do hang with the most gorgeous of the recent ECM trio outings, e.g., the Tord Gustavson Trio, Anderson/Tsabropoulos/Marshall, and Taylor/Johnson/Baron, also have a similarly rigorous, deeply delved jazz sensibility. Where they got it from, who knows. Endlessly listening to Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett sides clandestinely available in Poland? Tuning in to Radio Free America jazz broadcasts? Encountering likeminded musicians as they toured the Free World with their trumpet master? Somehow connecting with, absorbing, and transmuting Ryuichi Sakamoto's unique musical vision? It matters little. The important thing is, they've got it.

Absolute assurance in the conceptualization and execution of their unique musical vision. Check. This is jazz that I've never heard before, but, paradoxically, have heard my entire adult life. Shades of past and present masters (Evans, Jarrett, Werner, Lafaro, Baron, Haden, Motian, Erskine, Higgins), dancing, lilting, singing, swinging in their own glorious idiom, resonating with jazz icons of the first water, but somehow uniquely showing forth their own hard-won musical insights.

Music that's just too beautiful, but that you don't want to quit listening to (unlike saccharine sweet jazz lite, that initially beguiles but soon wears out its welcome). Check. I, literally, can't get this stinkin' disc off my player. It keeps working its way back in, no matter how hard I try to listen to other stuff.

Music that continually surprises, even as it becomes more and more listener-friendly. Check. Each time I hear this astounding disc, I get something new out of it. But, weirdly, not as some kind of jazz LESSON; just as the consequence of listening with ears open and encountering music of great generosity clothed in almost simplistic garb. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis: The door to jazz is low, and you must stoop to enter. And its foremost practitioners have mastered the off-hand grandeur that characterizes this music at its, paradoxically, most exalted and most humble moments.

Seldom does any disc, no matter from what genre or idiom, rise to the heights this music naturally walks in and among. One thinks of Omar Sosa at the summit of his ecstatic expression (Mulatos and Pictures of Soul), or, perhaps, of Peter Epstein's magical The Invisible or Nascer, or the Egberto Gismonti of Magico or Sanfona, or Safa. And few others. For me to include this altogether marvelous music among these masters means I have placed it in some kind of veritable musical Pantheon.

And I have.

So if you don't pick up on it, don't blame me. I gave you fair warning. 

Track listing:
1. Trio Conversation (introduction)
2. Hyperballad
3. Roxane’s Song
4. K.T.C.
5. Plaza Real
6. Shine
7. Green Sky
8. Sister's Song
9. Drum Kick
10. Free-bop
11. Free Combinations For
12. Three Instruments
13. Entropy
14. Trio Conversation (the end)

By Jan P. Dennis

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