Sunday, November 15, 2020

Dominik Wania - Lonely Shadows (2020)

Dominik Wania

Dominik Wania - piano

Lonely Shadows

ECM 2686





By Adam Baruch

As astonishing as this might sound and in complete contrast to his extensive recording legacy and the hurricane-like ascent to the position of top Polish Jazz piano chair during a record time of just over a decade, this is only the second album as a leader by pianist/composer Dominik Wania and of course his debut album as a leader for the prestigious ECM label.

Some twelve years ago (2008) my friend, the great Polish Jazz bassist Bronisław Suchanek, sent me a duo album he recorded with a young and anonymous Polish pianist, who was over the pond in Boston getting his Master of Music degree there. The name of the young pianist was Dominik Wania and the album was "Sketch In Blue", and the rest is history as far as I am concerned. I was immediate smitten with Wania's playing and followed his development ever since, listening carefully to every recording he made over time and of course tried to hear him perform live whenever I could.

The modern Polish Jazz has known many remarkable pianists over the last six decades, who contributed to the development of the local scene. Some of them became famous and made many important recordings, others exploded with youthful brilliance only to disappear soon after without a trace. Each and every one of them had his idiosyncratic language and style of course, some being closer to the American Jazz tradition, other searching for new ways of expression. But in retrospect the arrival of Wania changed the rules of the game entirely, in view of his total originality.

Wania studied Classical Music and Jazz Music of course, but he managed to create a completely innovative amalgam of all musical traditions, which is uniquely his own. His fellow musicians attest to the fact that playing alongside Dominik is like being transferred into another state of mind and parallel universe, which is exactly my observation from hearing him perform live. He is every bit there playing with the rest of the band and yet at the same time he floats in the stratosphere high above everything else that is happening on the stage. But of course solo piano performances are something altogether different...

About a year before Wania recorded the music for this album he recorded another solo piano album called "Twilight" with his interpretations of music composed by the great Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner, which strangely was almost completely overlooked upon its release. Although diametrically different from the music on this album, since it was completely pre-composed, Wania's interpretations soar high and above the basic melody lines and create a completely new entity (see my review of that album), and as such in some respects is spiritually quite related to the music presented herein.

This album presents eleven improvised pieces by Wania, characterized by a remarkable humility, fragility and minimalism. Every stroke on the keyboard counts and every pause matters. Wania manages to create a complete universe of sound and silence, which is mesmerizing and magical. The music escapes standard genre classification and could be considered as much Classical as Jazz, being both and none at the same time. Using spontaneously improvised music for this project, Wania managed to create something that might sound completely "composed" to the listener, as a result of its wonderfully coherent structure, tonality and intrinsic continuity. This sublime ability is just one of Wania's trade secrets, which turn him into a wizard he truly is.

Of course this music reflects only some of the many facets of the phenomenon called Wania, since his recorded legacy portrays him in many diverse settings, but nevertheless it fully depicts his originality. No other piano player on this planet plays music the way he does, which of course can be said about just a handful of musicians.

As corny as it might sound this is a truly wonderful album, probably one of the most penetrating and enlightening creations of the last decade, which once again proudly shines in the aging ECM catalogue. People love to crown artists as "the next thing", in most cases completely out of proportions, but Wania undoubtedly is an Artist of the future, even though he already offers a glorious legacy as of today. He undoubtedly embodies the European aesthetics more accurately and broadly that most of his peers and the prospect of hearing more of his music in the future is one of those things that make life worth living.

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