Friday, January 30, 2015

Tomasz Stanko – Polin (2014)

Tomasz Stańko

Tomasz Stańko - trumpet
Ravi Coltrane - saxophone
David Virelles - piano
Dezron Douglas - double bass
Kush Abadey - drums


POLIN Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews 001

By Adam Baruch

Polin, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, commissioned this album from Polish Jazz trumpeter/composer Tomasz Stańko as part of the celebrations connected with the opening of the permanent exhibition of the museum. The album comprises of five original compositions by Stańko, performed by a quintet, which in addition to Stańko includes American musicians: saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, pianist David Virelles, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Kush Abadey, or in short the Ravi Coltrane Quartet. Virelles is also a member of Stańko's New York Quartet.

This is not the first time Stańko cooperates with a museum, as he also wrote music for the Warsaw Uprising Museum back in 2005 (see the "Wolność W Sierpniu" album). However, in contrast to that occasion, where the music can be contextually connected to the tragic Warsaw Uprising of 1944, the current album seems to have absolutely no connection whatsoever, neither to Jews, not their 1,000 years long history in Poland and certainly not to the cataclysmic epilogue of that history. Therefore the entire circumstance of this commission somehow misses the point completely.

The actual music, judged on its own merits, is of course what one might expect from a musician composer of Stańko's standing, i.e. professional, beautifully played and well recorded. Sadly not much more can be said about it, as Stańko seems to have run out of steam as a composer and mostly recycles ideas used previously, distancing himself from the unique rough sound and Polish melancholy, which characterized his music for decades, simply to embrace American mainstream, which leaves ambition, challenge and exploration to others. There are some traces of genius and thrill, but alas they remain just traces.

Of course this is still a beautiful Jazz album, timing just under forty minutes and full of nice melodic and inoffensive music, which sounds great when played in the background, but disappears like an early morning mist by noon. For people, who grew up listening to Stańko, the Icon, this is less than they probably expected?

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