May 28, 2013
When you are asked to think of the “typical ECM artist”, you could do worse than think of Tomasz Stanko. The Polish-born veteran trumpeter has a distinctive, sometimes mournful sound from his horn that has been called “sophisticated dread” by a well-known critic. His music retreats from the requirement of chord changes and traditional melodies, relying on extended solos over textural foundations.
Still a resident of Warsaw, Stanko has a pied-à-terre in Manhattan that allows him to explore art of all sorts, and to work with the finest jazz performers New York can offer. It’s no surprise then that his latest group is dubbed the “New York Quartet”, and their most recent release, Wisława, is a sprawling two CD set of music inspired by, and dedicated to, the late Polish poet (and Nobel Prize Laureate) Wisława Symborska.
The band is nothing short of sensational. David Virelles, about whom you read and heard at this blog for his work with Chris Potter, is emerging as a major talent on piano. Bass player Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver weave in and out as often as they lock in together, and are a force with which to be reckoned. Stanko, just over the age of 70, still has the ability to provide long, expressive solos that remind the listener of no one less than Miles Davis.
I spoke with Tomasz about assembling the group, his relationship with the sometimes controversial poet Ms. Symborska, and the reception his most recent music has received in Europe and America. Click here to listen to Podcast 349, featuring musical selections including:
Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet – “Song for H”, “Mikrokosmos” and “A Shaggy Vandal” from Wisława. The songs - titled after poems or phrases from Ms. Symborska’s poetry - have a deeply elegiac feel to them, and yet there is nothing overtly maudlin about them, either. Instead, the selections are wonderful soundscapes with which Stanko can express his devotion to his friend, and his sadness at her passing.
Tomasz Stanko, Manfred Brundl, Michael Riessler – “Valse” from Suite Talk. This 1993 release shows the “free jazz” side of Stanko’s playing, as he teams up with bassist Brundl and clarinetist Riessler.