Lontano CD, Import
Lontano is the third album by 64-year-old Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko to team him with a trio of exceptionally talented young countrymen who started playing with him while still in their teens: pianist Marcin Wasilewski, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz. Yes, the trio, which has recorded on its own, pushes him with its fresh energy and ideas. But the support team is no less inspired by Stanko's spare, intensely understated approach to melody and harmony, which draws generously from Miles Davis, and his elastic sense of time. More dependent on spatial constructs and free form improvising than its richly atmospheric previous effort, Suspended Night (which some critics called Stanko's Kind of Blue), Lontano doesn't always deliver on the risks it takes. The music sometimes loses momentum. But the trumpeter's pensive lyrical authority and Wasilewski's controlled abandon make for a good combination, especially on a pair of Stanko tunes first recorded in 1965 and 1975, respectively. --Lloyd Sachs
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That trio of musicians have been together and playing with Stanko since their teens. I highly-highly-highly recommend the trio's music without Tomasz Stanko. Their CDs include "January" and "Trio". I absolutely love Marcin's piano play and Michal Miskiewicz on drums is something else. He's every bit as good as Manu Katche, Jack De Johnette and Paul Motian. Slawomir Kurkiewicz on bass is truly amazing as well.
Getting back to "Lontano", this is one of three CDs by the Tomasz Stanko Quartet which also include "Suspended Night" and "Soul Of Things". All three CDs are beautiful and performed to perfection. I like Stanko's moody-weary play on "Lantano" slightly better than his other two CDs. Of the three "Lantano" may be a bit more challenging at first, less melodic and slightly more advant-garde...slightly. It took me a few listens to truly appreciate "Lontano". Now, I consider "Lontano", to be the best of the 3 CDs. The music will draw your mind in and take you to delightful places. This is free jazz perfomed at the very highest level. I consider "Lontano" a masterpeice, a jazz classic equal to "Kind Of Blue". Yes, Polish jazz has evolved to the very highest level.
Really, you need to buy all three Tomasz Stanko Quartet CDs plus the two CDs by the Marcin Wasilewski Trio (Simple Acoustic Trio).
Yes, they are THAT good.
Let's begin with the sound in the broadest sense: the music is absolutely stunningly recorded (as is typical for ECM)--the 4 instruments of the quartet are beautifully spread out in the stereophonic soundscape. One can hear every detail of Stanko's timbral shifts, every nuance of Miskiewicz's drums is captured crisply. The sound is deep, warm, spacious.
The stylistic features of the music that are most rewarding for me: Stanko's incredibly profound understanding of Miles Davis' trumpet conception--Stanko has thoroughly studied and absorbed two of Miles' great talents: using unusual timbres on the trumpet to convey complex emotions, and using space generously and constantly to avoid tedious, cliched playing. Also, Marcin Wasilewski's powerful voice on piano: his style is richly melodic, with a refined touch (he clearly comes out of the Bill Evans/Herbie Hancock/Keith Jarrett lineage)--burnished, thick chords with a strong, intense right-hand melody.
This music is often "free": in tempo, in harmony, in texture. But there is a constant emphasis on sustained and deep melody, the two main melodic voices being those of Stanko on trumpet and Wasilewski on piano (the latter often steals the show!). Listen to "Kattorna" for a dark, funky groove that owes much to Miles' quintet of the 1960s (and to my ears wouldn't sound out of place on a Dave Douglas CD); listen to the 3 parts of "Lontano" for one of the great examples of "free" playing that is pensive, cautious and soft. Perhaps my favorite passage of the album occurs towards the end of "Lontano, pt. 1" when the quartet settles into a latin-esque, dark modal groove. They seem to be on the verge of really letting loose, but instead reign the music back in, to end quietly--very compelling, seductive almost.
I cannot help but be over-enthusiastic: this is one of the very best jazz albums I've heard in the past 10 years.