Marcin Wasilewski Trio
ECM Records (www.ecmrecords.com)
It currently feels hotter than Hades here in NY, but nothing is helping me to “think cool” better than January, Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski’s second CD as a leader on ECM. Joined by frequent collaborators bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz, Wasilewski presents compelling originals alongside a number of beautiful compositions penned by ECM labelmates such as Gary Peacock, Carla Bley, and Tomasz Stanko.
I first heard Wasilewski’s trio backing up trumpeter Stanko at Merkin Concert Hall, touring in support of the ECM recording Soul of Things. Stanko had worked with them since the early nineties when they were in their teens; although still relative youngsters in 2003, they were quite a formidable performing unit. The intervening years have only honed the intense rapport share by Wasilewski, Kurkiewicze, and Miskiewicz, who have found a niche: creating rich interpretations of harmonically intricate, atmospheric material. Originals such as “The First Touch” and “Cinema Paradiso” display a patient interaction; the trio forming well-coordinated points of confluence, each member finding space for solo departures. It’s worth noting the outstanding sound, an ECM hallmark to be sure, but one which highlights the resonance of Kurkiewicz’s arco playing and Miskiewicz’s delicately textural drumming.
Wasilewski’s playing on Peacock’s “Vignette” is a lesson in legato phrasing; yet the delicate shadings and Neo-Romantic ebb-and-flow of the tune still maintain considerable rhythmic swing. The trio as a whole gets to explore a feast of playful syncopations on Carla Bley’s “King Korn.” Their mentor Stanko’s “Balladyna” receives a lovingly rendered, poignant performance. As fine as these covers are, the pianist’s own composition, “January,” is a thoughtful ballad on which one can hear the trio at its finest: creating a spacious performance that retains focus and, where necessary, employs pointedly determined playing. January suggests that the future of Polish jazz looks very bright, and consummately cool, indeed.