Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Review: Tomasz Stanko - Suspended Night

Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko has been going from strength to strength in his traditionally referred-to as ‘autumn years’ with his return to ECM records in the mid-nineties. Having lost his teeth and had to completely start afresh with his technique, his work since has been characterised by a distinctive sound all his own, and with a daring and imaginative approach that players half his age would give their left arm for.

Playing with his hugely talented group of Polish teenagers through to their mid-twenties, his ‘The Soul Of Things’ was a great success in every way, and garnering the backing trio in particular especially good notices. Reconvening pianist Marci Masilewski, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michael Miszkiewicz, two years of extensive touring between the two records having honed them further into arguably the strongest support Stanko has ever had, ‘Suspended Night’ is a work of art that perhaps betters his earlier album.

Opening piece ‘Song For Sarah’ showcases Wasilewski’s lyrical and cautiously longing piano to great effect. When Stanko’s rough-hued trumpet enters, they compliment each other perfectly, as they do throughout the recording over and over again. With the sole exception of ‘Song For Sarah’ the rest of the album follows the same path as the previous ‘The Soul Of Things’ with ten numbered ‘Suspended Variations’ on a theme.

Again, as before, most of the variations are of a slow-to-medium tempo, with rare exception. There is though perhaps a greater fieriness to the proceedings, with both parts 2 and 5 being of a faster pace, but still keeping with the dark hue and tone of the suite. A balancing act of tone variety comes in the positively optimistic – for Stanko – part 8, and the bleak sounding eulogy of the ending part 10, with many highlights coming along the way; Part 2 has an infectious melody and part 5 possesses a groove propelled by a surprisingly bouncy bass.

The players are of course all peak performance players here, with Stanko leading in his own unique brooding way. Interestingly the drums here aren’t used in their usual role to keep time at all, but more add colour and flourishes here and there, with the piano and trumpet dominating the atmospheric sound

An undeniably Tomasz Stanko record, ‘Suspended Night’ is a gentle and elegant record, displaying the best qualities of what has been called the ‘ECM aesthetic’ or ‘ECM sound’. Brooding, beautiful and haunting, it is another in a long line of triumphs for the Polish master.


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