Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wasilewski Trio in New York: At MoMA with Tomasz Stanko

Last night represented the convergence of two on-going events that have been covered here: the Marcin Wasilewski Trio’s American tour and MoMA’s Jazz Score film series. Over the weekend MoMA screened several films with soundtracks composed by Krzysztof Komeda, and recorded by his group, usually featuring Tomasz Stanko on trumpet. Last night, Stanko gave a tribute concert of his mentor’s music, backed up by his protégés, the Wasilewski Trio, with special guest Billy Harper on tenor to round out the quintet.

There was not an empty seat to be had in the Titus Theater, and Stanko and his associates did not disappoint. Harper’s rougher tenor proved to be a good counterpoint to Stanko’s misty trumpet. Throughout the evening, the Wasilewski rhythm section-mates were ably supportive and tastefully swinging, often taking considerable solo honors themselves. At times, the ensemble could have been interpreting entire Komeda soundtracks, twisting and evolving to match an emotionally complex story arc.

Stanko has often returned to the music of Komeda, most recently recording “Kattorna” on his latest ECM release Lontano, as well as on tribute records like Litania and Music for K. Clearly he and the Wasilewski Trio are well familiar with Komeda’s music, but still find new things to say through it. Harper also sounded comfortable with the music, spreading warm tenor goodness over Komeda’s classic ballad theme from Knife in the Water for his quartet feature.

Stanko, Harper, and the Wasileski Trio nicely captured the many hues of Komeda’s music: up-tempo swing, darkly brooding ruminations, elegant lyricism, and nervous tension. It was a perfect concert for the MoMA film department to produce as part of their jazz retrospective.

Tonight, the Wasilewski Trio will finish their New York stint with a launch concert at Birdland for their latest CD, January, with an early hit time of 6:00. Based on last night’s audience reaction it promises to be another great show.