Friday, May 16, 2008

Wasilewski Trio in New York: January the CD

By the Marcin Wasilewski Trio with Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Michal Miskiewicz
ECM Records

In coming days, New Yorkers will have several opportunities to hear some of the finest jazz from Poland, and many of those events will directly involve the Marcin Wasilewski Trio. Following a day of Polish films featuring Krzysztof Komeda soundtracks as part of MoMA’s Jazz Score series, the Wasilewski Trio will play a Komeda tribute concert with their mentor, Tomasz Stanko, the leading statesman of Polish jazz. Then on Tuesday evening, the trio will take center stage at Birdland to celebrate the release of their new CD January. Their sophomore release as a unit on ECM, January is notable not just as the impetus for bringing them to America, but as a remarkably assured musical statement.

Beginning with the appropriately titled “The First Touch,” January establishes a relaxed sense of open space and elegant simplicity, colored by Mishiewicz’s shimmering cymbals. Setting the session’s mellow but explorative mood it is an effective example of the unforced patience and rapport of the trio’s interplay.

Perhaps of particular interest to patrons of the jazz and film series they will participate in Monday will be the two cinema-inspired tracks. Their beautiful rendition of the Morricones’ “Cinema Paradiso” is taken at a slower tempo to express its poetic richness. Taking its name from the Polish film festival it was composed for, “The Young and the Cinema” is an upbeat swinger. At over nine minutes, it is the longest track of January, giving all three ample solo space.

The Wasilewski Trio, formerly called the Simple Acoustic Trio (and also thought of as the Stanko rhythm section), remains a democratic group. For instance, Wasilewski and Kurkiewicz share the melody statements on the pop cover “Diamonds and Pearls” by the artist formerly known as Prince (or whatever). It is a perfect example of jazz artists recasting familiar material, in this case adapting it to the Trio’s sparklingly lyrical style.

January includes other notable covers including Gary Peacock’s “Vignette” here sounding perfectly suited to the trio’s vibe and Stanko’s brooding “Balladyna.” Perhaps the ringer of the session is Carla Bley’s Monkish “King Korn,” the most agitated performance on January, proving their facility with faster tempos and knotty melodic lines, as well as thoughtful ballads.

The disk closes with “New York 2007,” a brief, elegiac improvisation recorded by the trio when they were in said city last year. Soon, they will return, backing up Stanko at the MoMA on Monday the 19th at 7:30, and launching January at Birdland the next day (5/20) at 6:00. From there, they will play gigs in Philly, Baltimore, Ann Arbor, and LA. Whether on CD or in live performance, they are definitely recommended listening.