Darek Oleszkiewicz, a native of Poland and member of the music faculty at the California Institute of the Arts, makes his recording debut as a leader with this remarkable CD. Not yet thirty-years-old at the time of these sessions, the bassist shows surprising depth as a composer, arranger and soloist, with a gift for lyricism and a virtuoso technique reminiscent of Niels Pedersen. The first five songs are sterling duets with pianist Brad Mehldau (with whom he has worked in the past). The only standard, "You Don't Know What Love Is," evolves from a conversational duo improvisation, with both men avoiding typical approaches. His shimmering "Like a Dream" ought to have lyrics, while his "Blues for Eden" is very playful with hints of "Kerry Dance" worked into it. On two tracks, Oleszkiewicz leads a quartet with saxophonist Chuck Manning, guitarist Larry Koonse and drummer Mark Ferber. "Precious Moments" is an intricate composition that gives a strong indication of the leader's classical background. The gentle samba "Before the Journey" is a fine showcase for the bassist. The last four songs feature a trio with pianist Adam Benjamin and drummer Nate Wood. "Gift" has a gentle Latin rhythm, while the spacious ballad "That Night" sounds as if it could have been adapted from a classical sonata. The CD concludes with an infectious but brief three-part suite called "Conclusion," adding tenor saxophonist Bernie Maupin for its second movement. This is an auspicious debut that should help Darek Oleszkiewicz gain wider recognition.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden