Tomasz Stańko

Roberto Zucco

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Polish composer and trumpeter Tomasz Stanko has been gaining notoriety on this side of the Atlantic for his stellar recordings on the ECM label, particularly for his suite "The Shape of Things." His band, which fluctuates between seven different members, has been with him for over a decade. On this album, the incidental music to a play directed by Piotr Szymanowski, the Stanko quartet and quintets offer an ethereal, elegiac jazz that is as haunting and beautiful as it is mysterious and chromatic. Stanko proves he has learned greatly from his old master Krzysztof Komeda in that he always underwrites his scores in order to allow his ensembles to grow into them. All of the 16 pieces included here, most of them variations on a Stanko theme -- and two different (pallid) readings of "Blue Velvet" -- overlap, allowing seamless, textured jazz where dynamics play a role, though not one as important as the expressionism at the heart of each musical figure. Sketched thematics by a painterly rhythm section allow Stanko to create variations on his own melody while delving deeper into its essence and come out not on the other side, but leading either synthesist Janusz Skowron or pianist Andrzej Jagodzinski in. The rhythm section, composed of the criminally underrecognized Slamowir Kurkiewicz, drummer Michael Miskiewicz, and percussionist Zbigniew Bryslak, dances with a near clairvoyant intelligence, however furtively, around the gauzy thin atmospherics created by the front line. This is a drift recording to be sure, and were it not for the recurrent theme, it would not exist at all. But this is also its beauty: Stanko can compose an anti-structure like this and make compelling, if ghostly, jazz from it that keeps the listeners attention.

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