Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet, "Wislawa" (ECM)
Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko has long been one of Europe's leading jazz improvisers, known for his original ballads influenced by Miles Davis' 1960s acoustic quintet but with a touch of brooding Slavic melancholy. The 70-year-old trumpeter has recently been spending time in New York playing with a top-flight rhythm section — Cuban-born pianist David Virelles, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver — who add a vibrant new dimension both as soloists and ensemble players to his music.
This double album was inspired by the poetry of the late Polish Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska with whom he performed at a 2009 recital in Krakow. Most of the original compositions reflect Stanko's penchant for slowly unfolding, meditative ballads such as the dirge-like opening and closing title track, with Cleaver contributing delicate brushwork, and "Metafizyka" on which Stanko and Morgan play pathos-filled solos.
But it's the driving up-tempo tunes, "Assassins" and "Faces," where the New York rhythm section really makes its presence felt, pushing Stanko to be more daring as he plays smoldering trumpet lines in a style that is post-bop bordering on free.