Tomasz Stanko Quartet

ECM 1980

Arguably Poland’s most famous jazzman, at least internationally, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko never rests on past laurels. One reason Lontano is so accomplished, is that the 64-year-old brassman records with a trio of his talented countryman in their twenties. Portions of the disc, in fact, find pianist Marcin Wasilewski taking as much solo space as Stanko.

With improvisational timbres here more gaunt than soothing, the clearest indication of this quartet cooperation – and individuality – comes comparing “Kattorna”, which the trumpeter recorded with its composer, pianist Krzysztof Komeda in 1965, and the three discontinuous section of the title tune which collectively take up around 40 of the CD’s 76 minutes.

Mixing contrapuntal beats prolonged by Slawomir Kurkiewicz’s walking bass and Michal Miskiewicz’s drum top spanks with lyrical progressions from the pianist, the first tune’s time sense is similar to that of Miles Davis’ combos of the day. Stanko’s choked valve solos reflect that influence too.

Group instant compositions, “Lontano I”, “II” and “III” on the other hand, find the four nearly suspending time as they pull the grisaille-tinted themes every which way as if they’re toffee. Languidly exploring thematic contours tone by tone, the improvisations demand more variety in trumpet phrasing which range from hesitantly fragile to pumping heraldic surges and plunger tones. Meanwhile Wasilewski uses splashes of modal coloring and low-frequency Chopinesque patterning to help solidify everyone’s irregularly paced contributions; eventually converting disparate parts into an indolent yet deeply moving whole.

Ken Waxman

CODA Issue 331