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Tomasz Stanko Quartet - "Suspended Variation II" (2004)

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Uploaded on Aug 14, 2009

Tomasz Stanko Quartet - "Suspended Variation II" from album "Suspended Night" (2004)
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Jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko began his tenure as a major force in European free jazz in the early '60s with the formation of the quartet Jazz Darins in 1962 with Adam Makowicz. From 1963 to 1967 he played with Krzysztof Komeda in a group that revolutionized European jazz and made an impact across the Atlantic as well. Stanko also put in time with Andrzej Trzaskowski in the mid-'60s before leading his own quintet from 1968 to 1973. The Tomasz Stanko Quintet, which included Muniak and Zbigniew Seifert, garnered considerable critical acclaim, especially for their tribute to Komeda entitled Music for K. The early '70s brought collaborations with a number of avant-garde and creative jazz artists, including the Globe Unity Orchestra, Michal Urbaniak, Cecil Taylor, and Gary Peacock. From 1974 to 1978, Stanko played in a quartet with Edward Vesala, then returned to performing as a leader and soloist. The '80s brought Stanko collaborations with Chico Freeman in Freeman's group Heavy Life, as well as work with James Spaulding, Jack DeJohnette, and Rufus Reid. He was also briefly part of Cecil Taylor's big band in 1984. Shortly afterward, he formed another ensemble, Freelectronic. The '90s brought an alliance with ECM, which issued some of Stanko's most acclaimed work, including another lush, gorgeous tribute to Komeda, 1997's Litania, which was heavy with that composer's film work. The follow-up on ECM, 2000's From the Green Hill, drew from many of the same emotional and historic sources as Komeda's work, but this time the compositions were Stanko's. In 2002, Stanko's contributions to European jazz were honored when he was issued the very first European Prize, which was intended to honor outstanding European jazz musicians. During the final round of voting from 21 critics from as many countries, Stanko won ten votes, narrowly topping the runner-up, Dutch piano player Misha Mengelberg. That same year Soul of Things was released on ECM, followed by Suspended Night in 2004, also on ECM. Too Pee appeared in 2006, as did Chameleon and Lontano.
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When Tomasz Stanko first started working with a trio of Polish teenagers in 1994 -- Marcin Wasilewski, piano; Slawomir Kurkiewicz, bass; Michal Miskiewicz, drums -- on film projects and live gigs inside his native land, he might have glimpsed, but surely never fully conceived of, the sound that the quartet's relationship would offer a decade later. Suspended Night, on ECM, follows the hugely successful Soul of Things on the same label. It is only the second international offering from this group, but the flowering and maturation of this creative relationship are nothing if not utterly stunning. This ensemble has developed its own bravely compelling yet tonally accessible voice in articulating Stanko's unique compositional language; it is one that opens up the jazz tradition from the inside in startling and wonderful new directions. Suspended Night opens with "Song for Sarah," a ballad that stresses the harmonic language utilized so wonderfully on Soul of Things. Wasilewski's intensely lyrical, Bill Evans-influenced style is the perfect complement to the languid tempo and moving melody of Stanko's balladic utterance. Stanko's playing of the melody moves directly in concert with his pianist's chromatic subtleties, with unhurried, emotional nuance as the rhythm section punctuates his lines with shimmering, dancing colorations and whispers. The rest of the disc is made up of ten "Suspended Variations." They are compositions that offer enough skeletal direction and structure to allow a spacious inner freedom; improvisation feels effortless, innovative in terms of dynamic, tone, and harmonic invention as an exploration of tonal color is combined with space and melodic inquiry that is holistic and open-ended. The dynamic range here is also compelling as it seems to flow and extend rather than explode for the sake of releasing tensions. Where Soul of Things concentrated on intimate dialogue, Suspended Night uses that exchange and extends both subtleties and vagaries while keeping the major tenets of its subject in full view, always with grace and a poetic elegance. This a major new lyric statement that actually looks at jazz as a future music of unfolding investigation rather than as merely a historic tradition celebrating itself. Suspended Night is essential for any serious jazz fan and a wonderful introduction to Stanko's music as well. (allmusic)

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