Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewica, and Michal Miskiewicz have been recording on independent Polish record labels as the Simple Acoustic Trio since the mid-1990s, but Trio is their first international major label release. Of course, many jazz fans have heard the group on Tomasz Stanko’s Soul of Things and Suspended Variations CDs or seen them on tour with Stanko as his backing group. Still, the opportunity to hear this amazing group of musicians, recorded with producer Manfred Eicher’s fine attention to sonic detail, is a welcome one indeed. This group is more jazz-oriented and less gimmicky than new piano trios like Bad Plus or EST, and much less obviously beholden to the blues/gospel aspect of Keith Jarrett’s influence than labelmates the Tord Gustavsen Trio. Wasilewski is more clearly under the sway of Bill Evans. Like Gustavsen’s group, though, this trio also gets an extra kick from its drummer, in this case Michal Miskiewicz, who can channel modern masters like Motian and DeJohnette effortlessly.
If Gustavsen is influenced by Jarrett’s “European Quartet” of the 1970s, Marcin Wasilewski & Co. are much more influenced by his Standards Trio. They demonstrate the same penchant for group improvisation—and a similar talent for it as well. Elements of Brad Mehldau’s approach are also in evidence. Wasilewski has said, in interviews, that the trio has always liked to do group improvisations. That can be hard to do during live performances though, because audiences like to hear familiar tunes and because the musicians need to be able to concentrate solely on what they and the others are playing, and a live audience can be something of a distraction. Here they had studio time with Manfred Eicher offering advice and helping them direct their improvisations, and they recorded something like eight improvisational pieces. Five are included on the CD, heavily loaded onto the second half of the disc.
The group also tackles interesting pieces in pop singer Bjork’s “Hyperballad” and Wayne Shorter’s “Plaza Real.” “Hyperballad” is an interesting piece of music, and the trio does it justice here. Wasilewski mimcs the original version’s slow, dirgelike bassline, while Miskiewicz provides a great deal of coloration, not settling into a beat or groove, which keeps the listener on his or her toes. “Plaza Real” comes from Procession, a late Weather Report album, and the version here sounds very, very different from the original, which featured concertina, accordion, and whistling. Their work with these covers further demonstrates the originality and high level of musicianship at the core of this trio.
Wasilewski and company make music that becomes more interesting and more beautiful the more time you spend with it and the more familiar you become with it. That’s the mark of a true artist, and lets you know that these are musicians who will still be around and playing years from now. Trio is an instant classic that will become part of the jazz piano trio canon all young musicians must listen to.