Veteran Polish trumpet player Tomasz Stanko has a well-deserved reputation for finding and nurturing good young talent. His previous band, Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and Michal Miskiewicz, went from young protégés to Stanko’s equals, and have since set out on their own as the Marcin Wasileski Trio. The Tomasz Stanko Quintet, like the quartet before it, is composed of very talented young musicians who seem to grow closer as a unit even during the course of a single recording.
Like his previous band, this one has the talent to push their leader and mentor into new territory as well. Unlike that group, this one is Nordic, comprised of two Finns and two Danes. Pianist Alexi Tuomarila has studied both classical and jazz piano extensively. Drummer Olavi Louhivuori has worked with Marilyn Crispell, Kenny Wheeler, and Anthony Braxton. Guitarist Jakob Bro has worked with Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, Joe Lovano, and Tom Harrell. Basisst Anders Christensen has played with Paul Motian, Steve Kuhn, and as a touring member of the Ravonettes.
“So Nice” opens the album in familiar territory, with Alexi Tuomarila’s piano setting the scene before Stanko enters with the descending, slightly mournful yet very beautiful melody. It’s the kind of introspective piece that listeners are used to hearing, and the band doesn’t sound terribly different than Stanko’s last group. That begins to change on “Terminal 7” , a piece that bubbles with underground rhythms. Guitarist Jakob Bro is heard clearly for the first time, and just brining in the guitar, with piano taking a back seat provides a much different sound for Stanko—sparser and brighter than that of the trumpeter’s last few outings.
“The Dark Eyes of Martha Hirsch” is the lengthy piece in the first half of the program, and it allows Stanko to blow some free sounds—it’s an impressionistic piece that doesn’t resolve easily into a groove. “Grand Central” and “Amsterdam Avenue” are impressions of part s of New Yor City. The former bubbles with the energy of the city, pulls up in front of the listener, and then slowly pulls away, fading into a peaceful resolution. “Amsterdam Avenue” has a more haunting, just before dawn ambience
“Samba Nova” is the longest track in the second half of the program, balancing “Dark Eyes o f Martha Hirsch” with another track that offers some freedom of form. It does eventually become a samba (or bossa) of sorts, and Bro contributes a very warm, rhythmically inventive solo.
Of the four remaining tracks, “May Sun” and “Last Song” are short pieces that nonetheless unfold slowly within their time span. The other two are compositions by Polish jazz pioneer Krzysztof Komeda. “Dirge For Europe” is not as dire as its title would indicate, but it is meditative and shifts from major to minor modalities with ease. “Etuda Baletowa No. 3” (Ballet Study) has an easy lilt, and Stanko’s trumpet is lyrical and rhythmic at the same time.
Anyone concerned about a lag in the quality of this recording due to change in personnel can relax; it’s a worthy successor to Stanko’s recent triumphs such as Lontano and Suspended Variations. Different enough to keep the listener from boredom, but not so novel as to create a sense of being alienated from the trumpeter’s latest work. The Tomasz Stanko Quintet is a success.