Marcin Wasilewski does not think like other jazz pianists. His improvisational underpinnings, his sense of musical space and his aural imagery are so fresh they are initially mysterious, then get more so. The same can be said of his trio as a whole, with bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz.
The group first popped up on jazz radar screens in 2002, as the rhythm section on Soul of Things, a highly regarded ECM album by Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko. They were in their mid-20s then, and sounded cautious to be playing with their country’s greatest jazz musician.
They have since evolved. Through two more albums (Suspended Night and Lontano), they have studied existential atmosphere and mood and silence under Stanko, one of the most erudite sources of knowledge on these musical subjects. Everything this trio plays is cinematic—not only music about film like Ennio Morricone’s “Cinema Paradiso” and Wasilewski’s “The Young and Cinema,” but even pop covers like Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls.” They are flickering narratives, sometimes circling and hovering in unresolved complexities of feeling, sometimes released as outbreaks of piercing lyricism. On Wasilewski’s “The First Touch,” the open harmonic and melodic forms are unsettled in their implications, and therefore truthful.
It takes nerve for a young trio to create music of such stillness, such patience. The fact that these three have played together since they were teenagers is audible in the way they trust the epiphanies they collectively come upon. January is an album to keep coming back to, if not for new answers, then for deeper questions.