Faithful, the third ECM album from the Marcin Wasilewski Trio—sixth if you count the records featuring trumpeter Tomasz Stanko—takes its name from a plaintive ballad by Ornette Coleman. The bold-faced saxophonist is an unexpected inspiration for this Polish piano trio, which combines melancholic elegance and headphone-worthy detail in a way that few outfits can match. For the uninitiated, a more appropriate title track might have been a song from Bill Evans’ Sunday at the Village Vanguard, the languorous live set that, in 1961, created the blueprint for piano trios such as this one.
There’s no Evans on Faithful, but the trio does perform the angular and upbeat “Big Foot,” a composition written by the musician who makes the most direct connection between Evans and Coleman: Paul Bley. The post-cool pianist, a former Coleman colleague, is a more prickly presence than Wasilewski, who has tackled everyone from Hermeto Pascoal to Prince, and done so with a seamless sort of grace. Faithful’s two predecessors, January (2007) and Trio (2004), have been enjoyable outings—perfect soundtracks for the stillness of a Sunday morning—but this might be the trio’s weightiest statement.
In addition to the usual stealth melodies, there’s a deeply satisfying granularity to the rhythmic workouts. On Wasilewski’s “Night Train to You,” for example, the Corea-esque melody gives way to a riffy collective improvisation, which is marked by Wasilewski’s blocky comping, drummer Michal Miskiewicz’s rain-on-tin-roof cymbal patter and bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz’s nook-filling fret work. Turn it up loud or turn it down low; either way, it’s one of the best piano-trio recordings you’ll hear this year.