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Tomasz Stanko Quartet at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Tomasz Stanko Quartet

On a blowy, black November night in Seattle, with just enough misty rain to make the roads and sidewalks glisten silver in the street lights, the Tomasz Stanko Quartet lit up On the Boards. In this intimate, acoustically superb venue at the foot of Queen Anne Hill, Stanko’s trumpet rang out for two hours in a language that, quite literally, had never been heard in these parts, since Stanko had set foot in the United States for the first time six days prior. It was an improvisatory sensibility notable for its radical variety, for huge swings in tonal range and texture and amplitude. That trumpet’s molten flow, pure and golden, might spatter without warning into spitty rasps; low whispers could suddenly escalate to shrieking ricochets; headlong tempos could slow and almost shut down then take off again; quick trills could sweep into clarion gestures, held long. These disparate elements were brought to focus by the clarity of Stanko’s aesthetic purpose. His notes are not for show. He means every one.

While Stanko is not yet a major name in the American or even the international jazz community, there is a growing awareness, based on five strong albums that he has recorded for ECM since 1995, that something important, trumpet-wise, is happening in Warsaw, Poland. The first four of these recordings placed Stanko in the company of some of Europe’s premier jazz players, like Bobo Stenson and Jon Christensen and John Surman. But it is Stanko’s new album, Soul of Things(ECM), that has been turning heads, and it features a young, unknown Polish rhythm section of Marcin Wasilewski on piano, Slawomir Kurkiewicz on bass and Michal Miskiewicz on drums.

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