Tomasz Stanko - December Avenue

Label/Year: ECM, 2017

Lineup - Tomasz Stanko: trumpet; David Virelles: piano; Reuben Rogers: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.


Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko already gave us enough reasons to trust his idiosyncratic music. Deeply associated with the ECM Records, Stanko, whose sonorous creativity is almost tactful, has one foot in the adventurous modern creative jazz and the other on a relaxing, sometimes-cerebral post-bop.
His Polish quartet, which included the pianist Marcin Wasliewski, was active from 2002 to 2006, being responsible for great albums such as The Soul of Things, Suspended Nights, and Lontana.
In 2013, Stanko formed his New York quartet, a stellar project that featured Cuban-born David Virelles on piano, Thomas Morgan on bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums. They recorded the critically acclaimed double-disc CD Wislawa.
For the quartet’s new outing, December Avenue, Stanko was forced to give Morgan’s position to Reuben Rogers. The outcome remains bold and innovative, as well as immediately identifiable with the author’s compositional style.

Reflective moods and nostalgic tones characterize “Cloud”, an enduring piece whose melancholy is equally embraced in its half-twin “Blue Cloud”. In the latter, one can enjoy Virelles’ exquisite clusters and improvised discourses by Stanko and Rogers, whose disclosures were brief, explicit, and articulated.

Following approximate directions, “Ballad for Bruno Schulz” and “Young Girl in Flower” are plaintive ballads delivered with a static insouciance afloat.
The recording is not limited to this organic quietude, though. If “Bright Moon” still dwells in this buoyant sphere of serene melodies and sparse comping, “Burning Hot” really heats things up through a pulsing 4/4 groove that spreads Brazilian scents in the air. Although Virelles’ improvisation was quite salient, it was Stanko who stood out through explorative techniques and employing articulated, hasty phrases that provoke extemporaneous reactions in Cleaver’s rhythm.

Also impressively vivid is the title track, a boisterous post-bop funk that features Rogers' expressive bass solo, opening the improvisational section, and Virelles’ dazzling accompaniment.

The group’s elasticity can be verified in “Yankiels Lid”, a jubilant and emotionally charged upheaval deployed with easy confidence and featuring intermittent double-tempo passages. Fueling the already optimistic posture, we have invigorating solos by Virelles, technically remarkable in his inspired incursions, and Rogers, whose self-assuredness makes us forget Thomas Morgan.

In addition to Stanko’s compositions, one may also experience three more abstract tunes composed by all the four members of the quartet – “Conclusion”, “David and Reuben”, and “Sound Space” are consequences of musical reactions and conversations.

December Avenue is an example of honorable musicianship. The passion is invariable, whether in its sharply angled forms or silky soft curves, and the New York quartet dishes out every ingredient needed for Stanko’s delicious recipes.

          Grade  A

          Grade A

Favorite Tracks: 
05 – Burning Hot ► 09 – December Avenue ► 11 – Yankiels Lid