Label: ECM Records, 2018
Personnel - Marcin Wasilewski: piano; Slawomir Kurkiewicz: double bass; Michal Miskiewicz: drums.
Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski showcases his first-time live album, recorded two years ago at the Jazz Middelheim Festival in Belgium, in the company of his pace-setting partners: Slawomir Kurkiewicz on double bass and Michal Miskiewicz on drums. On Live, Wasilewski follows the same methodology that hailed him as a spellbinding pianist whose charming jazz propagates warmness and comfort. The three musicians, all former members of the Tomasz Stanko Quartet, thank the late trumpeter on the CD booklet for ‘the inspiration as well as precious and unique experiences in music’.
Wasileswki’s collage of “Sparkle of Life” and “Sudovian Dance” opens the session with delicate reserve but diffusing light in abundance. The refined integration of breathable yet vigorous bass plucks, scintillating brushwork, and tearful pianism promotes an emotional splendor that morphs into a dance of freedom set at an unobvious tempo. The pianist's fully developed technique stands out through beautiful details, dazzling swirls, and precise chordal movements successfully anchored in low notes.
“Night Train To You” is another highlight where the pianist assembles several influences. He evokes the intimacy of Bill Evans, the effervescence of Keith Jarrett and the out-of-the-box groove/tempo of Esbjorn Svensson. Here, each phrase is delivered with assertiveness and eloquence, filling an extended vamp whose spiritual tones get close to John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins. Before the epic finale, one can enjoy Miskiewicz’s exteriorization in a rich rhythmic confluence with his co-workers.
The two remaining originals are “Three Reflections”, poured out with lush delicacy, even when the melodic and rhythmic densities escalate; and “Austin”, a ballad that flows in rubato mode before holding on to a sober 4/4 tempo.
Invigorating pleasures stem from a pair of exciting covers. One of Sting’s most familiar pop songs, “Message in a Bottle”, is taken to new heights through a fluid, cool-tempered post-bop drive. The song had been included in the 2013 album Spark of Life, but here is re-contextualized and pushed forward with freeing determination and thirst for groove, featuring a jaunty bass solo with interesting rhythmic figures; a stellar excursion by the bandleader, who flies and soars with inside/outside rides; and a mature drum work that closes out the improvisations.
The album comes to an end with Herbie Hancock’s “Actual Proof”, which, brought by an imaginative interpolation of bass and drums, becomes a perfect vehicle for Wasilewski’s fluttering, disorienting curls of notes, a component of his articulated commanding prowess.
The material speaks to me gracefully and the trio roses to the occasion with inventive interpretations of an excellent set of songs.
01 - Sparkle of Life/Sudovian Dance ► 02 - Message in a Bottle ► 04 - Night Train To You