From someone who grew up musically listening to the “cool” of Miles Davis and Bill Evan’s ballads, our shrinking planet and global influence becomes clear as I anxiously await new releases from a young Polish pianist and a Norwegian trumpet player, both leading accomplished musicians in 21st Century renditions of trio and ensemble improvisational formats. ECM’s Manfred Eicher continues to discover great artists that push the envelope by sustaining jazz improvisation to an expanding universal musical palate. Pianist Marcin Wasilewski and trumpeter Mathias Eick are contemporary jazz musicians whose diverse musical influences
create a new sound that transcends labels.
Wasilewski, along with double bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz, burst onto the
European jazz scene through work with trumpet player Tomasz Stanko and French drummer Manu Katche’s band. The group’s intensity and lyricism were first revealed in the 2005 release, “Simple Acoustic Trio,” with Marcin achieving melodic heights similar to Keith Jarrett and leading a trio that evokes memories of Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, some fifty years ago. The composition, “Plaza Real” clearly illustrates theses influences integrated into their own style, both accessible and edgy. The groups 2007 recording “January,” expanded their recognition and introduced their music to a receptive U.S. audience. Two original pieces, “First Touch” and “Vignette“, further display the subtle intensity that enhances Wasilewski’s penetrating sound.
For these reasons, word that the Marcin Wasilewski Trio’s third recording, “Faithful” would soon be available pushed me into “Musical Anticipation Mode,”
unable to think of much else until I could hear it. Previewing “Faithful” on a train from Milan to Lake Como, in a relaxed state, opens one up to the complexities of their music. Relaxed state of not, this release exceeded my expectations.
The title track, Ornette Coleman’s “Faithful” is presented as an anthem, reminiscent of Coltrane’s “Naima.” The melodic piano improvisations have a haunting edge, highlighted by some ornate interplay between Wasilewski and Kaurkiewicz. The magnetic “Night Train to You,” is driven from start to finish with hints of swing and techno-bluesy improvisation that puts Wasilewski among the most talented pianists out there, aptly supported by very defined double bass and percussion. The somber piano introduction on the original, “Song for Swirek,” evolves into straight ahead jazz with the trio’s trademark high lyrical content.
This group is not shy about interpreting music from other composers including pianist Paul Bley, Brazilian composer Hermento Pascoal and the hauntingly beautiful “An den kleinen Radioappart,” composed originally by Hanns Eisler for classical voice.
Amidst great piano trio work emerging from young european and U.S. artists, none surpass the raw talent and innovation of the Marcin Wasilewski Trio and “Faithful” captures them at the top of their game.
Attempting to label the music of Mathias Eick into a specific genre is an unnecessary waste of time. The irony is that one of his new compositions, “Joni,” is a
tribute to the great Joni Mitchell, who decades ago, shattered stereotypes when she recorded her folksy, self-reflective tales with jazz artists like Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock. Eick’s understated horn and musical range is celebrated in the ECM disc, “Skala,” a new ensemble with eight original compositions. Another example of Eick’s diverse genre style is “Biermann,” which opens with passive piano and trumpet lyrics that evolve to a crescendo that one
might find at a live “Sting” concert.
Before his first release as a composer/leader, “The Door,” Mathias Eick refined his craft by working in unique ensembles for pianist Iro Haarla, guitarist Jacob Young and Manu Katche’. In “Skala,” he experiments with two drummers and adds tenor saxophonist, Tore Brunborg and keyboardist Morten Qvenild, giving
depth to his lyrical style. The stylized piano of Andeas Ulvo interplays beautifully with both horns, adding a nice, jazz richness to each piece.
From the sleek title piece, “Skala” through the uptempo “Edinburgh,” Mathias Eick’s compositions and unique trumpet sound will continue to expose his modern musical poems to a broader audience searching for “new.” I have come to depend on him to deliver just that.