"Stanko evokes the spirits of the finest trumpeters dead and living while creating a mood and a voice uniquely his own. Yes, you can hear the influences of Miles Davis and Chet Baker at their most introspective and profound, as well as hotter, more rasping traces of Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown… ‘Soul of Things’ stands shoulder to hiply-slumped shoulder with ‘Kind of Blue’, and has an even-better sound – ECM’s deep and finely-burnished finest.“
Thomas Conrad, Stereophile, Record to Die For
“Tomasz Stanko has rightfully earned his place as one of Europe’s best and most intense trumpeters… ‘Soul of Things’ finally gives him the chance to record with his all Polish quartet and the result is his best recording to date despite his magnificent track record… Stanko has nurtured these players with love and care, giving them a once in a lifetime grounding and a jazz education second to none. It has also meant that he has been able to produce three soul mates to support and carry forward his musical vision. What this album demonstrates is total synergy born out of hard work and devotion by all concerned.”
John Cratchley, Avant
“A fundamental suite showcasing Stanko’s conceptual maturity as a trumpeter, composer and bandleader, ‘Soul of Things’ is a spiritual and musical success.”
Mitch Myers, Down Beat
In the two years since Tomasz Stanko’s much-loved “Soul of Things”, both the trumpeter and his young band have continued to make their mark. Many miles of touring, on both sides of the Atlantic, have honed their already exceptional group understanding. “Suspended Night” builds upon the conceptual framework established by its predecessor – the bulk of the album is devoted to a series of “Suspended Variations” - but the improvisational quotient is expanded, as all participants take more solo space, and more chances.
Pianist Marcin Wasilewski, and bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz were 18 and drummer Michal Miskiewicz only 16 when Stanko took them under his wing in 1994. They quickly developed into his band of choice for all Polish engagements, working with him on theatre and film music initially. Pianist, bassist and drummer have also built up a reputation as a unit in their own right, working under the name Simple Acoustic Trio, which has meanwhile become one of Poland’s most popular bands. Their first commitment, however, is to Stanko. “He is our country’s greatest jazz musician,“ says Marcin Wasilewski. “He plays with us and helps us develop. He helped me find a voice.” Now however trumpeter and pianist are singing together. As Alyn Shipton observed in The Times: “Stanko’s rapport with Wasilewski is uncanny, with the two of them sliding almost seamlessly between passages of intricately composed melody to free improvisation over the modal vamps favoured in the writing.”
As for Stanko himself, there is universal agreement that he is playing at the peak of his powers. His control has never been greater than it is today. One of the authentic figures of European jazz, a great original, Stanko’s reputation has been secure for decades. His ECM discs, beginning with “Balladyna” in 1975, have all been distinguished by a remarkably sustained creative level. In the 1990s, however, Stanko’s work reached a new level of public recognition through recordings such as “Litania”, his tribute to film music composer Krzysztof Komeda, featuring a pan-Scandinavian band, and “From the Green Hill” – with Dino Saluzzi, John Surman, Michelle Makarski, and Jon Christensen - which won the German Critics Prize as Album Of The Year in 2000. In the wake of “Soul of Things”, Stanko won the first European Jazz Prize, a major new award initiated by the Austrian Government and the City of Vienna. From the jury’s citation: “While Stanko has obviously drawn on American models, he has developed a unique sound and personal music that is instantly recognizable and unmistakably his own, rooted in his Slavic heritage, romantic upbringing and classical education, which he received in Cracow before starting a jazz career in the early ‘60s. His distinctive rough tone conveys a sense of drama, melancholy, sadness and existential pain. A free-jazz pioneer, he went on to become one of the finest trumpeters, a world-class player, a stylist, a charismatic performer and original composer, his music now assuming simplicity of form and mellowness that comes with years of work, exploration and experience. Tomasz Stanko – a true master and leader of European jazz.”
Concurrently with “Suspended Night”, ECM issues an anthology of Tomasz Stanko tracks as Volume XVII of its Rarum/Selected Recordings series, which provides a useful overview of the pre-“Soul of Things” years. In his liner note to the Rarum recording, Stanko talks of the unified nature of his compositions, from the beginning until now, and their range of expression: “From chaos to order, from fury to lyricism.” Lyricism has the upper hand in the pieces played by the “Suspended Night” ensemble, but the musicians understand the importance of creative tension, and Stanko’s darting phrasing always takes unexpected turns… .
In 2004, the Stanko Quartet will again spend most of the year on the road. Following a British tour in February, the group has a series of concerts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in March and April. In May they tour Spain. In June they return to the States (Stanko’s first-ever US tour in 2002 met with extremely positive reactions and sold-out shows). Italian concerts and festival appearances are currently being scheduled for the summer, and in October/November the Quartet will tour their Polish homeland.