Review by Brad Walseth
Fans of Polish trumpet ace, Tomas Stanko, will be quite familiar with the members of this group, as they constituted Stanko's backing group on several well-received albums earlier this decade. Wasilewski, especially, made an impression on Chicagoans, when Stanko and this group played the Hot House in October of 2006. The pianist also produced stellar work on Manu Katche's acclaimed "Playground" release in 2007. Wasilewski, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz released their first trio recording in 2005, and have followed it up with "January," which sees the musicians taking further steps away from their mentor and into a spotlight of their own.
Having played together so much, and for so long, one could predict the players would be confident and compatible, and the results here hold true. Although one may find themselves longing for a guest appearance of the "Polish Miles Davis," Stanko, the imaginative Wasilewski has taken charge and is now the clear leader, providing four rewarding originals to the record and centering the proceedings well. A beloved Stanko piece ("Balladyna"), Gary Peacock's interesting "Vignette," Enrico Morricone's haunting "Cinema Paradiso" and Carla Bley's gnarly "King Korn" are important elements in the production, and there is also a short improvised piece to end the album ("New York 2007"). In an odd, but ultimately engaging choice, the band takes on pop star Prince's "Diamonds and Pearls," which perhaps is the most immediately melodically memorable presentation.
The rest of the time, we are treated to a high level of modern European improvisational jazz, treated with ECM's trademark sheen. Such a recording could have become a dirge in lesser hands, but with these talented artists, the interplay is taken up a notch. These songs are treasure troves in which the listener will find gems upon each repeated listen.