Suspended Night

Tomasz Stanko Quartet

In the two years since Tomasz Stanko’s much-loved “Soul of Things”, both the trumpeter and his young Polish 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 haunting and soulful “Suspended Variations” – but the improvisational quotient is expanded, as all participants take more solo space, and more chances.

Featured Artists Recorded

July 2003, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date

02.02.2004

  • 1Song for Sarah
    (Tomasz Stanko)
    05:30
  • 2Suspended Variations I
    (Tomasz Stanko)
    08:52
  • 3Suspended Variations II
    (Tomasz Stanko)
    08:24
  • 4Suspended Variations III
    (Tomasz Stanko)
    07:13
  • 5Suspended Variations IV
    (Tomasz Stanko)
    07:04
  • 6Suspended Variations V
    (Tomasz Stanko)
    04:20
  • 7Suspended Variations VI
    (Tomasz Stanko)
    08:54
  • 8Suspended Variations VII
    (Tomasz Stanko)
    03:25
  • 9Suspended Variations VIII
    (Marcin Wasilewski, Michal Miskiewicz, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, Tomasz Stanko)
    04:21
  • 10Suspended Variations IX
    (Tomasz Stanko)
    05:52
  • 11Suspended Variations X
    (Marcin Wasilewski, Michal Miskiewicz, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, Tomasz Stanko)
    04:47
Jazz Review, Editor’s Choice
Fono Forum, Empfehlungen des Monats
Stereoplay, CD des Monats
 
Stanko’s music has changed dramatically in the last decade. He has managed to make his music more accessible without removing the grit and verve that has always been his trademark. And so it is with this his latest disc for ECM and the second with his regular working Polish band of Marcin Wasilewski, piano, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, bass and Michal Miskiewicz, drums. It’s a strong group charakterised by Wasilewski’s ringing impressionistic style influenced by Bill Evans and even more than on Soul of Things, the group’s last outing together, Kurkiewicz’s carefully executed bass figure make his presence felt and anchor the strong melodies that Stanko provides. As before he does not give the tunes names and this is appropriate as the album has a consistency and unity that makes the individual songs feel part of a greater whole. Stanko may have mellowed but this album is a beauty.
Stephen Graham, Jazzwise
 
Like 2002’s Soul of Thing, an artistic statement so conceptually rounded it was almost aesthetically perfect, Suspended Night is further proof that trumpet player Tomasz Stanko has managed to reach the other side of middle age with his adventurous spirit still intact. No doubt he’s been helped by a group so young they seem to have made the transition from womb to bandstand without any intervening processes. … The result is a relationship between four distinct and original voices whose private exchanges of deep musical secrets are darkly moving and profoundly uplifting.
Stuart Nicholson, The Observer Music Monthly
 
Truth and beauty can catch you unawares. We get so used to their more plentiful opposites: the falsehoods of celebrity and advertising, and urban life’s routine ugliness, which can get so familiar that we become fond of it. So I recommend Suspended Night by the Tomasz Stanko Quartet. Stick it in your CD player, put on your headphones and listen to nearly 70 minutes of beautiful music: not pretty, and neither saccharine nor sentimental; not weird nor even challenging – just beautiful jazz. … Every chiming piano chord, softly nudged bass line and fluttering snare sounds freshly minted, played with sheer youthful joy and Stanko’s masterful trumpet floats over the top – sings, flies, exults, wails and cries with a restrained emotional power.
John L Walters, The Guardian
 
There is a marked development form Soul Of Things, where greater emphasis was placed on structure, less on improvisation. For Suspended Variations the reverse is true and Stanko, as Miles was inclined to do, seems to solo more as a marker for other members of the group to stretch out. Pianist Wasilewski is especially impressive: using the full length of the keyboard he dictates the pace and tempo, providing plenty of opportunity for dialogues with Kurkiewicz. Miskiewicz too has confidence in the adage that less is more and has consequently become a master of economy, adding dashes of texture with just the odd touch here and there. … This album confirms that Stanko’s compositional ability is becoming ever more refined, while his soloing oozes authority and commands attention. Essential.
Hugh Gregory, Jazz Review
 
Diese Trompete – knochig und gleichzeitig warm und einschmeichelnd. Scharf in den Höhen und dann wieder gehaucht und rauchig, zart und brüchig oder schmetternd voller Schrunden – Tomasz Stankos Sound zieht immer einen Schweif an unaufgelöstem Ausdruck hinter sich her. Und unterstreicht noch in der simpelsten Phrase jenen Grat, der angelernte Technik, bloße Kunstfertigkeit von großer Musik unterscheidet. Auf seiner neuen CD Suspended Night spielt Stanko, der große Überlebende der einstmals ertragreichen polnischen Jazzszene der 60/70er-Jahre, wieder mit den drei jungen polnischen Musikern, mit denen er schon vor zwei Jahren die CD Soul Of Things aufnahm. Die jungen Männer werden erwachsen, spielen merklich selbstsicherer, fordernder, nutzen die Freiräume, die ihnen Stankos Kompositionen einräumen und gehen ihre musikalischen Wege. Doch letztlich bleibt als Krone auf diesem wunderbaren Zusammenspiel dann wieder die Trompete stehen, Stankos Klang, in dem man Lebensgeschichten zu hören meint, eine tiefe Weisheit.
Stefan Hentz, Financial Times Deutschland
 
Jeder der vier Musiker spielt meisterhaft. Keiner von ihnen versucht, sein Ego durchzusetzen, sie sind wie eine gut funktionierende Familie, in der das Ganze höchste Priorität hat. Egoistische Eskapaden, großes Maulaufreißen, Vordrängeln finden nicht statt. Diese rücksichtsvolle Leichtigkeit ist ziemlich singulär. Ja, man könnte von Eleganz reden, wäre dieser Terminus nicht so sehr von der Modebranche ruiniert. Natürlich sind die vier nicht wie Flussgeister aus der Weichsel gestiegen. Aber ihre Musik erinnert an polnische Landschaften mit ihrer eigenartigen Tristezza. Mit ihrer großen Ruhe. Mit ihrer philosophischen Gelassenheit.
Michael Naura, Die Zeit (Suppl. Literatur & Musik)
 
Der unverwechselbare Stilist mit der melancholischen Ausstrahlung befindet sich auf dem höchsten Niveau seiner Meisterschaft. Er hat seine Trompete stets unter Kontrolle, jede feinste Nuance in Intonation und Timbre gelingt nach Wunsch. Die eigenwilligen, wunderschönen Melodien erzeugen geheimnisvolle Stimmungen, und ab und zu – auch das ist bei Stanko außergewöhnlich – gibt es Aufhellungen im musikalischen Nebel. Ob rubato oder dezent swingend, mit seinen drei jungen Mitmusikern versteht sich der grandiose Solist immer besser. Besonders der Pianist Marcin Wasilewski entwickelt sich vom einfühlsamen Begleiter zum stets inspirierten Impulsgeber und zu einem eigenständigen Improvisator der Spitzenklasse. Diese packende, hoch emotionale Musik, welche im Zuhörer unweigerlich Assoziationen weckt, gehört zum Allerbesten, was die europäische Jazzszene heute zu bieten hat.
Nick Liebmann, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
 
Für Soul Of Things hatte Stanko 2002 seine junge polnische Gruppe, mit der seit 1994 in der Heimat arbeitet, ins Studio geladen. Dieses Quartett erwies sich als Traumkombination – und bestätigt diesen Eindruck jetzt mit Suspended Night voll und ganz. Obwohl Pianist Marcin Wasilewski, Kontrabassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz und Schlagzeuger Michal Miskiewicz über 30 Jahre jünger sind als ihr Mentor, nimmt der unbefangene Hörer einen angeregten Austausch von kunstvoll formulierten Gedanken und improvisierten Geistesblitzen unter Gleichgesinnten und Gleichrangigen wahr. Wie Stanko in diesem Kontext aufblüht, wie er die Klänge in der Schwebe hält und zu einem wunderbar harmonischen, meist melancholischen Grundton findet, ohne darüber seine gloriose Free-Vergangenheit zu vergessen, das lässt den Hörer nicht unberührt. Intensität kommt hier manchmal im Gewand des scheinbar Idyllischen daher – und geht umso nachhaltiger unter die Haut.
Matthias Inhoffen, Stereoplay
 
 
 
"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.