Soul of Things

COMPOSERS: Tomasz Stanko
ALBUM TITLE: Tomasz Stanko Quartet
PERFORMER: Tomasz Stanko (t), Marcin Wasilewski (p), Slawomir Kurkiewicz (b), Michal Miskiewicz (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 016 374-2


Previous ECM projects by Rzeszow-born trumpeter/composer Tomasz Stanko – his 1994 album Matka Joanna, his Krzysztof Komeda tribute band, his prize-winning From the Green Hill – have been pan-European affairs, employing the likes of John Surman, Joakim Milder, Bobo Stenson, Bernt Rosengren and Tony Oxley. For this suite of 13 pieces, however, he has called on his regular Polish quartet which has worked with him since 1994.

The result is music of great intimacy, basically meditative in overall tone, at times broodingly melancholic, but occasionally flaring out into passionate, even strident intensity. Like his label-mate, US saxophonist Charles Lloyd, Stanko is apparently more interested in establishing and maintaining mood via textural variety, telling use of dynamic contrast and subtleties of timbre, than in straightforward drive, but this is not to say that Soul of Things is all yearning, poignant lyricism.


Elements of hard bop and free jazz, not to mention allusions to Stanko’s own past (film music, ‘Maldoror’s War Song’), are all thrown into the mix, and although the overall feel of the album is undeniably wistful and dreamlike, there is enough bright energy and contained but nonetheless fierce interactiveness demonstrated by both Stanko and his consistently sensitive band to render the album as compulsive as it is affecting. Chris Parker