Marcin Wasilewski Trio – Live
(ECM 6738486. CD Review by Peter Jones)
It starts with a distant rumble of beaters on tom-toms, then a few plinking, impressionist piano chords and then, after a minute or so, a familiar melody emerges: it’s Spark of Life, the title track of the Marcin Wasilewski Trio’s 2014 album with Joakim Milder. This band is, for me, the greatest jazz piano trio the world currently has to offer. Their line-up has not changed in a quarter of a century, and in that time they have become so cohesive as to sound like one person somehow managing to play all three instruments at once. Wasilewski, bassist Sławomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michał Miśkiewicz are truly telepathic.
Most of the tunes on this new album appeared four years ago on Spark of Life: after the title track, Sudovian Dance, Message in a Bottle, which follows, Austin, Three Reflections and Herbie Hancock’s Actual Proof. By the time this album was recorded (at Jazz Middelheim, Antwerp, in August 2016) they had been playing the tunes for long enough to invest them with an added sense of power and urgency. As a unit they have always been extraordinarily propulsive, but never more so than here. This dynamic approach is tempered with a calm clarity of expression, the authority that comes from complete command of the music and of the instruments playing it: for example, Night Train to You (from 2011’s Faithful), which careers along the track with plenty of thrills but no spills.
The gentler tunes quiver with the same intensity and drama as the fast ones: Three Reflections and the gorgeously melodic Austin are both examples of this. The trio never strays into discord or ugliness, yet maintains a distinctively modern sensibility. Actual Proof, with its recurrent seven-note riff, is a rare foray into American territory. Wasilewski started out listening to Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Kenny Kirkland, Pat Metheny and others, but most of the time the music feels European. The trio’s sound has been deeply influenced by its long association with the late Tomasz Stańko (to whom these recordings are dedicated) and the music of fellow Pole Krzysztof Komeda.
They are on tour across Poland from 8 November to 14 December, including some one-off dates in Qatar, Romania, Spain, Holland, Luxembourg and Italy.