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Music Review: Marcin Wasilewski Trio – January

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A few years ago, in the middle of a review of a promising new trio, I lost my composure (or so it seemed shortly afterwards) and stated that the group compared favorably to "The Trio." Was I trying to be provocative? Did I really say that Wasilewski, Kurkiewicz, and Miskiewicz could give the classic ECM trio of Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette some trouble for modern Jazz trio bragging rights?

Yes, I did. I still believe it… sort of.

One reason I find myself making these comparisons is that the current state of jazz affairs is leaning toward a more modern version of the "young lions" phase of the mid-1980s. The big difference here is that the fresh crop — and I include people like David Torn, Brad Mehldau, and Nick Bartsch — is doing a great job of making their own musical statements instead of recycling the past.

The Marcin Wasilewski trio is a part of this new group for one simple reason: they make music that seems inevitable. That's a rare sonic trait, one that Jarrett, Peacock, and DeJohnette have steeped in for decades. Inevitable? Listen to their cover of Ennio Morricone's "Cinema Paradiso": as the piano teases out that romantic melody line and surrounding delicate chords, Slawomir Kurkiewicz' bass ends up resting just where you think it should… no, where it has to be, especially when glued into place by Michal Miskiewicz' subtle brush work.

There are many more examples of these kinds of perfect musical unions on January. Prince's "Diamonds and Pearls" takes the purple one's swirling theme and pulls it in several directions at once. "The Cat" opens with a very cool bass/percussion duet that perfectly sets up the piano's entry. Both Gary Peacock's "Vignette" and the original "The Young and the Cinema" toy with the emotions by gliding effortlessly between moods of exuberance and rest. A big surprise here is the take on Carla Bley's "King Korn." With its jerky rhythms and tendency to break into a hard swing, this tune showcases the group's more playful, almost Anthony Braxton-ish side. Really great stuff.

A lot of trios can play, but not that many live inside the music. "The Trio" still has a lot of good years left in them, but I'm counting on Wasilewski, Kurkiewicz, and Miskiewicz to extend that legacy.

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About Mark Saleski

  • “A lot of trios can play, but not that many live inside the music.”

    Well put. Wasilewski & Co. show that even after Jarrett and Mehldau, the last word on the ol’ piano trio format hadn’t been said yet.

  • Well done, Sir Saleski. While having a frighteningly limited jazz vocabulary, I understand what you mean about “inevitable” music outside the jazz world. Good stuff.

  • I lost my composure (or so it seemed shortly afterwards) and stated that the group compared favorably to “The Trio.”

    I know many could suggest “off with my head” for this, but the Wasilewski Trio material is more my speed than the Jarrett Trio. Different strokes, right? Right? Hopefully? I have nothing but respect for Keith, Gary, and Jack – they’re incredible musicians – but what this trio is doing (both here and the couple of Tomasz Stanko albums they’re on that I have) really does the mysterious “it” for me.