"We have a special light [in Poland], not dark, but gray," Polish trumpet vanguard Tomasz Sta´nko told me at the Montreal Jazz Festival last year. "A lot of grays. This gray, when you open your eyes, it's the first light you see. You remember that forever." Here are four four-star ECM titles illustrating precisely that.

Balladyna (1976)

Battle royale quartet, featuring double-bass behemoth Dave Holland.

Litania – Music of Krzysztof Komeda (1997)

Affecting tribute to Polish film composer, pianist, and Sta´nko's onetime boss.

Soul of Things (2002)

Fusion of Sta´nko and his atomic Polski backing trio.

Suspended Night (2004)

Sulfurous balladyna.

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