Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet

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Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet

Wisawa (ECM)

Were you to recognize the name commemorating Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's Wislawa, you'd know exactly what it sounds like: quiet, stilling, yet bristling with playful curiosity and biting observation. Immediate as a paper cut, but twice as funny. A voice tickling your temporal lobe. Thus whispers and sings the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska (pronounced "vi sawva sim borska"), who won the 1966 Nobel Prize in literature and died last year. Though only the briefest introduction stamps the double-disc's notes ("Meeting her and interacting with her poetry also gave impetus to this music"), the veteran horn-blower, 71 this month, split his time between Warsaw and NYC obviously relishing the words of the tiny Kraków laureate who roared. Steel brushes, piano, acoustic double bass, and lips pressed to a metal mouthpiece pushing air match Szymborska's delicious hush on another Stanko keepsake for avant-classical jazz indie ECM, a union fast approaching four decades. His beautiful blue notes ("Assassins") and lush, airy, long-form balladry sync with her simplicity and inevitability in "Metafizyka," whose words – again, not reprinted in Wislawa – titter with the author's flirtatious gravity: "It's been and gone. It's been, so it's gone. In the same irreversible order, for such is the rule of this foregone game." From the opening title track, a piano stroll smeared with silver streaks of horn – contemplative, romantic – and the winsome centerpiece "Tutaj – Here" (titled for Szymborska's last collection in 2009), to the exploratory plucking of "Oni" and classic, main-stem bop and free interior of "April Story," a pair of Poles prove their homeland's diaspora bears a creative component still largely unexplored by the West.


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Raoul Hernandez, Dec. 19, 2008

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