REVIEW: Marcin Wasilewski Trio and Helen Sung Quartet at Milton Court (2015 EFG LJF)

Marcin Wasilewski. Photo credit: Henryk Kotowski (Creative Commons)

Marcin Wasilewski Trio with Joakim Milder and Helen Sung Quartet
(Milton Court Concert Hall, EFG LJF. 15 November 2015. Review by Peter Jones.)

A successful and enduring jazz trio, in the tradition of Evans and Jarrett, is not so much a well-oiled machine as a single six-legged organism. This one, headed by piano maestro Marcin Wasilewski, is arguably the best in the world. After more than 20 years together, Wasilewski, bassist Sławomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michał Miśkiewicz have long enjoyed the kind of telepathy that the truly great trios thrive on.

Originally known as The Simple Acoustic Trio, they first met in their teens in the Polish coastal city of Koszalin, and earned acclaim for their first album, which was devoted to the music of the great Krzysztof Komeda. This in turn brought them to the attention of trumpet legend Tomasz Stańko, with whom they recorded three albums. Since then they have recorded three more as the Marcin Wasilewski Trio. This LJF date in the acoustically perfect Milton Court mostly featured music from last year’s album Spark of Life, also featuring Swedish saxophonist Joakim Milder, who was with them on the gig.

The Trio never plays anything harsh, ugly or meaningless – it’s all melody, cascades of it, in an endless, continually evolving profusion. At other times the style is cool, spacious and reflective – just what you’d expect from ECM recording artists – as on Sudovian Dance, an eerie tune, full of shadows and pitfalls. They also performed their dramatic take on Sting’s Message In A Bottle (in the past they have also recorded versions of Bjork’s Hyperballad and Prince’s Diamond and Pearls).

Wasilewski himself is a passionate, kinetic player, sometimes crouching low over the keys, or leaning precariously back, at other times raising his right leg high in the air or pumping it furiously up and down, his mouth agape, his whole body convulsing as if undergoing electric shock treatment. Kurkiewicz, meanwhile, is an exceptionally fine bass player, his solos melodic, warm and clear; Miśkiewicz is empathy personified, always listening, never indulging in the pointless clatter sometimes heard from drummers in this genre of jazz.

The evening began with an hour of music from the Helen Sung Quartet. Sung is a classically-trained American pianist who knew nothing about jazz until she was taken to a Harry Connick Jr concert, and decided there and then to switch disciplines. This evening she had with her a fine band consisting of alto saxophonist Logan Richardson (recently seen with Nicola Conte), bassist Josh Ginsberg and drummer E.J. Strickland. It was an enjoyable set, and these are consummate musicians, but in the end precision won out over warmth, and you just wanted them to relax and cut loose a little.

LINK: Helen Sung Interview

Categories: miscellaneous

Leave a Reply