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Marcin Wasilewski Trio plus Fred Thomas (2019 EFG LJF)

Marcin Wasilewski Trio/Fred Thomas (Cadogan Hall, London jazz Festival , Friday November 15. Review by Mike Collins) The light hiss of brush on snare; a single note from the piano suspended in the air over a singing, fading chord; a quietly swelling note from an open bass string: The quintessential ingredients of the Marcin Wasilewski Trio were the final sounds of the evening before the roars of appreciation broke the atmosphere in the Cadogan Hall.

Marcin Wasilewski
(Photo: ECM/Gildas Boclé)

A weekend of anniversary celebrations was being launched at the London Jazz Festival with this gig. The now iconic ECM label is 50. The first Sunday of the festival sees a full ECM take-over of the Southbank venues, and Friday’s gig got things started, although it was not so much a starter as a rich main course in its own right. This trio are marking 25 years as a unit having been catapulted into the international limelight with a series of albums with the great Thomas Stanko in the early 2000s. Wasilewski’s sublime touch at the piano means that no matter how quietly he plays or how furious the collective tumult, there’s a wistful, melodic elegance to every sketched motif and spiraling, sculpted line. After a quarter of a century’s association with drummer Michal Miskiewicz and bass player Slawomir Kurkiewicz, the trio think and move as a unit breathing, pausing, following separate ideas with the confidence that they make sense together. Their chemistry, and music with a luminous, spacious quality made for a captivating set. It was not all meditative and softly spoken, but even when they were at full tilt, the music gripped with a passionate intensity rather than shouted. They started with an untitled piece by Wasilewsky, his trademark open chords shimmering as bass and drums conjured ambience by some alchemy, and melody and momentum ebbed and flowed. Sudovian Dance from their most recent studio album Spark Life followed, the ticking pulse intensifying the energy, before they launched into a another new, untitled piece all racing lines and clatter. The country gospel tinged ballad Austin, played with exquisite restraint was a standout moment. Kurkiewicz brought in the stuttering, off kilter groove of Night Train To You with an expansive solo and after a homage to the master Stanko, they ripped into Herbie Hancock’s Actual Proof to close the set. Showers of glittering runs from the piano ricocheted off the pulsating groove from bass and drums, Miskiewicz catching every swerve and feint. The reception was uproarious and they returned to conjure that gorgeous moment with which to close. Pianist Fred Thomas had delivered a compelling solo set of quiet beauty as a prelude whose atmosphere and sensibility fit beautifully with the trio set that followed. A mixture of his own pieces, adaptations of themes from Mahler and short pieces by a range of composers, the contemporary, classical and jazz minded rubbing shoulders, angular melody, tone poems and mesmeric rhythmic motifs holding the hall rapt. This evening was a special and uplifting start to the ECM weekend and 10 day extravaganza that is the London Jazz Festival. Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

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