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Dark Eyes

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Audio CD, March 30, 2010
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Product Description

Tomasz Stanko s smouldering Slavic soul music and grainy-toned trumpet finds a new context on Dark Eyes, and his latest ensemble pools young, players from the North of Europe. He welcomes two prodigiously gifted Finns into his group, pianist Alexi Tuomarila and drummer Olavi Louhivuori, both expressive and imaginative players, Jakob Bro (the young guitarist heard on ECM on Paul Motian s Garden of Eden) cast most often here in the role of subtle colorist, and fellow Dane Anders Christensen (on electric bass throughout) who provides the band s throbbing pulse.

About the Artist

Tomasz Stanko's smouldering improvisations and grainy-toned trumpet find a new context on Dark Eyes. Like Miles Davis (a major influence) before him, the Polish jazz master also has an impressive record as talent scout and mentor, and his latest ensemble pools young players from the North of Europe. Tomasz has had strong connections to Finland in particular since the early 1970s when he was part of Edward Vesala's creative circle. Now he welcomes two prodigiously gifted Finns into his group, pianist Alexi Tuomarila and drummer Olavi Louhivuori, both expressive and imaginative players. On Dark Eyes, Jakob Bro, the young guitarist heard on ECM on Paul Motian's Garden of Eden is cast most often in the role of subtle colourist, while fellow Dane Anders Christensen, on electric bass throughout, provides the band's throbbing pulse.

If the band is `Nordic', Stanko's inspirations are more broadly cosmopolitan. These days, he splits his time between homes in Warsaw and New York, and two of the titles on Dark Eyes - "Grand Central" and "Amsterdam Avenue" - are directly inspired by New York locales. A third, the album's title track, takes its cue from an encounter with an Oskar Kokoschka canvas at the Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue. Stanko was struck by the expressionist intensity of Kokoschka's painting "Martha Hirsch (Dreaming Woman)" and the haunted, hollowed-eyed gaze of its subject, subsequently "translating", as he says, the emotional impact of the work, its "dimension of feeling", into sound. "Everything you experience gets into the music, but I've always been touched as much by art as by anything else in life. Fiction, poetry, film, the theatre. The visual arts especially. The way a painter uses paint, or the way he approaches form - distorting it to abstraction, or painting naturalistically or poetically... these aspects can be paralleled in my musical language, in the way I shape a melody line. "

Two pieces here - "Terminal 7" and "May Sun" - are compositions written originally to accompany a drama by Swedish playwright Lars Norén in Warsaw performances: "In the studio, also in dialogue with Manfred (Eicher), we changed the direction of these tunes -getting more out of their atmospheric qualities". "Samba Nova" is a memory of the quintet's trip to Brazil last year. "I like the deeply mournful quality in some Brazilian music as well as the happy and celebratory things - this piece touches on both elements."

With "Dirge for Europe" and "Etiuda baletowa nr. 3", Stanko revisits music of his first employer, composer-pianist Krzysztof Komeda. Interestingly, however, these are not pieces that Tomasz played in his years on the road with Komeda. "`Dirge for Europe' - I think I played that only once with Komeda, at the (1967) jazz-and-poetry recording session. And the ballet study I never played at all. That was from 1962, a year before I joined his band. It was Alexi (Tuomarila) who focused on that piece and really wanted to play it. I always like to return to Komeda, though. His music is very close to my heart, to my feelings." Over several ECM sessions Tomasz has returned, too, to music first put down on his debut for the label, 1975's "Balladyna". This time it is the piece "Last Song" that is reinterpreted and, in the best jazz tradition, made new. * When Tomasz Stanko won the European Jazz Prize in 2002, the jury declared: "Stanko has developed a unique sound and personal music that is instantly recognizable and unmistakably his own... A world-class player, a stylist, a charismatic performer and original composer, his music now assuming simplicity of form and mellowness that comes with years of work, exploration and experience. Tomasz Stanko - a true master and leader of European jazz." In the 1990s, his work reached a new level of public recognition through recordings such as Litania, his tribute to Komeda and From the Green Hill - which won the German Critics Prize as Album Of The Year in 2000. With Soul of Things Stanko hit a new level of international popularity, touring the world with his young Polish quartet. In 2005 Stanko's Suspended Night won the Australian Bell Award as Best Jazz Album of the Year. Lontano similarly met with a very warm worldwide press response. The Soul of Things/Suspended Night/Lontano trilogy also put Stanko's teammates, on the world jazz map, and they have gone on to significant success as an autonomous unit, the Marcin Wasilewski Trio. After a decade of working almost exclusively with the quartet, Tomasz is once fielding several projects, of which the first priority is the Dark Eyes band.

Pianist Alexi Tuomarila studied classical music at the Espoo Music Institute in Finland, and jazz at the Brussels Royal Conservatory. A competition winner since 1999 when he won both best ensemble and best soloist prizes at the international Jazz Hoeilaart competition in Belgium, he has also received first prizes from the Monaco and Tremplin competitions and recorded several well-received albums for Warner Finland. Of the new Stanko band, he was the first to work with Tomasz: "Alexi's trio, also with Olavi Louhivuori on drums was playing on the bill in Oslo when I was there with Bobo Stenson, already some years ago. I liked Alexi's melodic inventiveness and made a mental note for the future. And when I had some work in Warsaw which Marcin (Wasilewski) couldn't do, I invited him."

Danish guitarist Jakob Bro is one of the most highly regarded of the younger jazz players. Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian and Ben Street all guested on his most recent album, while Joe Lovano and Tom Harrell joined him for recent Copenhagen performances. In Stanko's band he offers focused and subtle sound-colouration as well as filigree soloing. It was Bro who introduced Anders Christensen to Tomasz. Christensen, who plays electric bass throughout Dark Eyes has also worked with Paul Motian, and recorded with George Garzone and Steve Kuhn, and toured the world with rock band the Ravonettes.

Drummer Olavi Louhivuori played with Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, Susanne Abbuehl, Kenny Wheeler and many other international improvisers. A thoroughly musical percussionist, alert to tonal as well as rhythmic implications, Louhivuori played violin, piano and cello before moving to drums.

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
  1. So Nice 5:52$1.29  Buy MP3 
  2. Terminal 7 5:30$1.29  Buy MP3 
  3. The Dark Eyes Of Martha Hirsch10:03Album Only
  4. Grand Central 6:25$1.29  Buy MP3 
  5. Amsterdam Avenue 6:11$1.29  Buy MP3 
  6. Samba Nova 9:23Album Only
  7. Dirge For Europe 5:29$1.29  Buy MP3 
  8. May Sun 2:47$1.29  Buy MP3 
  9. Last Song 3:58$1.29  Buy MP3 
10. Etiuda Baletowa No.3 5:50$1.29  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 30, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM
  • ASIN: B002NV02SE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,489 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Steve Wyzard on April 29, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Inevitably, this album will be compared to Stanko's three preceding albums for ECM, Soul of Things (2002), Suspended Night (2004), and Lontano (2006). The Polish quartet has been replaced with a Scandanavian quintet, and while the Stanko sound remains the same and there are similar tonal textures, Dark Eyes is also something very different. Most significantly, the addition of electric guitar and electric bass produce a fuller, more modern, even urban soundscape. Where some will recognize a natural progression from the experimental Lontano, surely others will lament the loss of the classic quartet atmosphere. Dark Eyes is a shorter album (61:44) than the quartet albums, and with a variety of moods will take some time to come to grips with. This is definitely not an avant-garde side-street, but it's also not an accessible "start here" recording.

The album begins with the pace-setting, scratchy-toned "So nice". It's unusual, after the three preceding albums, to hear a guitar backing Stanko. Jakob Bro plays moodily and unobtrusively throughout. When he takes a solo, one might think of "Wes Montgomery meets Bill Frisell without the effects". The thunderous drumming of Olavi Louhivuori and the rumbling bass of Anders Christensen are the highlights of "Terminal 7". Many of the songs begin hesitantly, such as "Amsterdam Avenue", "Samba Nova", and "Grand Central", which stops completely before resuming. Pianist Alexi Tuomarila takes his best solos on these three songs. The album closes with the improvisational "Last Song" and the poignant "Etiuda Baletowa No.3".

Special mention must be made of the following stand-outs: "The Dark Eyes of Martha Hirsch" is this album's instant classic, beginning as a dirge before Stanko finally launches into his wildest solo on the album.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Harding VINE VOICE on April 11, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
One thing is sure, you never know what you are going to hear when you put on a Tomasz Stanko album. With his new group of Scandinavian jazz men, Stanko offers up a new chapter of minimalist music for the discerning listener.
Though I find Dark Eyes to be profoundly relaxing, when listening I notice that all of the strongest pieces are in the first part of the album. So Nice opens this strongly and fills the air with the promise of great things to come. And they do soon enough, for in my opinion Terminal 7 is the finest cut. The percussion is delicate and exquisite while the guitar at times may remind the listener of the work of Gabor Szabo. A couple of other winners are the multi-faceted Grand Central and the sizzling Samba Nova. Those who enjoy a lengthier, more exploratory piece should enjoy The Dark Eyes of Martha Hirsch. And although they are enjoyable, the two Krzysztof Komeda pieces not previously covered by Stanko add nothing to his legend.
As with other ECM releases and as befits the minimalist nature of the music, the attractive booklet that accompanies this CD features a few pictures and a bare minimum of album info. Even though Stanko has made a few changes in musical direction with Dark Eyes, long-time fans will find a lot to like. It has certainly proven to be a worthy addition to my CD collection.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By crispy critter on April 12, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This release features Stanko's current group recorded April 09. The quintet turned in a wonderful set last night in San Francisco the day after Poland's air tragedy. (I had reservations about this new young band, considering the strength of Wasileski/Kurkiewics and Miskiewics on Stanko's last 3 efforts- (Soul of Things, Suspended Night, Lontano), but the new band is wonderful. The addition Jacob Bro on reserved guitar adds a lot to the sound of this album. The cuts are shorter, but very cohesive and well programmed. In all of Stanko's releases there are always a few real standouts, for me this record flows beautifully as a complete work. The Samba cut really works for me as the drummer really swings it. I have about 6 of Stanko's releases, and all are great, but this may very well be my strong favorite. Sometimes I need my Kermit Ruffins, sometimes I need the reflective, emotive European trumpet such as Stanko. The addition of Jacob Bro on guitar may further the usual comparisons to 1969's Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way" period, as there is some John McLaughlin inspired nuance but the comparison can only be used to broaden the discussion, as Stanko's compositions and execution stand brilliantly alone in the Jazz world. Best of year contender.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Gorniak on April 1, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I really enjoy this album because of its calm, muted and minimalistic Trumpet's character that Stanko seems to manage pretty well. The album is very well mastered and sounds great on my high-end tube system but most of the ECM's albums perform well in this area. I will be going to Birdland in NY on April 17th to see Stanko's groups live.
This album is a great example of this Polish born trumpet player and composer's work . I would compare it to the "In the silent way" by Miles Davis because of the way the trumpet being played - very minimalistic and relaxed without the edge that appears on other early Stanko's work like Leosia or Balladyna. I would really like to see Marcin Wasilewski trio working with Stanko that gives the music this great dimension!

Simply 5 stars and my honest recommendation!
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