- Audio CD (March 30, 2010)
- Original Release Date: March 30, 2010
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: ECM
- ASIN: B002NV02SE
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,215 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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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.
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I first heard Terminal 7 in the season 4 opening episode of Homeland, and knew it then and there I simply had to have this. Searched high and low, far and wide and within approximately 3 minutes found the song and the album. Bought it in 2 minutes, and is one of the most played songs on my headphones, day or evening, home or office or even in the car.
If you like slow jazz that grows on you, especially the kind that reminds you of ancient times gone by, makes you remember haunting memories, and holds you by the tip of your fingers but just doesn't let you go, then this is for you. Some of the pieces and very moody and pretty dark - not uplifting. But then, that's the idea, right?
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. Over tolling piano chords and splashing cymbals, Stanko wails and Bro plays an airy solo on "Dirge for Europe". The ethereal "May Sun" does without Stanko entirely: a simple piece for guitar and piano, reminiscent of a Chick Corea "Children's Song".
While risks are taken, Dark Eyes is an overwhelmingly subdued album. The melancholy ECM sound is ever-present and will no doubt repay repeated listening. How this album will be viewed among the complete Stanko oeuvre remains to be seen. And lest any doubt be raised, the greatest trumpet with electric guitar albums remain Miles Davis' In a Silent Way (John McLaughlin), and Enrico Rava's The Plot (John Abercrombie).
TS, tpt; Bobo Stenson, p; Anders Jormin, b; Tony Oxley, dr.
Tomasz Stanko. Dark Eyes. ECM 2009
TS, tpt; Alexei Tuomarila, p; Jakob Bro, guit; Anders Christensen, b; Olavi Louhivuori, dr.
Belatedly, but better late than never, I stumbled across these two fine albums by the exceptional jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko from Poland. One of the pleasures in these recordings is listening to the assured playing of an outstanding trumpet soloist, who, regardless of age (he's 68) plays like all music is new and young.
To start with, there is Stanko's tone. At moments he sounds like Miles Davis, but a very specific Miles, the Miles of "the Sketches of Spain album, and particularly Miles's solo on "Saeta". Stanko's tone is as plangent as Miles but stronger -strength is one of the defining traits of Stanko's playing. At other times, Stanko's playing echoes earlier, pre-bop trumpeters -trumpeters like "Red" Allen who used trills and slurs in their playing, back before the ideal was to play all the notes straight ahead and on the mark without making the trumpet sound like a human voice. But Stanko's solos are anything but throwbacks: he is as modern as he piece demands, and since he writes most of the tunes played on his records, it's quite modern indeed, melodically complex but not always as muted as many ECM records can be. He is an outstanding melodist and -one more admirable trait- he doesn't seem to feel the need to hog the limelight. He bows out completely on two cuts on Leosia (a drum-bass duet, and a piano-bass-drums trio) and he leaves ample room on both recordings for the other players to shine.
Both recordings are first rate, but Leosia is a gem of the first water, perhaps one of the great recordings of modern jazz. But look at who plays on it? Stanko has recorded several albums with the power trio of Stenson, Jormin and Oxley, and they serve him well on this stellar outing. One notices immediately two things about the album. The first is the exceptional playing of the two lead "horns", trumpeter Stanko and pianist Stenson. Both are exceptional lyrical soloists and in ensemble, Stenson's interweaving supporting lines enhance the trumpeter's soloes immensely. The second thing one notices is the outstanding, almost revolutionary quality of Tony Oxley's drumming, which provides the other players with strong rhythmic support while offering a bevy of surprises, a sudden ting here, a clicking or clacking or swoosh there, using an augmented drum set. It's modern drumming at its best, never intrusive and never something to be taken for granted, a wellspring of delight.
The more recent Dark Eyes is almost as good and features Stanko's Nordic Quintet. It offers the opportunity to listen to the soloing and backup work of guitar phenomenon Jakob Bro, who also plays on Paul Motian's Garden of Eden (2006), another album I just acquired. The other players -the Finns, Tuomarila and Louhivuori, and the Dane, Andersen, are just as accomplished and remind us what strides modern jazz has taken in northern Europe in recent decades.
Why do I give the nod to Leosia over Dark Eyes if both are so good? First, because of Oxley's drumming. As good as Louhivuori is, Oxley is more. Oxley is, deservedly, one of the greatest modern drummer, powerful and inventive but blessed with good enough ears that he can read the group and move it along at all moments, rather than simply running parallel to it. Oxley is a Force of Life. Secondly, Stenson is so good at playing lyrical but strong. Lastly, though, it's because on Dark Eyes, as on the earlier Suspended Night (2004), there is less variety in mood and tempo than on Leosia. Leosia is just an outstanding album.
If someone asked me which single Stanko album to buy, it would have to be either Leosia or the equally brilliant and more playful From the Green Hill (2000), with a killer cast of Stanko, John Surman (bari sx, b clari), Dino Saluzzi (acc), Michelle Makarski (viol), Jormin (b) and Jon Christensen (dr). (Christensen and Oxley are my favorite European drummers.)
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