May 24, 2024

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CD review: Marcin Wasilewski Trio & Joe Lovano: Arctic Riff – 2020: Videos, CD cover

Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski augments his crisply articulate piano trio – featuring bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz – with the addition of great American saxophonist Joe Lovano, who populates Arctic Riff with his burnished saxophone literacy.

The album comprises 11 pieces – four by Wasilewski, one by Lovano, four collective improvisations, and one by pianist Carla Bley, which makes a double appearance with the inclusion of an alternate take. The composition in question is “Vashkar”, which first saw the light of day in 1963, when it was included on Paul Bley’s trio album Footloose. The quartet’s reading admits conspicuous turbulence by the time that Wasilewski speaks and also exposes great saxophone work over a logical bass-drums association. The tune’s variation is cooked with the same passion and subtly atmospheric tones, but relatively different flavors.

Glimmer of Hope”, a Wasilewski ballad, kicks off the record by sailing in shimmering, streamlined, slow-moving waters. Everything is brought into a collective harmony, yet the saxophone melodies bring an exceptional lyrical warmth to the music of the trio. The pianist also penned two other ballads: “Old Hat”, which closes out the album, and “Fading Sorrow”, which showcases his taste for beautiful and relaxing melodies over functional, sensitive chords. Impossible not to notice the deeply felt bass solo that comes as lucid in the phraseology as it sounds rich in tone.

Kurkiewicz also has the spotlight for a limited period of time on “Arco”, an enigmatic collective improvisation where Lovano steals the show by employing impressive multiphonics. However, “Cadenza” is my first choice among the extemporaneous pieces. Clocking in at nine minutes, this number emerges with brushed drums, wandering bass itineraries and ruminative saxophone. Departing from the lower registers, nimble piano movements expand, integrating with the other instruments to form cohesive sonic landscapes whose topographies range from meditative to avant-garde.

Wasilewski’s “L’Amour Fou” and Lovano’s “On the Other Side” stand out as the most unreserved selections in the program. The former, boasting a dancing quality in the head that exceeds the conventional swinging flow, thrive with ingenious solos from piano, sax and drums; the latter piece, on its side, denotes clever communicative exchanges and passes through different configurations, with Lovano citing Monk’s “Played Twice” in a sweeping solo that crosses the hard-swinging accompaniment provided by bass and drums.

Even when exploring boundlessly, the quartet embraces a fluid style leavened by a wonderful sense of space. As a key to our contentment, the sounds are not just meticulous but also consistently surprising.


Glimmer Of Hope;
Vashkar; Cadenza;
Fading Sorrow;
Stray Cat Walk;
Lamour Fou;
A Glimpse; Vashkar (var.);
On The Other Side; Old Hat.


Marcin Wasilewski: piano;
Slawomir Kurkiewicz: bass;
Michal Miskiewicz: drums;
Joe Lovano: saxophone, tenor

Marcin Wasilewski Trio, Joe Lovano - Arctic Riff (2020, Vinyl) | Discogs

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