Friday, March 11, 2005


In 1993, 51-year-old trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, the most famous jazz musician Poland had ever produced, suddenly found himself without a rhythm section. He had heard of a 16-year-old prodigy named Michal Miskiewicz, though, and the trumpeter asked the young drummer to put a band together. Miskiewicz called his two 18-year-old pals, pianist Marcin Wasilewski and bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and soon they were backing their hero on stage. They did so well that first night that they have been the Tomasz Stanko Quartet ever since, even performing on Stanko's last two ECM albums.

When not backing Stanko, the three younger players have toured and recorded in Poland as the Simple Acoustic Trio. Now in their late twenties, they make their international debut this year with the album "Trio" under the consonant-heavy moniker of Marcin Wasilewski/Slawomir Kurkiewicz/Michal Miskiewicz. Produced by ECM founder Manfred Eicher, this all-acoustic, piano-trio disc boasts pristine sound and impeccable playing in the atmospheric, pastoral style of European jazz often associated with ECM.

It's airy music, full of deliberate piano arpeggios, swirling brushes and spare bass phrases. In fact, it's a bit too airy, lacking any hint of earthier elements such as humor, lust or anger. The five tracks co-written by the trio and the three tracks written by Wasilewski alone are explorations of harmony without much melody or rhythm to anchor them.

The outside material -- Stanko's "Green Sky," Bjork's "Hyperballad," Wayne Shorter's "Plaza Real" and an excerpt from a Polish opera -- have stronger tunes but are also set adrift in a cloud of ambient meditation.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing as part of the Tomasz Stanko Quartet Monday at Blues Alley. • To hear a free Sound Bite from Marcin Wasilewski/Slawomir Kurkiewicz/Michal Miskiewicz, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8123. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)

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