TOMASZ STANKO QUARTET
Renowned Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko remains in a conceptual frame of mind these days, composing and sequencing tunes that fit together like pieces in a jazz jigsaw puzzle.
All but one of the compositions on "Suspended Night" make up the intriguing 10-part suite "Suspended Variations," a work brimming with atmospheric touches, abstract designs and improvisational tacks. Nothing unfolds here quite the way you expect: Neat resolutions, if they come at all, tend to arrive in odd and often surprising ways by virtue of curious harmonic schemes, novel turnarounds and delayed codas. Tempo shifts are more often suggested than executed. Chamber jazz moods are occasionally punctuated by jarring dissonances or skittish runs.
Had Stanko chosen to name these numbered pieces, he probably would have alluded to some of their distinctive characteristics: old-fashioned romantic lyricism (No. 10); rhythmically restive tension (No. 1); expansive orchestral sweep, courtesy of an Ahmad Jamal-like arrangement (No. 3); blue tints and slow groove (No. 5); piano and trumpet clashes and counterpoint (No. 6). As different as these pieces are, each is enhanced by Stanko's soulful, somewhat serrated tone and the grace with which he collaborates with his considerably younger bandmates: pianist Marcin Wasilewski, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz. Wasilewski really comes into his own on this recording, deftly serving as accompanist, improviser and foil.
Stanko did title one tune, however: "Song for Sarah," a spacious, bittersweet musing that draws to a haunting close.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Monday at Blues Alley. * To hear a free Sound Bite from the Tomasz Stanko Quartet, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8126. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)