Tomasz Stanko Quintet

Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago,IL
April 9 , 2010

Tomasz Stanko
Tomasz Stanko

Story by Brad Walseth, photos by John Broughton, Copyright 2010

Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko - now nearly 68 - continues to stay young by associating with much younger musicians. His last group - now touring as the Marcin Wasilewski Trio - helped him create several excellent albums, His new Quintet - pianist Alexi Tuomarila, guitarist Jakob Bro, Bassist Anders Christensen and drummer Olavi Louhivuori are some of Europe's finest young musicians - and were hand-picked by Stanko to record his acclaimed new album - Dark Eyes. Still sorrowful and brooding, these young players seem to have boosted the energy component. Bassist Christensen (who has a background in rock) often creates a repetitive drive, and guitarist Bro's use of electronic effects and electric seem to have brought Stanko's avant leanings into a more modern sound - as if the veteran player has been listening to Radiohead. On the evening before the world learned of the tragic plane accident that killed the Polish president, Stanko and his young group performed for an enthralled crowd at the beautiful Logan Square Auditorium.

When Stanko plays, the comparisons to Miles Davis usually are brought out. He plays with a different tone, but a similar sense of pain and sadness. His lyricism is nearly unparalleled in jazz today, and he shows the same curiosity and interest in experimentation that the late trumpet icon displayed. On Dark Eyes - as well as in concert - he plays in short, but ripe bursts and gives plenty of space for his young protegee's to shine. He strides the stage - playing through a wireless mic, looking spry and dapper in his hat and pinstripe suit. Melodic pianist Tuomarita and talented drummer Louhivuori (both from Finland) both performed well as elements of the overall sound and in short solo spotlights, while bassist Christensen displayed an unusual left hand style, but his lines were pleasing and he provided a solid steady pulse. Guitarist Bro (like Christensen from Denmark) is Stanko's main foil as soloist - his tangled arpeggios reminded one of John Abercrombie. He added texture and color and his effects added to the dark and mysterious atmosphere.

This mesmerizing soundscape effectively transported the audience into a contemplative and calm, yet unsettled mood. Quieter compositions from the new album like "So Nice" and "The Dark Eyes of Martha Hirsch" were punctuated by uptempo numbers like "Terminal 7" and "Grand Central." Shimmering music presented under the lighted dome of the Logan Square Auditorium, Stanko's new music simmered with a raging force that is never completely unleashed, creating a tension that was as haunting as it was beautiful.

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