LJF 2015: Marcin Wasilewski Trio

The Marcin Wasilewski Trio, with Joakim Milder, were marvellously melodic as they played Wasilewski's originals and transformed Herbie Hancock, says John Watson

Has any pianist since Bill Evans struck a more perfect equilibrium between sensitivity and dynamic drive than Marcin Wasilewski? Devotees of jazz may suggest other possible candidates, but Wasilewski is my own personal choice for achieving that elusive balance, for his music celebrates a vast dynamic range, from the most deftly struck pianissimo delicacies to gloriously intense emotional exuberance, the chords pounded with unrestrained joy, yet always within a marvellously melodic concept.

What a pleasure it was to hear Wasilewski and his long-standing associates, the lyrical bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and the ever-sympathetic drummer Michal Miskiewicz plus the special presence of Swedish tenor saxophonist Joakim Milder (pictured above right), as part of the 2015 EFG London Jazz Festival in the acoustically sympathetic setting of Milton Court at the Guildhall School of Music.

Like many listeners, I first heard Wasilewski’s trio as the rhythm section for the great Polish trumpeter Tomas Stanko, but the group - at one time known simply as The Trio - has long established its own special voice with four critically-acclaimed albums on the ECM label. The latest - the excellent Spark Of Life - also features the feather-toned Milder, and much of the music at the Milton Court concert came from that album. Wasilewski’s original compositions, as you would expect, dominate the group’s repertoire, but Herbie Hancock’s Actual Proof (from his Headhunters repertoire) shows the Polish pianist’s ability to transform a work that has proved successful in a very different context. Wasilewski has also transformed, on record, Wayne Shorter’s Plaza Real from the saxophonist’s Weather Report days, also to great effect.

It was also delightful to hear, for the first time at Milton Court, the quartet of pianist Helen Sung (pictured left) - technically impressive and lively in concept - leaving me wishing to hear more of her music in the future.

Photos by John Watson

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