"Being a true improviser requires a sound musical and technical background, but
the final statement must be full of human experience and expression"
- Jim Blackley

Marcin Wasilewski Trio - Faithful

With the exception of Keith Jarrett’s Trio, there has always been something missing from a lot of ECM’s piano trio releases. I love the abstract beauty of say, Bobo Stenson’s “Serenity” or the moody nature of John Taylor’s “Rosslyn”, but I somehow always want a little more and too often feel that they slip into, dare I say, being samey. Arild Anderson’s “Triangle” was a perfect example of that, where I found it difficult to distinguish between several of the tracks (although I did like the earlier effort “Arichana”), and even from one ECM piano trio to the next there is often too much similarity. Perhaps that is because of the ECM aesthetic or perhaps it is because it is easier to write a beautiful ballad than to push the boundaries of the medium, as say Aaron Goldberg did with “Worlds”, Avishai Cohen did with “Gently Disturbed” and, going back, Chick Corea definitely did with “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs”.

Faithful is the third album from the Polish trio led by Marcin Wasilewski, who have ably supported trumpeter Tomasz Stanko for the last few years. While it doesn’t perhaps push the boundaries of the piano trio very hard, it is a wonderful mix of the ECM aesthetic and something that is a little more forward thinking, with nods to some contemporary influences.

The track “Night Train to You” is one such nod. The title evokes Oscar Peterson’s album, but the rhythms are far more evocative of traditional music in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The interpretation of these influences is subtler and perhaps less brazen than Aishai Cohen’s trio, and it still really swings, providing a great example of the trio’s ability to take some interesting rhythmic inspiration and still create a piece of music that is beautiful.

There are moments of touching sympathy too, with a rendition of Fran Landesman and Thomas Wolf's “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” and Ornette Coleman’s “Faithful” being particularly stirring and demonstrating colourfully difference approaches to playing ballads. “Faithful” featuring a more free approach with Michal Miskiewicz’s drums gently reverberating and rolling underneath the piano and bass and “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” featuring swirling brushes and glistening cymbal strikes.

At its heart “Woke up in the Desert” has a wonderfully haunting and poignant vamp over which the melody is played, “Big Foot” swings delightfully, the most straight ahead of the pieces with the trio referencing a nice rhythmic hook throughout and “Song for Swirek”, nods to a common thread in contemporary jazz by having a great straight, as apposed to swung, groove over an interestingly rhythmic chord sequence.

Miskiewicz’s drumming is superb throughout, providing both colour and energy. The trio as a whole are very much in sync with each other, as you would expect after such a long association, and they play with a delicacy, finesse and cohesiveness, that verges on brilliant. I occasionally wished they would let go a little more, and perhaps live they do, but this is a great and varied listen, that, in it’s own small way, breaks the mould a little and stands as a cut above some other ECM piano trios releases. Highly recommended.

Faithful, Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, Michal Miskiewicz Buy the CD:
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