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Tomasz Stanko | “September Night”

September Night, a Previously Unreleased 2004 Concert Recording of the Tomasz Stanko Quartet, Captures a Developmental Chapter in the Music Between the Song Forms of Suspended Night and the Improvised Areas the Polish Musicians Would Explore on Lontano

Recorded at Munich’s Muffathalle, September Night Features Pianist Marcin Wasilewski, Bassist

Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Drummer Michal Miskiewicz

Available June 21 via ECM


Recorded at Munich’s Muffathalle in September 2004, this previously-unreleased live album of the Tomasz Stanko Quartet is a fascinating document, capturing a developmental chapter in the group’s music: between the song forms of the Suspended Night repertoire and the improvised areas that the Polish players would explore on Lontano. The Munich show was a highlight in a year in which the Stanko Quartet played a record number of gigs, with extensive tours of the US and Europe. The great trumpeter himself is at his charismatic best here, playing superbly, clearly inspired by the energetic support and communicative power of Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Michal Miskiewicz, the dynamic young musicians for whom he had been a mentor.

The work with his Polish quartet lifted Tomasz Stanko to a new level of recognition. In the wake of the Soul of Things recording, the first of his ECM discs with Wasilewski, Kurkiewicz and Miskiewicz, the trumpeter won the European Jazz Prize. From the jury’s citation: “While Stanko has obviously drawn on American models, he has developed a unique sound and personal music that is instantly recognizable and unmistakably his own, rooted in his Slavic heritage, romantic upbringing and classical education, which he received in Cracow before starting a jazz career in the early ‘60s. His distinctive rough tone conveys a sense of drama, melancholy, sadness and existential pain. A free-jazz pioneer, he went on to become one of the finest trumpeters, a world-class player, a stylist, a charismatic performer and original composer, his music now assuming simplicity of form and mellowness that comes with years of work, exploration and experience. Tomasz Stanko – a true master and leader of European jazz.”

“My greatest teacher was, of course, Tomasz Stanko,” pianist Marcin Wasilewski would recall, after the trumpeter’s death in 2018. “We were growing by his side and he was watching us. Every concert we played with him was important – the most important, almost as if it was the last one. That’s the approach he taught us: ‘when you play music, play it at a thousand percent!’”

Stanko’s ‘mentoring’ process mostly took place inside the music itself. “Tomasz didn’t talk to us much,” says Michal Miskiewicz, in an interviewer newly published in Modern Drummer. “It was always about playing what you feel. That was the kind of artist and bandleader he was. We felt very free to do what we do. He assumed that if we didn’t talk about how we should play, we would do it better.”

Though Stanko fronted several strong bands concurrently in his later years, the Polish quartet ultimately proved to be his longest lasting line-up – they began playing together in 1993, and their final concert was in Warsaw in 2017.

The special musical understanding between Stanko and Wasilewski was often remarked upon by the press. “Stanko’s rapport with Wasilewski is uncanny,” wrote Alyn Shipton in The Times, “with the two of them sliding almost seamlessly between passages of intricately composed melody to free improvisation over the modal vamps favoured in the writing.”

By 2004 Wasilewski, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz had also established a solid international reputation as a potent force in their own right. After a decade as the Simple Acoustic Trio, a group formed when they were teenagers in Koszalin, they were in the process of transitioning into a new identity as the Marcin Wasilewski Trio, and going from strength to strength artistically. “In the entire history of Polish jazz, we’ve never had a band like this one,” Tomasz Stanko declared at the time. “I’m surprised by these musicians every day. And they just keep getting better and better.”

The Wasilewski Trio’s recent releases including En Attendant and Arctic Riff, the latter a collaboration with Joe Lovano.  The trio is currently celebrating its thirtieth anniversary.

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The Stanko Quartet’s Muffathalle concert of September 2004 was presented in the context of a symposium for improvised music under the banner headline Unforeseen, co-curated by Munich’s Kulturreferat and the musicology department of the Ludwig Maximillian University. The week-long event also provided a source for two other live recordings previously released by ECM: Evan Parker’s Boustrophedon and Roscoe Mitchell’s Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3.

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September Night was produced by Manfred Eicher, and mixed by Eicher with Marcin Wasilewski and Stefano Amerio.


Tomasz Stanko Quartet · September Night

ECM · Release Date: June 21, 2024

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