Marcin Wasilewski Trio ‘Live’ 2LP/CD (ECM) 4/5

A long awaited live recording from Polish pianist and trio leader, Marcin Wasilewski, a much earlier album was recorded in 1996. However, this new performance from the Jazz Middleheim Festival in Antwerp offers up a fresh perspective on material that is predominantly drawn from the 2014 ECM album, ‘Spark of life’. That may possibly disappoint some who would prefer to hear reworkings of the ‘Trio’ (ECM, 2005) and, ‘January’ (ECM, 2008) pieces, or even those from, ‘Faithful’ (ECM, 2011) and there are indeed worthy pieces for re-examination on all of those aforementioned recordings. However, listening pleasures are aplenty here and a few surprises in store into the bargain. Who, for example, would have expected an interpretation of Sting’s, ‘Message In A Bottle’, to be revisited in a jazz idiom? While an earlier studio reading by Wasilewski does indeed exist, this live performance far outweighs that somewhat politer and ultimately tamer version, and is significantly looser in outlook. As a matter of fact, Sting has enjoyed a long and proud association with jazz thanks to his collaborative work with Branford Marsalis, yet his reggae-tinged composition is taken in an altogether different direction here, with attractive chorus motif repeated, while the bass solo and deft percussive work breathe new life into the number. Even more of a surprise, and an extremely pleasant one at that, is the cover of Herbie Hancock’s, ‘Actual Proof’, taken from that composer/pianist’s Headhunters jazz-fusion period. Reworked in an acoustic trio setting, the phrasing conveys the delicate Hancock-esque touch, while both bass and drums are afforded the space to solo at length. A definite highlight and an indication that Wasilewski is widening his musical horizons. Combining some of the leader’s earlier originals, ‘Spark of Life’/’Sudovin Dance’, as a medley works a treat. Wasilewski first recorded in acoustic trio piano format on a tribute recording to fellow Polish composer/pianist Krzystof Komeda in 1995, when just twenty years of age. Now in his early forties, Marcin Wasilewski has gained invaluable experience as a regular member of the late Tomasz Stańko group and that training pays off handsomely on this occasion, and the exclusion of a tenor saxophonist to his regular line-up allows other musicians to take more of the limelight.

Tim Stenhouse