Dominik Wania ‘Lonely Shadows’ LP/CD (ECM) 4/5

Polish pianist Dominik Wania was born in 1981 in Sanok in Southern Poland’s Podkarpacie region, and started playing piano when he was just three years old. He subsequently studied in Krakow and graduated from its Academy of Music in 2005. Jazz was also a presence in his life from an early age and in 2006 he won a scholarship to study it at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. On this recording, it is clear to hear how well the pianist has integrated both Classical and Jazz styles, creating a wonderful flow of beautifully improvised solo piano music.

“Lonely Shadows” is the first ECM solo album from Wania, and the album sparkles with originality. His sensitivity to touch, tone and texture is undoubtedly informed by his classical background, but he clearly also has the instincts of a jazz improviser. “A solo album is a major step for a pianist’s artistic development” says Wania. “It was special for me that Manfred Eicher and ECM proposed it. I felt from the beginning that it would include fully improvised music. I didn’t want to prepare anything in advance. I was fully dependent on the creative process of playing here and now.”

There are eleven original pieces on the recording, each offering something different. There are hints of the great romantic composers, with a free-flowing gorgeous lyricism, through to moments of mesmerising experimentation. Highlights include the wonderful opener and title track, with its sensitivity pure enough to wash away all the problems of the world, even if just for a short moment in time. The closing piece “All What Remains” is just as beautifully performed, reflective in nature, with moments of clarity reaching out from its contemplative narration. “New Life Experience” and “Liquid Fluid” flow effortlessly in a similar vein, whilst tunes like “Relativity” and “Subjective Objectivity” offer a nice contrast with a more experimental edge to them.

“Lonely Shadows” reflects the aesthetic influence of composers Wania admires and has studied closely, including Satie, Prokofiev, Ravel and Messiaen, whilst also benefiting from the pianist’s experiences performing with Polish and international jazz musicians such as Tomasz Stanko, Lee Konitz, Nguyen Le and Dave Liebman. A confident album form the Polish pianist, and one with many merits.

Mike Gates