Maciej Obara Quartet ‘Unloved’ (ECM) 3/5

Newly signed up by label owner and aficionado Manfred Eicher, Polish alto saxophonist has recorded several albums elsewhere, but this is his major debut for ECM. The tone is warm and lyrical and hints in influence at Jan Garbarek. Delicate interplay is an endearing feature of, ‘One for’, which, to these ears, is the classic ECM honed to perfection. An understated intensity permeates the piece, with some beautifully stated lines on double bass from Ole Morten Vågan, and there is a relaxed solo from pianist and fellow Pole, Dominik Wania. To these ears the contender for best track on the album. All but one compositions are original, but interestingly the title track is a Krzysztof Komeda number.

If there is one critique of the album as whole, then it might be the lack of variation beyond the purely contemplative, enjoyable though that is for the listener. The slow and mournful opener, ‘Ula’, sets the scene for what is to follow and, as a whole, there is a calmness about the music which will endear some and deter others. A dream-like piano with left and right hands playing simple notes with alto in the background impresses on the opening number, while the only track which gradually springs into action after a reflective beginning is, ‘Jolibord’, with fine and delicate piano work by Wania and some excellent ensemble performances. Obara is on occasion content to let others do the musical talking, as on ‘Echoes’, and it is a full three minutes before we even hear him, but instead the listener has the opportunity to listen to a lovely piano solo intro. Thereafter, the altoist takes over and the rhythm section are heard in full flow as the temp rapidly accelerates. A storytelling quality to the leader’s playing bodes well for the future and maybe in the future he will wish to extend the music beyond the forty-eight minutes laid down here.

Tim Stenhouse