Tomasz Dąbrowski ‘Tomasz Dąbrowski & The Individual Beings’ LP/CD (April) 5/5

Copenhagen-based trumpeter and composer Tomasz Dąbrowski has released something of a love letter to his late mentor, friend and teacher, fellow Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko. The debt of gratitude is so personal that Dąbrowski even plays an instrument owned by Stańko and loaned for the project by his daughter Anna Stańko. This instrument was used on Stańko’s historic 1990s recordings. Dąbrowski says of some of the great artists who he has previously worked with, ‘one thing they all have in common is curiosity and the never-ending urge to find new ways to become better. That is the attitude I intend to take and keep for as long as possible.’ Inspired by Eastern European folk sounds, free jazz and contemporary Avant-Garde music Dąbrowski is not one to accept musical convention, he’s recorded as a trio minus harmonic instrument, as part of a duo with drums and in a trio with piano and drums, as well as recording solo trumpet concerts.

This is his tenth record as leader, notable previous albums include Ninjazz, recorded with a Japanese trio which explored a Japanese sense of restraint mixed with Slavic melancholy. The Individual Beings comprise Jan Emil Mlynarski (electronic and jazz drum set) Max Mucha (double bass) Irek Wojtczak (tenor, soprano, electronics) Grzegorz Tarwid (piano, synthesiser) Fredrik Lundin (tenor) Knut Finsrud (acoustic drums).

‘JR’ the album’s lead single is dedicated to the values of ‘unstoppable curiosity and exploration’, not this time inspired by other musicians but by his young son’s early encounters with the world around him. It’s an episodic piece of subtle transformations, percussive adventures are countered by Dąbrowski’s ultra-clean and folk-tinged trumpet part. Tension is teased out in the dialogue between each musician until a sense of grandeur is achieved which pivots on the entwined threads of Tarwid’s piano part and a piercingly bright beam of electronic texture.

‘Old Habits’ blends two themes which push against each other while simultaneously enveloping each other’s sound. It’s part homage to Miles Davis’ 60s quintets rolled up with a more Stańko-like European vibe, the latter theme is taken right out there in a free improvisation but is pulled back to something more familiar as the old habits survive. It’s uncanny the way the band combines these contrasting themes so efficiently.

Further out still is ‘In Transit’ which begins benignly enough with some pleasingly angular horn shapes, soon though these are pulled through what could be described as a psych portal and enter a pounding parallel universe of echoes and inversions, the drama is played out before a briefly shimmering finale.

Towards the close of the record is the calm and peaceful ‘Short Gesture’ it has a haunting beauty, the sparing conviction of Dąbrowski’s trumpet solo is matched by the emotional power of the tenor. The album ends on a creative high with ‘Spurs of Luck’, Tarwid’s piano creates a tense cycle which Dąbrowski counters with a sharp finality. It’s incredible to hear Stańko’s instrument living and breathing once more, Dąbrowski credits the strength he drew from it and he’s certainly used this strength to forge his own identity as an individual being.

James Read