Review: EFG London Jazz Festival – Tribute to Tomasz Stanko
Queen Elizabeth Hall, in Southbank Centre on Wednesday 16 November 2022 was full and ready for the magic. Alyn Shipton, an author of the award-winning A New History of Jazz, introduces the musicians and the program of tonight's EFG London Jazz Fastival 2022 - Tribute to Stanko. This evening’s program was based on works that resonate with various periods in Tomasz Stańko’s career, performed by his long-time collaborators – Marcin Wasilewski Trio, with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Tom Richards, and some special guests, including Avishai Cohen.
Marcin Wasilewski Trio, made of Marcin Wasilewski on piano, Sławomir Kurkiewicz on double bass, and Michał Miśkiewicz on drums, were known previously as Simply Acoustic Trio. Through the 1990s they collaborated with Tomasz Stańko on various projects, recording together with him music for theatre, to end up as his new quartet and recording four albums together with him as a Tomasz Stanko Quartet, and another seven ad Marcin Wasilewski Trio.
The concert started with the music he originally created for POLIN (The Museum of the History of Polish Jews): Yankiel’s Lid and The Street of Crocodiles, released on 2014 album Polin, and re-recorded later on 2017’s ECM album with his New York Quartet December Avenue. Originally the songs were recorded with Ravi Coltrane on saxophone, during the concert Marcin Wasilewski Trio and the BBC Orchestra were joined by emerging London jazz artist, Emma Rawicz. Unfortunately, my train was late, and I missed that part of the evening, but as I listen to it at home a few days later, as the whole concert was broadcasted on BBC Radio 3, the first notes set the standard very high.
Street of Crocodiles was followed by Wislawa, from the same-titled album from 2013. The album contains music inspired by Stańko’s collaboration with the Nobel Prize award-winning Polish poet Wisława Szymborska. The musicians on the stage were joined by Avishai Cohen, a super talented trumpeter with a very distinctive sound, and recording now for the same record company as Stanko. Avishai included some nods to Stanko’s music on his ECM debut Into the Silence in 2016, as well as he performed another tribute to Tomasz with Adam Pierończyk, Joe Martin oraz Jeff “Tain” Watts at 2018 Jazz Juniors in Cracow. The second song together was Gama from Stanko quite a rare fusion album C.O.C.X from 1985.
As it was announced, the first half of the evening will uphold Stańko’s commitment to the freshest sounds in jazz, and also showcase young British talents. Emma Rawicz appears in the first two songs of the evening. The next in line was, the violinist and singer Alice Zawadzki, with her own interpretation of a traditional polish folk song Za gorami (Beyond the mountains). She brings her unique blend of vocal and instrumental talents and even asked her polish father and auntie to help her learn the lyrics to this song. Unfortunately adding the dark, as she described the “gothic” elements to the rather melodic and joyful original, didn’t resonate with me.
#Another of Britain’s rising jazz stars, the guitarist Rob Luft, whose ECM debut came out this year, performed with Alice on Za gorami, but also joined Marcin Wasilewski Trio, Avishai Cohen and BBC Orchestra on the next track, Terminal 7 from 2007’s Dark Eyes album, arranged to the orchestra by Stanko long-time friend Swedish, saxophonist Joakim Milder. The Terminal 7 song is widely known as the theme music for Showtime’s American espionage thriller award-winning television series Homeland. This one sounds particularly great, taking great advantage of the full orchestra
Listen to Tomasz Stanko Quartet composition Terminal 7, from their album Dark Eyes:
After the interval Avishai Cohen, the Wasilewski Trio and the BBC Concert Orchestra interpret music from several periods of Stańko’s work, starting with the theme from Rosemary’s Baby, one of Krzysztof Komeda’s best-known compositions, which Stańko recorded with his 1990s sextet. The catchy, subtle melody is sung in the Roman Polanski movie, and on the soundtrack, by Mia Farrow, here at Southbank center, the band was re-joined by Alice Zawadzki, who did the perfect job.
Avishai Cohen came back to perform Faces, another one from Wislawa, the album with the most compositions performed this evening. Whoever invited Avishai Cohen to fill in for Stanko’s trumpet, made an exceptional choice. His trumpet sounds so similar. Even if it is not possible to replace the master, Avishai, an amazing artist in his own right stayed very close to original.
The second part of the concert was built by Stanko’s compositions written for the movies, came from the movies, or versions inspired by them. A Farewell to Maria, the main theme from the soundtrack to 1993 Filip Zylber movie Pozegnanie z Maria. And then main theme from Roberto Zucco, 2001 French film directed by Cédric Kahn and based on the true story of the eponymous Italian serial killer.
The next piece, Celina was arranged for the orchestra by Joakim Milder. The rest of the songs were arranged by Krzysztof Herdzin, a fantastic Polish jazz pianist, composer, arranger and conductor. This composition from his 1994 album Matka Joanna, inspired by Jerzy Kawalerowicz's 1961 movie Matka Joanna od Aniołów. Emma Rawicz came back to the stage with her tenor sax, and she constantly felt the vibe, and get a great connection with Avishai, trying to boost her confidence. It was a very free, but at the same time very groovy variation of the original, and in my opinion, the highlights of the evening.
The music sounded so great with the orchestra, all of the musicians were absolutely amazing, and the chemistry between the Wasilewski Trio was perfect. We can see that since they were asked to join the Stanko band as late teenagers until now, they went long way, playing together for 28 years, they manage to build great connection and their own musical language on the stage.
Alyn Shipton who introduced the music and musicians also offers an insight into the life of late trumpeter Tomasz Stańko interrupting the concert every two songs. As it works well in BBC broadcasts, it didn’t work for me during the evening, because of constant interruptions, the concert just completely lost its coherence.
The concert finished with two tracks from the period of his final New York quartet, April Story and Assassins, originally heard on his album Wisława. As Stanko used to said “I'm convinced we can harness magic”, we surely did, but the effect will be so much better if the organizers will let us dive into the sound without turning the lights on every two songs with introduction or interviews. Anyway, it was well-paid tribute to a great jazz trumpeter.
Watch below Tomasz Stanko performing live Krzysztof Komeda's Rosemary’s Baby:
Other wicked songs and projects worth checking this week:
Hermanos Gutiérrez - Thunderbird
Leland Whitty - Awake
Surprise Chef - Velodrome
FKJ - Us - A COLORS SHOW
Marquis Hill - Black Alchemy/Hall of Mirrors
Tom Skinner - The Journey
Kham Meslien - Ta confiance
Matt Carmichael - Road To The Sea
Emmet Cohen - Uptown in Orbit
aki - Twijfelaar
Greg Spero - Evolution (Tiny Room Sessions)
Atlas Maior - Basalt
Venna - Sicily' Box
Charlie Stacey - Music Is Healing
Zeñel - 5dB Freestyle
Radio Citizen - Kantine
Unc D - Toots
Julius Rodriguez - Dora’s Lullaby
The Headhunters - Rocking At The Mole House