Much has been made of the radical new sound of this release. As it is unmistakeably a Tomasz Stanko quartet release and follows in the footsteps of Soul of Things and Suspended Night, I think that this claim has been a little overplayed. That said, there is more organic feel to this fantastic new recording. That it is a freer might seem odd given that Soul of Things and Suspended Night both effectively comprised a dozen or so variations on a theme. By comparison, on Lontano the lengthy improvisations (Lontano I, II and III no less) are interspersed with Stanko compositions and one cover of a Krystof Komeda track whose music will be familiar to those who have heard Stanko's Litania recording of the late 1990s.
Implausibly (given his sustained excellence), Stanko's playing has never sounded better. The trumpet is less busy than before but the tone is exemplary - more breathy and soulful than on Soul of Things and Suspended Night. The songs evolve and develop more than on previous releases, most noticeably the lengthy three piece suite Lontano but also the composed self-standing songs such as Cyrrhia. As befits these songs, the Quartet manages to be more hesitant, suggestive yet assured in its playing which is the mark of true ensemble musicianship.
The least successful track is Kattorna, the Krsytof Komeda composition from 40 odd years ago (and apparently covered by Stanko's backing musicians in their pre Quartet days). The musicianship of the quartet on this song is of the highest order and says something about the remainder of the album but the more up-front jazz (with little signature blasts of trumpet reminiscent of Suspended Night) does not impress as much as the other more contemplative tracks.
The most successful track is Tale which closes the album and sounds nothing like the original version recorded 30 years ago on Stanko's ECM debut, Balladyna. Where the original is jerky, the version on Lontano is luscious, in no little part to the addition of piano, played with great sensuality by Wasilewski.
In fact, one of Stanko's greatest attributes is giving his fellow musicians space to breathe and play and not in any token solo way either. The empathy on Lontano III for example is breathtaking - an almost perfect mix of texture, atmosphere, melody - and all the more so for being an improvisation. Wasilewski is much feted and rightly so and his sound is reminiscent of Bobo Stenson's in much of this album. As I have mentioned in reviewing Suspended Night, in my opinion, the real star live is Miskiewicz and he and bassist Kurkiewicz do not suffer by comparison.
In short, this is Stanko's seventh recording for ECM in the last eleven years. This is arguably the best of an excellent crop and is unlikely to be bettered by a jazz album for the remainder of the year.
Music from ECM can be a bit of a mixed bag. From the arty, other worldly covers, to the titles and musicians you've never heard of before, it can all seem a bit inaccessible and pretentious at times. And then an album like Lontano proves that it can be worth the gamble.
Stanko's trumpet playing draws the inevitable comparisons with Miles Davis. From the spare, strung out sounds he coaxes from his horn, to the minimalist landscape offered by the accompanying musicians, you can't help wondering if this is a direction Davis would have taken had he still be around.
Lontano is beautifully constructed music; hard to classify and really access with only one or 2 listens, but there is enough interest here to keep coming back for more, and hearing more as a result. The quartet all pull their weight, and although the four musicians play under the banner of it being Stanko's quartet, it could easily be the Marcin Wasilewski Trio plus guest. Indeed, Wasilewski is the glue that - in my view - holds the music together. His playing is never anything less than beautiful.
I discovered Stanko whilst watching the recent 'Homeland' series on television. As a Miles Davis fan, I was thinking I'd never heard him play one specific track....and, indeed, I'd never heard him play so well. On researching the music for the show, I discovered to my great surprise it wasn't Miles...but Tomasz Stanko..I purchased the album online that same evening and it has become a firm favourite. Truly great trumpet playing, creating a great mood....don't just read my review....buy it for yourself and find out! Oh and by the way Amazon....why are there not 6 stars?
I have several CDs of Stanko's music and this is among the top three. I listen to it at least twice a month, out of all my recorded music. There is no difficulty in recommending this and all the others. Slow, gloomy music; suits me.
I heard Thomasz Stanko years ago whilst I lived in mainland Europe for a while,- but I guess I was not ready for his music at that time.
But it was indeed due to “ Homeland “ that prompted me to do some research as what the music was and who it was. I am sure that “ Homeland “ has done a great service to Tomasz Stanko & his quartet in extending their exposure. BTW, you may need to look further for that particular piece in Homeland.
I love the compositions and the seemingly melancholic, sullen and at times off note arrangements. Not ideal for a garden party but a must for any serious jazz lover’s collection.
Bought this having previously got Soul Of Things and Suspended Night. This being the third CD by the same line up. Probably my favourite of the three. Soul Of Things was very minimal and not wholly to my liking (though when it's good, it's very good). There's much more going on on this CD. If you like Tomasz Stanko then you will probably enjoy Lontano.