Having released their debut album as a trio back in 2005, after honing their skills in revered Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko’s band (although their trio credentials go back to the early 1990s), a further three albums on, the Marcin Wasilewski Trio has established itself as a major presence in European jazz, and this concert on the opening night of Edinburgh’s Jazz & Blues Festival assuredly demonstrated why.
Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival | Marcin Wasilewski Trio | Queen’s Hall | Rating ****
Led by pianist Wasilewski, with Sławomir Kurkiewicz on double bass and Michał Miśkiewicz on drums, the trio’s palpable connectivity transcends any hackneyed concept of pianist and sidemen, to generate a flow that one can be tempted to describe superficially as cinematic (and they have indeed created arrangements of film scorers such as Ennio Morricone and particularly Krzysztof Komeda) but which can be quite simply riverine in its power.
From its opening, with Wasilewski, hunched intently over the keyboard, picking out a dreamy prelude over a hiss of cymbals and gently rattling toms, the performance could veer from diaphanous rippling to ominously toned upheaval and muscular hard-travelling, but always with a rich melodic thread running through it.
There was, for instance, the eloquent Night Train to You, with its rolling piano introduction, bass racing alongside urgent percussive flickering, the onrush giving way to an industrious drum solo from Miśkiewicz before the trio coalesced around it and things were allowed to gently subside.
There were stealthily gothic echoes and stately grooving, with percussion crackling like wildfire and some sudden, seismic outbursts in their handling of the Largo from a piano sonata by the Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz, while the gently-paced Austin was Wasilewski’s poignant tribute to a sadly deceased young pianist, lullaby-like in its warmth and melodic simplicity but quietly taking on a gospel-blues accent. Similarly winsome was their encore reprise of Komeda’s Sleep Tight and Warm – ironically written for the horror classic Rosemary’s Baby.
In contrast, they worked up a full head of steam in their racy treatment of Herby Hancock’s Actual Proof, but perhaps most emblematic of this trio’s ability to transform and re-energise was that hoary old Police number Message in a Bottle, here given a spectacularly stormy treatment, born along on cascading piano waves with an undercurrent of beetling bass and chittering cymbals – an old message sounding far from washed up.