Wellington Jazz Festival, Town Hall
March 7 | Reviewed by Peter Bisley

THE LEGENDARY Polish trumpeter, with his exceptional quartet, provided a genuine treat for the Saturday night audience at the Pacific Blue Note. Tomasz Stanko and his quartet moved slickly through a greatly varied set. Stanko was a subtle front for the band, at times crouching down to the side of the drum kit or wandering away while they dabbled in ethereal soundscapes. He built a broad palette of tonal effects, with clean long peals, and fuzzy runs which resisted the temptation to dominate the set with flagrant soloistic displays, while there was enough mellow virtuosity to anchor the set around him.

The show’s opening was urgent and energetic, but the group also passed through exquisite and minimal ambient vignettes and laid down relaxed grooves. The pianist was adept at building complex harmonic textures, but contrasted this impression with refreshing instances of plain harmony. The bass player and drummer were exceptionally communicative: this allowed them to develop floating swing feels that were both strict and free, but the texture shifted with ease to driven straight eight feels.

The songs avoided obvious structures, and the set flowed with ease, delighting the audience with music that was by no means traditional but which didn’t push the boundaries of typical modern jazz. There were some exceptional moments: sublime harmonic shifts effected by the bass player and deft metric evolutions by the drummer stand most memorably in a set which finished with an encore and standing ovation. In any case, it stood in stark contrast to the rather trite, jazzless musical efforts of Mélanie Pain who played the Pacific Blue Note on the previous night.