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Stanko is the quiet giant of jazz trumpeters.

Byline: Paul Denison The Register-Guard

In a Downbeat album review four years ago, Thomas Conrad called Tomasz Stanko "the most important unknown trumpet player in jazz."

In a Downbeat article two years later, Conrad wrote that the five Stanko albums "constitute one of the strongest bodies of recorded work from any jazz artist in the last decade."

Conrad is not the only serious fan of this sixtysomething Polish jazz musician.

In the Seattle Post-Intel- ligencer, Bill White wrote last year that the Tomasz Stanko Quartet's "Suspended Night" album "equals Miles Davis' `Kind of Blue' for the sheer beauty of its ensemble playing."

Reviewing the same album, British critic John Walters wrote in the Guardian that "Stanko has managed to say something new and moving, in an idiom that sounded tired a generation ago."

Picking "Suspended Night" as a Stereophile "record to die for," Richard Lehnert wrote that "Stanko evokes the spirits of the finest trumpeters dead and living while creating a mood and voice uniquely his own."

In a 2001 Billboard review, Bradley Bambarger noted that Stanko's "Leosia" has been "lauded to the skies by Euro- pean jazz critics," his "Litania" album "is one of the most sheerly beautiful jazz records of the past decade," and his "From the Green Hill" chamber jazz release is "new Old World music, both intriguingly fresh and hauntingly familiar."

Stanko studied classical piano and violin as a child but switched to trumpet after he heard Miles Davis on radio. Ornette Coleman's "This Is Our Music" was another early influence.

"It was a bible for me," Stanko said in a 2002 Downbeat interview with Conrad. "It was difficult in Poland at that time to get an explanation of this music.

`But maybe that made it easier to make my own style."

In a 2004 interview with Cezary Lerski on allaboutjazz .com, Stanko described himself as "a mix of two extremes: obsession for innovation and love for classically understood concepts of tradition and beauty."

"Stanko has ably worked through the realms of free jazz, fusion and even film music, thanks to his former band leader, the late Krzystof Komeda," Mitch Myers wrote in a 2002 Downbeat review, which described Stanko as "a contemplative yet confident player."

Conrad noted that Stanko still practices for hours each day and "can do anything he wants: blinding bursts and trills, dizzying ascents, shooting trajectories, sweeping smears."

In addition to jogging, yoga and daily practice to stay in shape, Stanko is also keeping an eye on his legacy by performing with three other musicians much younger than he is.

Stanko has recorded his two most recent albums with pianist Marcin Wasilewski, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michael Miskiewicz.

When Stanko took them under his wing in 1994, Wasilewski and Kurkiewicz were 18 and Miskiewicz was only 16.

"They were very good from the beginning," Stanko has said. "I think that is the way it is with musicians - if there's some promise there, you're going to hear it immediately. ...

`I'm surprised by these musicians every day. They just keep getting better and better."

Reviewing a June 2004 performance by the Stanko Quartet for the Los Angeles Times, Don Heckman took special note of the ensemble's "utterly symbiotic creative flow, solos darting through collective passages as the music streamed fluidly from one selection into another.

`Kurkiewicz and Miskiewicz play with a fertile combination of swing and subtlety. ... Wasi- lewski's piano soloing displayed a coalescing talent, a potentially emerging jazz star in his own right."

Although Stanko is their mentor and leader, he also gives his three sidemen plenty of freedom, whether playing with him or on their own.

"Trio," the quartet's first international release, includes not only pieces by Stanko and Wayne Shorter but also their version of Bjork's "Hyper-Ballad," Karol Szymanowski's operatic "Roxanne's Song" and five completely improvised tracks.

Paul Denison can be reached at 338-2323 or pdenison@ guardnet.com.

CONCERT PREVIEW

Tomasz Stanko Quartet

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: The Shedd, 285 E. Broadway

Tickets: $32, $28 and $24 through the OFAM box office, 687-6526

CAPTION(S):

Tomasz Stanko keeps his edge by practicing daily and jamming with young players.
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Title Annotation:Entertainment; Critics rank the Polish musician among the greats of the genre
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 11, 2005
Words:691
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