Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tomasz Stanko Quintet - 1973 [2006] "Purple Sun"

Tomasz Stańko (born July 11, 1942) is a Polish trumpeter, composer and improviser. Often recording for ECM Records, Stańko is strongly associated with free jazz and the avant-garde.
Coming to prominence in the early 1960s alongside pianist Adam Makowicz in the Jazz Darings, Stańko later collaborated with pianist Krzysztof Komeda, notably on Komeda's pivotal 1966 album Astigmatic. In 1968, Stańko formed an acclaimed quintet that included Zbigniew Seifert on violin and alto saxophone, and in 1975 he formed the Tomasz Stańko-Adam Makowicz Unit.
Stańko has since established a reputation as a leading figure not only in Polish jazz, but on the world stage as well, working with many notable musicians, including Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Reggie Workman, Rufus Reid, Lester Bowie, David Murray, Manu Katche and Chico Freeman. In 1984 he was a member of Cecil Taylor's big band.
Stańko lost his natural teeth in the 1990s, although over time he developed a new embouchure with the help of a skilled dentist and monotonous practice. He would spend long hours playing what he deemed to be "boring" long tones which helped to strengthen his lip, in spite of playing with the disadvantage of false teeth.

In 1968, alto saxophonist Zbigniew Seifert joined the newly formed Stanko Quintet, soon switched from ax to electric violin, and the next chapter of European Jazz history began. Beside Stanko and Seifert, the line-up of the Quintet included Janusz Muniak on the saxophones and flute, Jan Gonciarczyk / Bronislaw Suchanek on the bass and Janusz Stefanski on the drums. The Quintet made three records: "Music for K" (1970), "Jazz Message from Poland" (1972) and "Purple Sun" (1973) but the albums could not compare to the magic of Quintet's life performances. The music of Quintet escaped easy definitions. Sophisticated, collective improvisations and breath taking instrumental solos were bands' trademarks; hypnotic cosmic-like interactions between members of the band, and between the band and the life public, complemented the whole experience. Stanko Quintet disbanded in 1973 on the pick of its creative potential and after achieving cult-like following in Europe.

Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko is most probably country's best known jazz musician for some decades and prestigious ECM label in-house artist. Better known (especially outside of his homeland) from his ECM-sound recordings, in his early ears Stanko played quite different music. Started his career still at late 60s, Tomasz played with in Polish legend Komeda band, starting his career as leader in early 70s.

"Purple Sun" is Stanko quintet third album recorded live in empty hall of Music School in Munich,Germany. All-Polish quartet is completed with German bassist Hans Hartmann here. Album contains four originals (twolong and two shorter pieces). Confusingly enough, "Purple Sun" is often classified in music media (partially Polish) as early example of Polish avant-garde jazz which it isn't.

In reality bass-drums-trumpet-sax quartet with violinist Zbigniew Seifert on board plays high energy fusion strongly influenced by Davis' "Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew". Representing contrast difference from popular Stanko ECM albums of contemporary (chamber) jazz, "Purple Sun" with its raw energy and quite free structure possibly sounds as avant-garde piece for traditional Stanko listeners but everyone familiar with early Miles fusion will confirm their musical similarity.

Stanko's fusion is more European comparing with Miles - there are less American jazz roots (no groove) but lot of German krautrock influence in a form of straight power flow and rock-psychedelia. And yeh - the level of musicians virtuosity is far not as in Davis fusion bands.

Still music sounds really fresh and inspired and common "rockish" aesthetics could be attractive for fans of jazz-rock. In all cases, this album (reissued in Poland on CD at least twice so quite accessible) is not for numerous fans of ECM-period Stanko. Lovers of early Miles fusion will probably find here a nice example of similar music recorded by one of the best Polish jazz musician ever.

 Purple Sun was in fact recorded in Munich in March 1973, but retained a heavyweight Polish lineup (save for a top-notch Swiss bassist), of particular note being the legendary violinist Zbigniew Seifert who gives proceedings a slight Mahavishnu flavour in places.  Overall, though, this album is just a fantastic slice of post-Bitches Brew groove with the unique slant of being rooted in Eastern European free jazz.

Track listing:

1 Boratka & Flute's Ballad 14:04
2 My Night, My Day 5:26
3 Flair 13:21
4 Purple Sun 6:09


Trumpet – Tomasz Stańko
Bass – Hans Hartmann
Drums, Percussion – Janusz Stefański
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Percussion – Janusz Muniak
Violin, Alto Saxophone – Zbigniew Seifert



  2. ? There's no such thing as "Eastern European Free Jazz" - this music is black music from America; there are white (East) Europeans and Americans that play this style of music, but that's all. Nothing wrong with that - but this music did not come from European whites - period.