By Robert Ham | Published August 2020
The Marcin Wasilewski Trio, a Polish ensemble that initially came together during the ’90s, specializes in controlled blasts—little bursts of freeform creation like the nine-minute “Cadenza” that builds off a tumbling piano line and agitated bass work from Slawomir Kurkiewicz.
Adding fuel to this collective fire is saxophonist Joe Lovano. He appears on all 11 tracks on Arctic Riff and handles the gig with a remarkable amount of restraint. Lovano carefully picks his moments to draw focus away from the collective, as through his dancing, halting solo on Wasilewski’s “L’amour Fou.” Or his eventual appearance on his own composition, “On The Other Side.” Lovano waits until the song is in its final minutes before sneaking in to add some punctuation to what was shaping up to be a complete statement by the trio. Label boss Manfred Eicher’s devotion to atmosphere also is responsible for allowing the finer details of Arctic Riff to emerge. The creak of Kurkiewicz’s bass sneaks into the mix, as does Wasilewski’s voice as he hums along with a solo. Drummer Michal Miskiewicz is recorded so precisely it’s as if every bristle of his brushes is discernible. The music becomes as enveloping and inescapable, yet imperceptible, as oxygen.
Arctic Riff: Glimmer Of Hope; Vashkar; Cadenza; Fading Sorrow; Arco; Stray Cat Walk; L’amour Fou; A Glimpse; Vashkar (Var.); On The Other Side; Old Hat. (62:30)
Personnel: Marcin Wasilewski, piano; Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone; Slawomir Kurkiewicz, bass; Michal Miskiewicz, drums.