London Jazz Festival has kicked-off for another year. It’s an annual highlight of my calendar and this year, as ever, I’m seeing a handful of bands throughout the ten-day festival, the first of which was Tomasz Stanko’s ‘New York’ Quartet.
Stanko himself is a polish trumpeter. The ‘New York’ part of the equation is made up by the rest of the band: David Virelles (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). I reviewed the Quartet’s most recent album within these pages and noted that I saw Virelles play last year at London’s Kings Place and left feeling disappointed, hoping that the disappointment was a one-off ahead of this gig.
Not only was I not disappointed, I was blown away. It was an awesome display of musicianship by each and every member of the band. From the moment they started playing you knew that what you were hearing was of the highest calibre, possessing an indefinable, magical quality. Stanko, wearing a Thelonious Monk t-shirt, played the role of musical director, much like I imagine Miles Davis would have; setting the tone and then stepping back and creating the space for his band to run free. Virelles played like a man inspired, and treated the piano like the percussive instrument it is, driven on by Rogers and Cleaver, the latter of whom was scarily intense throughout the gig. The gig had moments of serenity as well, especially when Rogers played a beautiful bowed solo, during which he was joined by Stanko, leading to some great interplay between the two.
The gig was recorded for BBC Radio 3, airing apparently on Monday, 13 November. I’ll be catching it again as it’s not often you get to hear music like this. I highly recommend that you catch it.