Tomasz Stanko’s New York Quartet December Avenue (ECM)

The deep collaboration between the members of Tomasz Stanko’s New York Quartet makes the music on its second album both a pathway to pleasure and an opportunity for solace, but truly it’s the tone and timbre of the leader’s horn that’s most fetching. The 74-year-old trumpeter continues to burnish his already earthy sound, and its character morphs in intriguing ways on this jewel of a date. It can be hollow and eerie, frisky and wry, grave and elastic. Often on December Avenue, it forwards long tones whose presence somehow underscores the subtleties constantly being rendered by his rhythm section.

The Polish bandleader has embraced a scad of US players in the last few years. Craig Taborn, Jim Black and others have gone through the ranks of his New York Quartet. But for recording, he’s settled on a squad that’s expert at both rumination and buoyancy. Pianist David Virelles, and drummer Gerald Clayton helped him make 2015’s Wislawa; bassist Reuben Rogers replaces Thomas Morgan for this new date. Together they’re adept at basking in the attractions of mood while leaving ample room for some nu-bop frolic. There’s about a 70/30 split for those particular directions here, and the shifts between them are beveled enough to create a string of revealing transitions.

A bit of Lester Bowie cackle marks the animated passages. Stanko gets frisky on the title cut, and while the action is all quite measured, the refinement doesn’t preclude anyone from searching for some friction points (Cleaver is key to this process). Perhaps more telling are the moments of reflection. “Cloud,” “Blue Cloud” and “The Street of Crocodiles” all find the foursome waxing instinctual while establishing a rich atmosphere. Fetching stuff, absolutely.

DownBeat

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