Marcin Wasilewski: From Simple Acoustic Trio to Tomasz Stanko
"After Habanera," continues Wasilewski," we moved in a more abstract direction. It was the result of things we had learned from playing with Tomasz and recording with Manfred Manfred is a very creative producer; sometimes he would try to push us to create atmospheres rather than specific musical ideas. When we were recording Suspended Night with Tomasz, Eicher suggested we build a free improvisation into the front of one of the pieces, and after a time it truly helped it. The free improvisation makes you feel a little uncomfortable, so when you get to the composed part you suddenly feel more comfortable and relaxed. In live performance now, you really feel that."
It was, in fact, Eicher's encouragement that resulted in the five free improvisations on new record. "We've played free improvs before," Wasilewski explains, "but not on record. It was Manfred's idea. We always liked to play free, but it's not always easy to do so in a concert situation because you have to be focused on this special atmosphere, which is different than what you can do in the studio. But with Manfred, who pushed us to play this kind of free music, we had three hour sessions where Manfred was actually inside the studio with us, like a conductor. It was a really unusual situation, because it didn't disturb the music, rather it helped it. He gets excited, and you can hear the result on the new CD. I'm very happy that we did these free improvisations because for me it's like we created something that is pure music, something from nothing. There was no discussion beforehand, we just played; we did eight pieces, and picked five for the record."
Covering Bjork and Wayne Shorter
While Wasilewski and his association with Stanko and ECM might imply a stronger predilection for jazz, and it's true that it's his main interest, he also exposes himself to other forms. One of the highlights of the new Trio disc, in fact, is their interpretation of Bjork's "Hyperballad." "Bjork is so creative," explains Wasilewski, "she's a pop star who isn't sacrificing the creativity; she's not like your typical MTV pop star. She has connected two things to be commercial and to be really artistic and interesting and she has created something new; her voicings are something special, so she's really inspired me.
"I want to know what is happening in our world," continues Wasilewski. "It can be a little strange and sometimes not so good, because you can see that a lot of kids want to make music to be popular, or to make money. But that's one reason why I'm looking to see what is happening, because sometimes people who are not studied musicians can do things that are very interesting. They have a different approach to what more schooled musicians normally have, like some of the things that have been done with computers and electronic music.
"I listen to New Cinematic Orchestra," Wasilewski concludes. "There's a lot of music I don't remember because some DJ friends play it for me. Every day there's something different, something that makes me go, 'what is this?' I like a lot of old R&B music, soul music like Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder, that kind of thing."
Another oddity on the record is the trio's inclusion of the Wayne Shorter piece, "Plaza Real." Compare their take to the Weather Report version on Procession, and it sounds like an entirely different tune and, perhaps, for good reason. We had and, I guess, still have, a problem with this piece," says Wasilewski, "because we don't know if someone made a mistake if Wayne Shorter made a mistake. It was two weeks before the recording and Michal showed me this piece on piano and I liked it. But I'd never actually heard the piece. Recently a friend in New York made a copy for us of the piece from Procession, and it's clearly not the same piece, so we we're wondering if Wayne Shorter has made a mistake. We even sent our performance of the piece to him. He heard it and said "yeah, this is 'Plaza Real, I like what they did with it.' So I don't know, but it's very strange."
Touring with the Trio
While Wasilewski, Kurkiewicz and Miskiewicz are mainly committed to working with Stanko, there will be some opportunities to hear them perform as a trio, at least in Europe. "We'll be doing a tour at the end of April and beginning of May," Wasilewski explains, "in Poland, Germany and France. I'm waiting to see how it develops, because when we play with Tomasz we have more colours because of his trumpet he can be the lead voice and play more strongly. In the trio it will be different; we're going to have to learn a bit about how to play our music live. Live performing is so different from the studio, because in the studio you have a lot of space; it's much easier to catch the atmosphere of playing less. But we'll try to carry that concept into our concerts; the aim will be the same, but the result will, most likely, be quite different."