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ECM 576 4562 [48:32]




  1. Ula

  2. One For

  3. Joli Bord

  4. Unloved

  5. Sleepwalker

  6. Echoes

  7. Storyteller

    Maciej Obara - Alto sax

    Dominik Wania - Piano

    Ole Morton Vågan - Double bass

    Gard Nilssen - Drums

    I've not come across the Polish alto saxophonist Maciej Obara before, although this is his ninth album as a leader. It is, however, his first for ECM, and, on the evidence of this recording, he fits in perfectly with the label's overall ethos. He is joined here by a fellow Pole and two Norwegian musicians. Obara first met up with pianist Dominik Wania around ten years ago when both of them worked on Tomasz Stanko's New Balladyna Quartet project. The Norwegian members on this disc, Ole Morton Vågan on bass and Gard Nilssen on drums, both have a healthy back catalogue of recordings. Vågan, who is a composer in addition to his skills as a bass player, was a notable member of Thomas Strønen's ensemble on his Time Is A Blind Guide album, for instance. Nilssen meanwhile, has performed with the likes of trumpet star Mathias Eick, bassist Arild Andersen and pianist Helge Lien. Obara's own compositions are featured on six of the seven tracks on this new release. The exception is Unloved, the title track, which was written by the distinguished Polish film composer (and jazz pianist) Krzysztof Komeda for the film of that name.

    Two Obara originals are particularly fine. One For has an appealing theme, with wistful playing on alto sax by the composer and an impressive piano solo from Wania

    adding to its lustre. Storyteller has a distinct after-hours flavour to it. Obara transmits a sense of yearning in a haunting rendition of the melody while Wania is imaginative and tender, for his part. Vågan is noticeably effective on bass, in support. It prompts in this listener, at least, a curiosity as to what the story is about. Despite the quality of Obara's writing, however, the standout track is the Komeda piece. A beautiful composition receives a fitting treatment from a passionate Obara. Wania is sublime on piano, and bass and drum, as always on this disc, are reliably accomplished. Elsewhere, tracks such as Ula and the gentle, reflective Joli Bord, also offer much to appreciate. Maciej Obara has described the process of collaboration between group members as being 'like composing in real time'. Nowhere is that element more apparent than in Sleepwalker and Echoes. The musicians 'slip the leash', so to speak, and deliver some vigorous and discursive music of the sort that will speak to aficionados of free jazz. Obara in particular shows that he's not a one trick pony but demonstrates his versatility and range.

    Obara is still in his thirties. It will be interesting to see how his future evolves. He clearly possesses lyricism and a spirit of adventure in both composition and performance. I hope we hear more from the quartet soon.

    James Poore


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