Tomasz Stanko Quartet, St George's, Bristol

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The Independent Culture

Of all the jazz trumpeters who owe a stylistic debt to the late Miles Davis - and it's difficult to think of anyone who doesn't - the Pole Tomasz Stanko, who is also a noted composer and bandleader, has achieved perhaps the most successful integration of form and content in his music.

Like the Canadian-born and UK-based flugelhorn player, Kenny Wheeler, Stanko, who turns 62 this year, favours oblique phrases and a rather recessive, wheedling, tone that can put you in mind of early Sixties Davis.

But Stanko is his own man: over a recent series of four albums released on ECM, a label with which he has been associated for 30 years, he has found a truly personal voice as both player and composer.

The last two of these albums, Soul of Things and Suspended Night, the latter of which has just been released, feature a band of three young Polish musicians who have been playing with Stanko since they were in their teens, and who form the quartet for this debut British tour. From almost the first note of the opening tour date, it has been clear that it's a very fine group. On piano, Marcin Wasilewski reveals himself to be a real star-in-the-making. Shaven-headed, cool and relaxed, he doesn't feel the need to play more than is necessary, occasionally sitting out proceedings with all the nonchalance of someone waiting at a bus stop, or casually tapping at the innards of his instrument with a percussion mallet.

When Wasilewski solos, it's a real two-handed attack, but one that employs the lightest of touches. During one feature late into the second set, when he hit a groove and just stayed there, he brought to mind the late Michel Petrucciani: not many pianists do that. The bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and the drummer Michal Miskiewicz form a perfectly complementary rhythm team: solid and unshowy, but listening acutely all the while.

As a leader, Stanko stands back and lets them get on with it, never forcing his presence on them, although it's always clear who's in charge.

This is music of sidelong looks and glances, not challenging stares. What's perhaps most surprising is how full-bloodedly he plays. Accustomed - from previous performances and his earlier albums of ruminative, Slavic-soul ballads - to a trumpet-vocabulary of subtle slurs and smears, one simply isn't prepared for the speed, volume and full-on intensity of Stanko's current style, nor the amount he wants to play.

Indeed, if you're a fan of classic modern jazz you need to seek this band out, for you may not find a better one for a long time. In June, Stanko and the group tour the United States. A case of coals to Newcastle? More like, "Eat your heart out, Wynton Marsalis."

Touring to Turner Sims, Southampton (023-8059 5151) Thurs; Queens Hall, Edinburgh (0131-668 2019) Fri; for further information see www.stanko.polishjazz.com

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