The fantastic black-and-white cover photo of a New York winter scene on December Avenue's booklet with a felt imminent snowfall puts you exactly into the mood with which the first piece "Cloud" of the ECM album begins with long drawn, cool trumpet calls, and erratically pounding piano chords, hesitantly rhythmically held together by the drums, to fall back into the habit of a conduct, and to subside a few breaths later. Shall the four-minute first piece of the album transfer us into a gray moody mood, which basically prevails in all the pieces? Not continuously. With the half as long, with two minutes extremely short second piece "Conclusion", the mood brightens up a few degrees with the tempo being sped up, but without completely leaving behind the deeply melancholic basic mood of "Cloud", which also prevails impressionistic shaded in " Blue Cloud " with longer solos of piano, trumpet and double bass, and refined interplay, interrupted several times in favor of a brighter mood. "Bright Moon" does not really promise sunny sunshine, but less dark clouds on the horizon. And indeed, unclouded moonlight improves Tomasz Stanko’s New York Quartet into a much more life-affirming mood that manifests its climax just before the end of the play in a fortissimo cluster of statement quality performed by the pianist.
To avoid the impression that this album transports boredom: This is definitely not the case. For that the musical ideas on December Avenue are simply too good, and even then, perfectly told, and always brought together into a listening story, when the melancholic basic mood is sometimes close to tipping in tristesse. Already the all-star cast of the New York Quartet of the Poland Tomasz Stanko, who has already recorded 40 albums during his current musical existence, together with David Virelle, piano, Reuben Rogers, contrabass and, Gerald Cleaver, drums, guarantees the highest level of execution and imaginative improvisations very midst of the world of free jazz. Boredom simply does not belong to the repertoire of this class of jazz musicians. Rather some habituation to their highly individual sound language. As soon as one has adapted to this language, as in the present case, that is habituated to the melancholy basic mood of the twelve songs, which prevails until the end of the album, there are no limits to the enjoyment of this download. By the way, the rhythmically extremely vivid penultimate play "Yankiels Lid" unexpectedly puts one in an almost cheerful mood, allowing one to look at the last piece with a quiet smile on the lips. However, "Young Girl in Flower" then manifests itself rather as a composed farewell pain.
Speaking of the recording: in the present case, ECM is not responsible for the excellent recording technique, but the "Studio La Buisonne", located near the bald-headed Mont Ventoux in Pernes-les-Fontaines near Avignon, in the dreamlike countryside of the Sorgues river. It would be interesting to see how the Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet managed to realize the mood of the New York winter scene on the black-and-white cover photo in the normally very sunny Provence full of zest of life.
Tomasz Stanko, trumpet
David Virelles, piano
Reuben Rogers, double bass
Gerald Cleaver, drums