Juraj Stanik Turns Inside Out

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INSIDE OUT / STANIK: Moving Forward. Onmo. Soul Eyes. Second Line. Early Bee. I Sing This Song for You. Who Cares. Inside Out / Juraj Stanik, pno; Frans van der Hoeven, bs; Roberto Pistolesi, dm / Challenge Records CR 73488

Pianist Juraj Stanik, a former classical cellist, dedicates this CD to Dutch pianist Rob Madna (1931-2003). Quoth Stanik:

He was not just a piano player and arranger. In fact, he was quite an influential musical character. Thad Jones asked him to write for and play in his famous Thad Jones, Mel Lewis orchestra. This indicates the level of his mastery. Bass player Frans van der Hoeven played in Rob Madna’s band for years. When I got back to the Netherlands, Frans and I decided to record at least one of Rob’s original compositions. Jazz musicians learn from listening to others. I have definitely learned a lot from listening to Rob’s music.

Having just finished reviewing Enrique Haneine’s stunningly creative new album, Unlayered, before hearing this one, my immediate thought was that these pieces were all quite good but much more conventional in structure. They hark back to the late bop era of the 1950s; there’s a bit of Bud Powell in them, a bit of Lennie Tristano, and a touch of bitonality. In short, they’re not bad at all but they are somewhat retro.

It’s difficult to imagine Stanik as a classical cellist; he plays jazz piano as well and as fluently as anyone I’ve ever heard, and as we all know, the cello and the piano take very different skills. The trio is also a very tight one; despite some cymbal washes on the offbeats, the bass and drums are very tightly connected to both Stanik’s own playing and each other. Van der Hoeven plays very light bass, almost understated, in true cool jazz fashion. None of the pieces here have really melodic or memorable themes/lines, yet all are well written. Stanik often uses asymmetric phrases, dropping a beat here and there as well as using turnarounds and contrasting themes that are gentle and melodic, providing a contrast with the stronger rhythmic material surrounding them.

Soul Eyes is a ballad, which contrasts with the two uptempo numbers preceding it. This almost has a Bill Evans feel to it except that Evans generally encouraged a looser interrelationship between the instruments in his trio. As in the first two pieces, Stanik dominates the solo space, but van der Hoeven does get a solo of his own here, interesting, gentle and understated.

I liked Second Line very much, a medium-tempo piece with a bit of New Orleans funk to the beat—but only in the theme statement. In the middle eight of each chorus, the rhythm irons itself out into a more conventional 4. Yet in his solo, Stanik plays some very complex figures and rhythms, really stretching himself out nicely, and Early Bee is a nice, if ambiguous-sounding, jazz waltz. I Sing This Song for You is another ballad, but Who Cares is a nice, uptempo jump tune handled with great deftness by the trio; Stanik is particularly good here.

The CD ends with Inside Out, a medium-tempo walking tune of ambiguous melody that contains some really creative playing by Stanik and van der Hoeven—possibly the latter’s best solo in the entire set.

In toto, this is a good CD of solid jazz pieces with some excellent solos, but not as excellent as I hoped it would be.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

Follow me on Twitter (@artmusiclounge) or Facebook (as Monique Musique)

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