Monday, November 10, 2008

Marcin Wasilewski Trio at Chris' Jazz Cafe

Chris' Jazz Café, in Philly, is an "L" shaped room with the band of the night parked on a slightly raised staged located at the bend of the "L". Tables and chairs are packed tightly leaving little for the wait staff to be but very thin and very flexible. Our lovely waitress was of the service staff training that believe by letting you know what they liked on the limited menu was all the reason for you to order and like it yourself. She was also quite proficient in mouthing apologies, a talent that was de rigeur as the food delivery was quite spotty.
The Ever Loving Wife and I arrived at 7:00 pm for an 8 p.m. show on Saturday, November the 8th. Reservations were a good idea but they did not guarantee your table location, so the early seating resulted in fabulous sight lines. As we were guided to our table, I noticed 3-4 guys sitting at some tables in the distance. Well, that distance became more immediate, namely the desired target area of the maître d's depositing of the two of us. She leaned over to one of the fellows and whispered something in his ear. I recognized him in the darkness and as he walked past us with his other mates I said, "Look, we're not making the band get up, are we?". Michal Miskiewicz, the drummer of the Marcin Wasilewski Trio (and the fellow on the right in the picture), turned his head a bit and snarled a definitive "Da!" in my direction. My pleads to sit elsewhere went unheeded, we sat down, opened our menus, and had the band pissed off at us. Well, I’ll leave it as "me", not "us"; nobody gets p.o.-ed at the ELW.

The description of the meal portion of the night's events will be short. I overheard another waiter mentioning to his table that the chef had just come from a stay at Le Bec Fin, one of Philly’s top five restaurants. After eating but not finishing any of the 4 courses I assumed his stay there was not ended due to his desire to leave but rather theirs.

Good enough! We were here mainly for the music. The band spent about an hour tuning up and getting mic levels set and commenced with their performance promptly at 8:05.
Why would promptness matter? Well, we’d decided to take in the early show rather than the 10:00 p.m. one, so a prompt start meant we’d hear a good hour and half, perhaps two hours of music, right?
The Trio immediately went into a selection from January, released in early 2008. The fabulous album has 10 songs, spanning 79 minutes 14 seconds. This night, Marcin Wasilewski and crew elected to play 4 songs, spanning 55 minutes. At 9:00, on the nose, the last gorgeous note floated through the air, all three musicians stood up, Wasilewski spoke for the first and only time, quickly introducing his bandmates, and then all dispersed to a table at the front of the club for a meal.
The four songs they played were not recognizable by yours truly. I've been listening and re-listening to January at home, trying to match the concert notes memories to the CD notes with minimal results. The playing was intense, connected, interwoven with reactions between all three musicians, and seemingly perfect. Little "jokes" poked their short-lived heads on occasion as Mr. Wasilewski went on one of his runs. The sound was precise without any touch of coldness. Michal Miskiewicz’s drumming was a solid backboard for the playing and poking of Mr. Wasilewksi and the double-bass player Slawomir Kurkiewicz. While "sameness" may be a condition thrown out to cover the general mood and projection of the pieces they played, one can’t deny the tightness of the band and the elasticity of the songs they played around with. The ELW had to excuse herself for 5 minutes or so, between songs #2 and #3. At the end of the rather short playlist, she glanced at her watch and noted that 3 songs in one hour was truly amazing. When I tried to point out that she was away for the ending of one composition and the start-up of another, she insisted that it was three songs, period. Only a too loud "Da!" on my part to her "Four songs, ha!" comment seemed to convince her.

We stuck around another 45 minutes, hoping that the trio would come on for one more short set. The snail-like delivery of our food made our stay legitimate although I personally was not awaiting our meals' arrival with anything other than trepidation.

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