Marcel Baliński debuts with his trio with a separate, lyrical album, full of banter about the possibilities of a jazz trio. Trio_io shows how to think differently about contemporary improvisation.

Marcel Baliński is a pianist from Łódź, and a member of RASP Lovers, Entropia Ensemble and Jerry & the Pelican System. 2022 brings his debut album that he fully composed and recorded with a trio. That’s right, he’s a pianist. In Poland we immediately think about Komeda, Możdżer, and then Masecki. Grzegorz Tarwid recently told me about this piano idiom. Baliński has been compared to the two youngest of the abovementioned pianists due to his style, cross-genre manoeuvring, and his ease of manner. Yes, you can feel it at every step, but when I listen to the album Opalenizna i wiatr (“Suntand and Wind” in English), I feel an outsider playing a bit aside of what is happening on today’s scene more than musical acrobatics. The cover resembles the animations by Mariusz Wilczyński who operates in a parallel creative reality, but at the same time tells stories about our everyday life. Baliński does the same – sometimes he looks into the showcase of Polish jazz, sometimes towards the avant-garde, and sometimes somewhere else; he has a flow. 

The pianist from Łódź aims at deconstructing the role of individual instruments, which he does brilliantly himself when he imposes his own direction on the piano. Franciszek Pospieszalski and Krzysztof Szmańda eagerly follow this path, weaving lyrical pieces together. Sometimes they sing, sometimes they play with the metre, they are emotional but not sentimental, which is rare among recordings like that. They do not build miniature caricatures of jazz; each song has its own world. Take the example of a playfully rhythmic world in “Soldier”, or a full of lyricism one in “Marble” that is illustrated by an amazing video by Miłosz Kasiura; or an unobvious one, with sonoristic displays, like the title track.

There’s no room for cozying up – for fans of polished ECM sounds this record is too angular, for those who like piano juggling it may be too classical. Deconstructions here are not art for art’s sake, but one of the means to an end. And so are avant-garde explorations and lyrical, frivolous parts. Opalenizna i wiatr is a mature, thought out and coherent album, with character. And it makes you hungry for more. 

There is another trio – I missed them in 2021, but I have to mention their second record. I remember their debut from 3 years ago, and now trio_io announced that “they play new music”. They give hints that people more or less eagerly catch: that it’s free, that it’s folk, that it’s contemporary. The thing is, they are relatively young if you look at their average age, and no other band in Poland plays music like theirs. Their composition, articulation, and approach to sonority are unusual. Flute, violin, electric guitar laid horizontally Ex-Easter Island Head style; no typical rhythm section, no drums. It all sounds strongly abstract on the one hand, and on the other – very coherent, often even lyrical, which for me makes it similar to Marcel Balinski’s trio.

The timbre of this sound is determined by the instrumentation, which makes no space for weak moments. Half an hour long, the album is full of meaning: from the idea, through the coherence of the concept, to its selectivity. Sometimes it balances on the borders of quasi-electronic (“Woodpeckers”), guitar minimalism (“Ants”), marching sound (“Llamas”), and sound sculptures (“Bees”). The lightness, dynamism and unbridled moods resemble Jessica Pavone’s quartet, or Macie Stewart and Lia Kohl’s Recipe For a Boiled Egg that I wrote about a year ago. The youthful wildness, the broadening of horizons and a certain nonchalance. Just play it!

MARCEL BALIŃSKI TRIO Opalenizna i wiatr, self release

TRIO_IO New Animals, Antenna Non Grata