Maciej Obara Quartet: Frozen Silence 

Polish saxophonist offers a reverberant set of harmonically sombre originals by turns reflective, rubato and conventionally swinging


Born in 1981, Obara (as) has recently become one of the most internationally recognised of Polish musicians. If his sound can be both subtly modulated and searing, his rhythmic flexibility in no less impressive. Frozen Silence is his third release for ECM, following Unloved (2017) and Three Crowns (2019) – all with his regular quartet featuring compatriot Dominik Wania (p) and the Norwegians Ole Morten Vågan (b) and Gard Nilssen (d). Incidentally, if you don’t know it, check out the beautifully cast meditation that is the title track of Wania’s 2019 solo recording for ECM, Lonely Shadows.

I caught Obara’s fine band at the 2019 Ystad Sweden Festival (when, if I remember rightly, Mats Eilertsen was on bass) and was impressed by their now intimate, now expansive group empathy and understanding, especially in matters of flowing cross-rhythmic melodic and dynamic interaction. Such qualities mark the current release, pensive (Frozen Silence) but also lively (Waves) as it is.

Obara played with Tomasz Stanko, a relationship acknowledged in the soulful elegy that is the free ballad Mr. S from Three Crowns. He has also engaged with the music of another Polish legend, pianist and composer Krzysztof Komeda – and Three Crowns includes two pieces by Polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki.

My only reservation about the present release is that, consistently excellent as the finely attuned playing is, and well-crafted and developed as the compositions (all from Obara) are, I would have welcomed a touch more of the diverse emotional range and resonance of the material which distinguished Three Crowns. But don’t let that put you off investigating this appreciable addition to what is an increasingly noteworthy discography from Obara.

Dry Mountain; Black Cauldron; Frozen Silence; High Stone; Rainbow Leaves; Twilight; Waves Of Glyma; Flying Pixies (47.12)
Obara (as); Dominik Wania (p); Ole Morten Vågan (b); Gard Nilssen (d). Oslo, June 2022.
ECM 555 8662