Tomasz Dabrowski & The Individual Beings: Better

Polish trumpeter leads saxophone, piano, bass and drums in a set of sombre, Stanko-influenced ruminations coloured with electronics


A minor point: the concluding track here is listed as Hale And Heary but in American saxophonist Ned Ferm’s informative sleeve-note it is referred to as Hale And Hearty. More important is the fact that here is another knock-out album from Polish trumpeter Tomasz Dabrowski and his terrific Polish/Scandinavian septet The Individual Beings, following their eponymous May 2021 recording debut for April Records.

Reviewing that release, I thought it “a most resonant session, a surpassing achievement in contemporary European jazz.” The album got a five-star review in Downbeat and Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazur has since characterised Dabrowski as “a tremendous asset to the jazz scene”. Featuring the most diversely creative yet integrated use of electronics I’ve heard to date, the ever-vivid Better can only serve to confirm and expand all such approbation, for leader and group alike.

As on Tomasz Dabrowski And The Individual Beings, the base of the music conjured by the interplay of the electronically fired doubled drum sets triggers all sorts of melodic, temporal and textural magic, precipitating superb playing all round. Just as the title of Dabrowski’s band owes much to the existentialist credo of Tomasz Stanko – who celebrated, above all, “the individual being” – so too does the music of Better continue to build on and develop the legacy of the Polish trumpet master.

For confirmation of the Stanko connection, check the rubato menace of the burgeoning, at times savage figures of the opening F Jac Samolot, or the lyricism of the affecting, spaced-out free ballad that is Lush. But it’s important to emphasise that this is no Stanko tribute band: far from it. Dabrowski – who contributes all the compositions here – has his own sound and phrasing and, in particular, a special sensitivity to the shape-shifting interplay of freshly conceived time and texture, interval and dynamics. The result is music which can be as loose-limbed yet searingly assertive as it is patient and probing in its wide-ranging blend of “out” and “inside” playing, the wild and the reflective, the painterly and the poetic.

Outstanding, endlessly stimulating music, this!

F Jac Samolot; Bataly; Unicorns; Slide; Upright; Bonzer; Lush; Skinny Griffin; Hale and Heary [sic] (41.48)
Dabrowski (t, elec); Fredrik Lundin (ts); Irek Wojtczak (ts, ss, elec); Gregorz Tarwid (p, kyb); Max Mucha (b); Knut Finsrud (d); Jan Emil Mlynarski (d, elec). Warsaw, 1-3 June 2023.
April Records APR0120CD