When Juraj Stanik asks you to write something for the sleeve of his new recording, you certainly don't say 'no'. In my case, bolstered by years of experience of his work, from the outstanding group 'Five Up High' through to his trio CDs like 'Shaken not stirred', 'Wow' and 'Inside out'. It always was and still remains a great pleasure to listen to Juraj. His playfulness with musical forms, his unexpected, funny but always controlled fantasies and that consistent, unmissable swing with his colleagues on bass and drums, all following the same groove. Jazz that I always regarded as a sort of homecoming.
But then, the new recording – 'The Deep' – brings yet another surprise. It's mostly about the tone of a number of the ballads on it, adding something romantic to his approach, with a gratifying affinity for melody that still feels safe in his own very personal interpretation. And always with that swing. Intelligent but never intellectual, with no pretentious pathos and none of that 'you just gotta listen to this!' feel. In a nutshell, pure.
It starts with 'I'll close my eyes', by the English bandleader Billy Reid, dating back to 1945, which oddly only scored a success when Buddy Kaye gave a positive spin to Reid's slightly dark text about a broken love affair, with the accent on loyalty. Then 'You know I care' by Duke Pearson (known from its 1965 nonet version with George Coleman and Pepper Adams) and Johnny Mandel's 1979 song 'Close enough for love'. It's telling that these pieces are mainly familiar from their vocal versions. Peggy Lee in the last case. Stanik makes beautiful jazz out of them with some immensely subtle playing.
As a album, 'The Deep' is anything but monochrome, as you can hear from the title track written by Jasper Blom, inspired by the film of the same name. And Eddie Harris’s ‘Freedom jazz dance’, which we know from Harris’s own version with Cedar Walton on piano and the version by Miles Davis (with Herbie Hancock) on the celebrated extended bootleg version. With Juraj, it gains a masterfully controlled, contagious groove that's hard to get out of your mind.
"I wanted to make a trio album that I was comfortable with myself", says Stanik. With a number of standards like Ellington's 'The feeling of jazz'. And with musicians he truly admired: bass player Frans van der Hoeven ('a fine, musical bassist') and the promising young drummer Tim Hennekes. Rubbing shoulders with these delicious standards, we have two compositions by Stanik himself, perfectly embodying the two sides of 'The Deep'. We have the elegant tenderness of his 'More than ever' and the pacy 'Chasin' Joe', which for me could have lasted three times as long. But the fact is that the same could be said for 'The Deep' as a whole. Hence my advice: enjoy its warm spirituality and playfulness. And then play it again and again.
During my music studies I started playing quite a lot of gigs with alto saxophonist Benjamin Herman at Café Alto and Bourbon Street in Amsterdam. Later there were concerts at De Kring at the Leidsche Plein. I worked with my own sextet and we played at The Ivrea Jazz festival Italy. I visited New York City and shared stage with a lot of musicians like John Swana, Essiet Essiet and Tim Armacost at places like Smalls and Augies. With Benjamin Herman and Jasper Blom we formed the band ‘Five up High’. With this band we performed in the Netherlands, Belgium and at numerous festivals like the San Sebastian Festival in Spain.
In the mean time I worked with ‘The Ben van den Dungen-Jarmo Hoogendijk quintett’. We toured in The Netherlands, Germany and many other countries. We performed at The North Sea Festival, The Hague. Drummers John Engels (Chet Baker) and later Owen Hart junior (NY) were present in this band. With the band ‘Brand New Orleans’ we integrated African rhyhmical elements in our music. Again with Benjamin Herman and DJ ‘Graham B’ we performed (I played the Rhodes piano) at ‘The Soul Kitchen’ in Amsterdam. (Beats with improvisation)
Then there was ‘Eveline and the Groove Movement’. A combination of jazz elements, Rap and Hip Hop music. Some believe this band was one of the very first Acid Jazz bands. (Before the genre actually became popular)
For me an interesting project for ‘Codarts’ in Rotterdam was a collective improvisation with piano and dancers.
With Bird Award winner saxophonist Toon Roos I travelled though Spain.
I have had the privilege to perform with players such as Elvin Queen, Bob Berg, Benny Bailey, Chris Potter, Pat Metheny and Tom Harrell.
At present I am performing with ‘living jazz legend’ flugelhorn player Ack van Rooyen (Ack van Rooyen/JurajStanik duo) and with my trio. (The Juraj Stanik Trio). I work as a sideman with various international (jazz) artists.