Sunday 7 February 2010

John Turville Trio: "Midas" reviewed

I saw the John Turville Trio at play to a small audience at The Brunswick in Hove a couple of weeks ago. It was a great gig from of trio of young and very talented musicians, part of a tour to promote a new recording - Midas. Unusually, the gig consisted almost entirely of original compositions (pianist John Taylor's Ambleside being the exception) so I thought I would check out Midas to get to know the material better.

The cover (above) is an impressionistic black & white photo of a very dark, rain soaked city street, late at night, possibly London, with spots of light radiating from the street lamps and reflected in puddles. It's seen from the point of view of a driver in a recently parked car. Perhaps John and the band arriving back home after an inspired performance waiting for the rain to let-up, making the casting the grim urban scene in an almost romantic light. For the Romantic poets the imagination was like a lamp that illuminated the material world. It would be fitting if it were the spirit of English Romanticism that pervaded this recording, because the overall sound is clearly not American.

The standard of individual muscianship here is very high as is the standard if interaction between the three members of the Trio. The recording has some very distinctive tunes, the first of which is the opener First Flight. The tune has a rolling feel, making me think of early Paul Bley. The tempo drops right down giving the first solo to bass player Chris Hill, a bluesy feel that he passes on to John, then the tempo is back up to the original pace. John's soloing suggests Keith Jarrett, playing inside, outside and around the changes. Drummer Ben Reynolds provides a whole range of colours to vary the accompaniment. The strength of the band's musicianship is shown by the ease with which they handle the odd time signatures and tempo changes.

All Or Nothing At All is a favourite standard of mine and has been covered in recent years by some of my favourite musicians including Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner and Jonathan Kreisberg. This is a slow-ish taken on the tune in a straight four time with plenty of space. I like the way the bass holds everything down with some well chosen root notes. It is the restraint that John shows that really makes this work. In fact, it reminds me very much of the slightly ironic approach pianist (and friend of John) Frank Harrison has towards standards.

For the title tune, Midas, the Trio is augmented by singer  Brigitte Beraha. Her breathy, worldless vocals bring a muted Miles Davis feel to the proceedings, particularly on her improvised solo towards the end of tune.  Brigitte also features on the Trio's cover of Nick Drake's Fruit Tree, part of which she sings in unison with the bass. This tune has the "English" feel you would associate with Nick Drake - very different from Brad Mehldau's take on Drake's Riverman. Waltz for Bill Evans is a homage, showing that John is intimate with Evans' repertoire and, hearing this tune live, it came pretty close to a performance by one of the early Bill Evans Trios. Albaicin is named after a district in Granada, Spain. What works really works well here is the sense that the three musicians are finding their own paths through the piece but, at the same time, are complementing each other. This is the type of playing you only really get in a trios. I particular like the drum solo towards the end, played over a repeated riff on the bass and the pianist's left hand. The final tune is Ellington's Solitude, once again featuring Brigitte on vocals accompanied solely by John's piano. The treatment brings the tune across the Atlantic with Brigitte's distinctive, English diction.

Overall, an accomplished debut by three young musicians who perform at a very high standard. They deserve a large audience for their music, but where was the audience when they played in Hove. It will be interesting to see how the band develops in the coming years, particularly as it's not the best of times to be starting a career jazz.

1 comment:

Soledad said...
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