Monday 11 July 2011

Will Vinson, Pizza Express Soho, 6 July

I was initially disappointed that Lage Lund was not able to make the Will Vinson gig last Wednesday. The brilliant young Norwegian guitarist was somehow indisposed (he went in a puff of on the verge of discovering a new close voice chord structure . . .). Still, we had Gwilym Simcock, brilliant young Welsh pianist, in his place.

Will Vinson is an English alto saxophonist who has been living in New York for over ten years, He's well respected, playing with Kurt Rosenwinkel and being a regular member of guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg's band. He's also one of the few young of alto saxophonists of note amongst the current crop - Perico Sambeat and Dave Binney are the only two other names that come to mind.

Form the first notes of I Am James Bond (hear it here), Will had a beautiful, clear tone. The intonation was spot on (sometimes alto players are a bit cavalier with their tuning). It had a direct, passionate quality to it. His soloing throughout was clear, intelligent and easy to follow. At times it reminded me of Seamus Blake (another passionate, clear communicator) and Mark Turner (physically and musically bobbing up and down the arpeggios). Though there are stylistic similarities, it's definitely an individual sound.

On a table a few inches from Gwilym Simcock, we could see him work his way into some very unfamiliar tunes. His playing was exciting, his fingers mesmerising, venturing into the unknown, finding plenty of interesting things to see. I liked the way he definitely plays lines, rather than textures. At times, Will looked on in awe, joking that the audience were showing a bit too much appreciation.

That said, Will was definitely centre of the band. I enjoyed his compositions and have bought his latest live CD The World (Through My Shoes) to get to know them better. The one familiar tone was Work by Thelonious Monk - a tune I like but not one I have ever heard live before. He also kept on top of everything. His playing was always thoughtful and expressive, if not as edgy as Gwilym's.

The rhythm section were a tight, singing unit. Jochen Rueckert (Drums) and Sean Fasciani (bass) were obviously familiar with the material and playing as one. Will is obviously a bit of a character - very sardonic: "I'd like now to welcome Gwilym Simcock back and as for the rhythm section - you're fired!"

The night was a really enjoyable introduction to WIll's music. I was very surprised that the Pizza Express was only half full ("We've just coming from playing in France - to audiences of 500 plus. Notice the heavy-handed reference to the size of the audience there . . ."). I hope that it doesn't put him off coming back. It was great having Gwilym but I would like to see him with Lage Lund, capturing the spirit found on his live album.

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