David Newton Trio


David Newton (piano), Andy Cleyndert (double bass) & Steve Brown (drums)

Reviewed by: Julian Maynard-Smith

Reviewed: 2 February, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Noisy clubs or big concert halls – the lot of most jazz musicians – necessitate amplification. So it’s treat to hear a jazz trio playing without being amplified in the natural acoustic of the Wigmore Hall: the ringing purity of David Newton’s grand piano, the real ‘woodiness’ of Andy Cleyndert’s double bass, and every swish and murmur from Steve Brown’s brushes, mallets and hands (drumsticks being noticeable for their near-absence).

The gilded cupola over the Wigmore Hall platform seemed incongruous for a jazz concert: until Newton started playing his distinctly European brand of chamber jazz, like Enrico Pieranunzi in its classical lyricism, dreamy introspection, melancholy and lightness of touch.

The two sets consisted mainly of music from Newton’s latest album, “Portrait of a Woman”, and his 2005 release, “Inspired”. The mood of the first set was mainly impressionistic nocturnes, although one tune (which started with a two-chord vamp overlaid by a folksy melody on top) was reminiscent of the autumnal Americana of Ralph Towner.

It wasn’t until the fourth piece that Newton played any overtly blues phrases. Appropriately, Cleyndert’s bass-playing was generally more contrapuntal rather than walking bass. Brown’s lightness of touch kept the drums suitably quiet: only occasionally did he sound too loud, when he was doing that swishy-brushes-on-the-snare thing beloved of drummers accompanying singers on ballads. Incidentally, Newton is renowned for accompanying singers, most notably Stacey Kent, with whom he recorded and toured for ten years. Perhaps this explains the self-effacing nature of his playing.

The music became more upbeat and swinging with ‘The Walk’, the final piece of the first set – plenty of blues phrasing, more rhythmically strident, and a few stabbing unison passages in the middle. It was literally a foot-tapper, someone’s shoe (Newton’s?) audible during the quieter passages.

Overall the second set was more straight-ahead jazz, with some standards added. For the encore the trio played a lively version of ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’, full of Ellingtonian playfulness. But perhaps the real standout was a delicate piano solo performance of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Two Sides Now’, aching with longing and melancholia.

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