London Jazz Festival – John Taylor Trio & Gwilym Simcock Trio

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John Taylor Trio
[John Taylor (piano), Palle Danielson (double bass), Martin France (drums)]

Gwilym Simcock Trio
[Gwilym Simcock (piano), Phil Donkin (double bass), Martin France (drums)]


Reviewed by: Rob Witts

Reviewed: 17 November, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Wigmore Hall has become the most interesting venue at the London Jazz Festival, because its famously clear acoustic permits musicians to do things out of the ordinary. The removal of the need for amplification means that a group relates to one another in a different way, and tone colour takes on a new prominence. Following Lee Konitz’s sublime nonet a few days earlier, this concert brought together the trios of man-of-the-moment Gwilym Simcock and his teacher John Taylor. Taylor is a uniquely refined and delicate voice in British jazz, a collaborator with Norma Winstone and Kenny Wheeler, and it was fascinating to hear his influence in the playing of his pupil.

Simcock’s youthful but assured trio was lyrical in his ballad “And then she was gone”, playing in complete accord. Martin France’s drumming was sensitive and supportive, with Phil Donkin a supple presence on bass. Simcock is a terrific pianist; it’s a joy to see him take off in improvisatory flight, grinning as if a little surprised by his own quicksilver brilliance. Like Taylor, he’s a composer as much as a performer, even when playing standards; the influence of Brad Mehldau was audible in his take on Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight”. Simcock’s arrangement refitted the standard with an angular 5/4 bass-line. It was not until the elegant dismount that we heard how this was derived from the melody, a satisfying and witty punch line.

John Taylor’s trio also featured Martin France on drums, as well as the distinguished Swedish bassist Palle Danielson. Together, the trio evoked Debussy’s sensuous harmonies in “Ritual”, Taylor alternating rich block-chords with free-flowing melodies. The soft swing of “Up too late” featured a luminous pianissimo solo from France, exploring subtle shifts in timbre; Kenny Wheeler’s “Introduction to no particular song” recalled Janáček’s piano-cycle On an overgrown path in its gentle lilt, Taylor‘s piano suggesting distant bells. However, the trio could also raise a head of steam on “Everybody’s song but my own”.

There was a final treat as Simcock and Taylor took the stage to play in duet. Teacher and student, facing one another across an expanse of black Steinway grand, launched into a good-natured sequence that took them from a quicksilver “Alice in Wonderland” to the boisterous tango of Simcock’s “Nutshell”. It made one long to be a fly on the wall in their lessons together.

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