Gig Preview: The Story (featuring John Escreet)
(Pizza Express, Dean Street, W1 – 8.30pm, March 10th, 2010, preview by Tom Gray)
There must be something that John Escreet misses about home. Less than two months after his quintet’s storming performance at Ronnie Scott’s (reviewed by LondonJazz HERE) , the Doncaster-born pianist returns to Soho, this time as part of the New York-based collective ‘The Story’.
Escreet, based in New York, is one of the most interesting UK-bred young pianists. He has been less under the spell of Brad Mehldau and Esbjorn Svensson than many pianists of his generation, and has developed a sophisticated and distinctive voice which ranges from a searing, Cecil Taylor-like intensity to moments of tender lyricism.
With a frontline consisting of alto saxophone (Lars Dietrich) and tenor saxophone (Samir Zarif), The Story’s sound immediately evokes David Binney’s great albums of the last decade, while also reflecting the international roots of its members, who share writing duties. The collective is rounded off by the electric and acoustic bass of Zack Lober, Greg Ritchie on drums, and Escreet himself on piano and Rhodes. The group weaves deeply infectious grooves and melodic hooks (at times folk-influenced) into ambitiously structured compositions which mesh seamlessly with the individual members’ improvisations.
The band last played in London in March 2009 to a small but appreciative audience at Camden’s Con Cellar bar. (Ed: it was reviewed by Steve Plumb for LondonJazz here) That night, Escreet battled admirably with a rather dilapidated Rhodes; the Pizza Express, with its fine grand piano, should offer the perfect showcase to his virtuosity and The Story’s irresistible sound.