Tamir Hendelman Trio
(Bull’s Head, London – December 21, 2010. Review by Thomas Gray)
Amidst the abundance of excitingly hip and innovative piano trios springing up every year, it is often easy to overlook those trios still plugging away in a straight-ahead vein. Israeli-born pianist Tamir Hendelman (with Brits Andy Cleyndert on bass and Tom Gordon on drums) reminded us of the deep pleasures the latter can still bring, particularly when that ensemble has fine-tuned its interplay and sense of swing to near-perfection with a two week stint together on the road.
Kicking off with ‘Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams’, above, Hendelman belied his slight figure and unassuming presence with full-bodied block chords, impressive Oscar Peterson-like double octave runs and an infectiously driving swing which set the tone for the rest of the evening. While his virtuosic vocabulary may have had an air of the familiar about it (with echoes of the greats of swing through to hard-bop piano), his solos were delivered with such joy and effortless mastery that they were never less than engaging.
As the set went on, Hendelman stepped confidently outside of this mainstream comfort zone, turning what was already an enjoyable gig into an outstanding one. The spiky Monk-ish dissonances in his intro to Harry Sweets Edison’s ‘Centerpiece’ showed that he casts his stylistic net far wider than the opening numbers had suggested. Then came my highlight from the first set: the Prelude from Ravel’s ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin’. This piece fitted a jazz re-working so well, with its 6/8 Afro-Cuban ‘Bembe’ feel at one point and a chord sequence almost reminiscent of Chick Corea’s ‘Windows’, that it left me scratching my head as to why it isn’t already a standard.
Cleyndert and Gordon navigated the often tricky charts with flair and precision, never missing a kick or dropping a beat. It was a delight to see Cleyndert given a lot of solo space – his articulate improvisations and confident use of the bow confirmed that he really is one of our finest bassists. My only complaint during the evening was with the piano, which was shockingly out of tune in its upper register. Hendelman coped stoically with this, where some lesser pianists might have behaved as prima donnas. I’m hoping he comes back to the UK soon; hopefully next time we can provide an instrument in a condition more fitting to his considerable talents.
*Hendelman’s latest album ‘Destinations’ is on Resonance Records*